In 1993, I was serving as a youth pastor and Minister of Education in a church in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  A half page mail out crossed my desk in December that captured my attention.  I had no idea, as I was reading the information that this mail out, which could easily have been destined for the circular file, would have such an impact on my own life.

It was an advertisement from the Brotherhood Commission of the SBC for World Changers, a new initiative to involve youth in hands-on missions experience, and to help disciple them in the area of missions education.  World Changers is a “pre-packaged” approach to missions, in which people on the receiving end make all the local arrangements, and youth pastors and leaders in the churches simply sign their kids up, give them some basic training, and get them to the project site.  It’s a real blessing to smaller and medium sized churches that don’t really have the resources to work both ends of the missions experience on their own.  The appeal to me was that it appeared to fill in some of the widening gaps in missions education in Southern Baptist churches no longer using traditional programs like R.A.’s and G.A’s.  It fit well with our church situation, so I signed us up.

We spent the week in Clarksdale, Mississippi, sleeping in air matresses on the floor of a dilapitated dormitory at a junior college, but loving every minute of the experience of being part of crews that were helping families have a better quality of life as a result of having us work on their houses.  The transformation in the 7 students that I brought with me was even more remarkable than the transformation in the homes that were repaired in several Mississippi Delta communities where we worked.  Every student in our group, as well as the adults, felt God’s movement and call upon their lives as a result of this experience. 

Those 7 students returned full of a spiritual renewal and enthusiasm that changed our entire youth ministry, and had an impact on the whole church.  They made people aware of needs within our own community and organized groups to minister to those needs.  Adults as well as other students in the church became involved in short term missions projects that minstered to people both inside and outside of our church.  The spiritual transformation was an exciting development, and the effects of it lasted far longer, and were far more impressive, than anything I’d seen as a result of a youth event previous to this one.  The next summer, we took 32 students and adult chaperones to Savannah, Georgia.

When I moved to Texas and began teaching Bible in a Christian high school, we used World Changers to help our students get their hours for community service.  The program had the same effect in the student body of the school that it had in the church.  Students committed themselves to mission service, and their spiritual growth and enthusiasm was salt and light to the entire student body.  The lasting effect of their experience was a beacon of light to their fellow students.

In 2000, I started serving as a project coordinator.  For a while, I did two weeks of World Changers every summer, taking my own students as well as coordinating another project.  I’ve been continuously involved in this ministry since 1993, and even though it is primarily aimed at involving students in hands-on missions, it has changed my life.  It has heightened my awareness of the needs of people living around me, has motivated me to action, has inspired me spiritually and it has changed the way I look at missions and ministry.  It has been a lasting and profound impact.

I just returned from yet another project this past weekend, physically exhausted but spiritually exhiliarated.  God moved in a powerful way among the participants, motivating students to make committments to mission service, to rededicate their lives to Christ, and to serve others in Jesus’ name.  Again and again, I heard testimony to what God was doing in the lives of the students and their adult chaperones, and of the lasting effect that participating in this kind of mission service has on both Christian students and adults. Worship was an awesome and inspiring time, during which the focus was on God and his will, and not the music leader or the worship speaker.  I never grow tired of doing this. 

If you are looking for an experience that will inspire, motivate and move your youth to become involved in missions, and develop deep convictions and burdens about lost people in various places, get them involved in World Changers.  God is using this initiative, now under the ministry umbrella of Student Mobilization Ministries at the North American Mission Board, to draw students closer to him and to disciple future church leaders.   Contact me if you’d like to get your church group involved.

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About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

8 responses

  1. You know Lee, before I began blogging I had missions in the foreign category only. I never thought of missions being in our own country and in ways such as you have described. It’s posts such as yours and Kevin Bussey as well as others who have opened my eyes and my prayer life to the enormity and diversity of missions. It’s another reason why I am glad to be Southern Baptist. Men such as yourselves.

  2. Tim Sweatman says:

    Lee,

    I am convinced that missions is about ministry as well as evangelism. It may be a cliche, but it’s still true: people don’t care about what we know until they know that we care. Opportunities such as those provided by World Changers seem to be what the young people I know are looking for—something that they can personally immerse themselves in to make a difference in people’s lives.

    BTW, at what church in Bowling Green were you on staff?

  3. Lee says:

    I was at Forest Park.

  4. Lee says:

    World Changers is really much more of a seed planting missions opportunity than one of a harvest. Having crews out in neighborhoods gives the crew members a chance to share their faith and show people that it is real. The follow up must come from the local churches.

    It is probably one of the best things a church can do to prepare their young people for missions work, and to put them in a position where they can focus on God’s call in their lives. It’s great training because they find themselves in a real missions situation. It doesn’t really matter where you go these days, whether it is international, or in the inner neighborhoods of one of our large cities, the need for the gospel is great.

  5. David says:

    We have taken our youth groups to Honduras and Belize in the past. They were amazing trips and it seems that we always ended up being the ones who were blessed and evangalized to.

    Our last mission trip was to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. There is world-wide need, but being with the folks in Mississippi drove home that there is much need right here in our own country land and local communities. “Feed my lambs.”

    World Changers sounds like something we need to look into, indeed. I will pass that on to our youth minister.

  6. Dylan3404 says:

    Sometimes I think people in our churches are hung up on the idea that “missions” requires going to a foreign country where we do things for people that we think we don’t need to do back home. Ministries like World Changers helps us see that, as a church, there are people in our own neighborhood that are just as needy in terms of hearing and responding to the gospel as those on any other continent. I was at a World Changers project in Savannah several years ago, and the house we worked on was within plain sight of a Baptist church that had a giant building, but a tiny, elderly congregation. The missions needs for the gospel in that poverty stricken neighborhood were as great as anything I had seen in the Central American countries where I’ve done short term missions before. Participating in the project motivated our church group to look for the same opportunities at home, and we didn’t have to look far to find them.

  7. Tim Dahl says:

    In a totally off-topic comment, I got 2 things for ya!

    1) there is a “listening session” (O.o) today at 6:30pm. Yeah, I am so biting my tongue when it comes to their “listening sessions.” Get your hiney up here! You can crash at my house.
    Also,
    2) the TBC is having a meeting on August 24th in the DFW area. If you wanna come, we can share a room. Let me know.

    Tim