I spent last week with 30 teenagers and the Asheville Youth Mission (AYM). AYM is one of several mission trip options in the U.S. that are doing a type of “mission immersion,” combining the service work of a traditional mission project with personal reflection and social analysis. People are running these programs in D.C., Charlotte, Philadelphia, and, through the DOOR Network, Denver, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago (full disclosure: the church I serve in Chicago runs one too).
I love mission immersion programs. They expose participants to life among marginalized populations in a city setting and force them to question why conditions there are the way they are. They don’t have youth build things for needy people. They partner youth with local leaders and organizations that are working on systemic, sometimes intractable, problems.A week at one of these places is eye-opening and challenging. Mission immersion doesn’t allow for the feel good moment of completing a building project, a trouble spot for veterans of mission trips for a sweet spot for me.
The other great thing about mission immersion experiences is that many of them are staffed by young people–college, or even high school, students. They are terrific tools for leadership development for the staffs, and they expose youth participants to peers who are dedicated to social change and transformation.
Mission immersion: I’m a fan.