High quality leaders turn difficult situations into constructive opportunities for learning and growth. That’s one of the purposes of a youth mission trip, isn’t it, subjecting students to difficulty for the sake of transformation? Mission trip leadership is a balancing act between alleviating difficulty and allowing it, between allowing for just enough of the right kind of difficulty that participants will be challenged to change and permitting so much of it that the trip devolves into the Misery Olympics.
Of course, mission trip leadership is shared. On some trips, the Pastor or Youth Director is leading with a team of church member volunteers. On other trips, that team is leading with staff or volunteers from a partnering church or organization on site. In the latter case, your partner’s leadership skills matter a lot. A huge part of students’ experience is affected by it.
Which is why I’m so proud of the staff of the Urban Youth Mission program, the project of the church I serve that welcomes youth mission trips to Chicago all summer. We care about the quality of our staff almost more than anything else in our program, and we invest a lot into equipping them to manage that balancing act of challenge and security, not only with the youth who come, but also with the youth’s leaders. It’s a lot to ask of college students.
You can bet we ask about our staff on the evaluations we give to students and leaders before they return home. All summer long I’ve been reading assessments like, “exceptional” and “terrific” and “mature.”
I texted the program’s Director: “you knocked it out of the park with your staff.”