“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1 (NIV)
Do you want to see your youth group, college students and young families light up like a Christmas tree, and come back from an experience with deeper roots in the faith? Send them to a World Changers project. I’d recommend a construction project, since that’s where I’vemade my observations. Let me describe a week of World Changers for you, and share some observations.
The week begins on Saturday afternoon, with check in and a time to get to know the other participants. The participants are divided into crews, and on Sunday they visit a local church that has committed to feed and host them for the week. They go to the house they will be repairing, and meet the homeowner and the neighbors. Monday, they hit the ground running, doing major repair work for their homeowner, usually in the heat, because they have been called to minister in the name of Jesus. It’s not easy work, usually involving some kind of preservation and weatherization work, including, in many cases, putting on a new composition roof. That lasts for the whole week, with a half day off on Wednesday afternoon for some R and R. This is punctuated in the evenings by some very powerful, spirit-filled worship experiences, and some good fellowship.
Surprisingly, considering these are teenagers, there is very little complaining. I’ve been doing World Changers projects, at least one and sometimes two, each summer since 1993. In spite of heat, mosquitos in numbers large enough to carry off small animals (and in Mississippi, some large enough to carry off people), rain, mud, long waits for a shower in a hot, disaster relief trailer, short nights on an air mattress on the floor of a church or school, and other general inconveniences, most kids not only seem to thrive, but they look for ways to do even more than they have been asked, including spending the week ministering to the people who live around the house they are working on.
I’ve seen this be the defining moment in the faith journey of dozens of young people, teenagers and adults, who have participated. It isn’t a cure all, and there are no guarantees, but over the years I’ve taken somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 people to World Changers projects, and have served as a project coordinator with somewhere close to 2,000 students since 2000, and I’ve seen it happen time and time again. I’ve witnessed hundreds of people whose faith has come alive as a result of this marriage of servant ministry with faith. There is no question that World Changers experiences are the defining moment in my own faith journey. God’s timing was perfect, when I took my youth group from the church I was serving in Kentucky to Clarksdale, Mississippi, and he knew that what I needed was a week on the roof of a house in the rural community of Sledge, being a servant, to put a whole lot of other things in perspective. That experience changed my life.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says!
Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:22, 27 (NIV)
So provide opportunities for your young people to serve, and experience pure and faultless religion.
BTW, I did not intend this to be an advertisement for World Changers. However, if you would like to give some of your young people this kind of an opportunity, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will hook you up. I’d love to have you serve with me, but there are something like 70 projects scattered all over the country and one may be closer to where you are.