We took our students and made them homeless for 3 days. We transformed the church into 2 tent city environments (Guys downstairs and Girls upstairs). We slept, ate, and served as “the least of these” the entire weekend. We did NOT take showers, eat amazing meals or sleep well. We worked long hours, smelled really bad, and were hungry and tired. But, I believe this was the most life changing event our students have ever participated in.
Each day we spent working in Soup Kitchens, Homeless/Women’s shelters, Food pantries, and worked on ARK teams (Act’s of Random Kindness). In the evenings we had acoustic worship, group devotionals, and share time.
This event is designed to allow students to see, feel and smell what it means to serve humbly with no expectations. This is meant to be a mentally and physically draining event … This is only for your more mature students!!
*We designated jobs depending on the age and maturity level of each student.
Please let me know if you would like help running and event like this. I can send you files and contact info if your in the Altanta area. email@example.com
My brother-in-law actually ran this, but he did it with my youth group. What you do is you invite handicap children and young adults from around your community to come to your church for a few hours during your youth group’s Spring Break. We used Mon. & Tues. from 10:30-1:30 PM. We would have games, crafts, lunch and devotion time on both days. You can use a variety of themes. We are using an hawaiin luau theme. This means we’ll have island music with hawaiin shirts and grass skirts (over regular clothes of course).
For crafts we will let them color a visor for themselves with their name on it, and we will help them make the hawaiin necklaces. And for our lunch we would have items like Shishkibob and Hawaiian Punch. The key is that the youth will be the volunteers to help the disabled with the games, their crafts, and even their lunch. Between the Monday session and the Tuesday session, the kids will sleep at the church and have a debriefing session, Praise and worship, Bible Study, and also relaxation time. It’s really an eye opening experience for the youth to work with disabled children one-on-one. It would also be wise to try to have several volunteer youth sponsors to help as well if you have small group. It is also a great idea to get your group started with missions work.
Like most churches we hold a VBS and the youth participate. But we took it a step further. We have an X-Treme Team, which is a group of youth who come in on Sunday evening and stay through until the end of the Friday night program. They live at the church as a missionary team. They cook their own meals, clean up after themselves, and serve preping the materials for the next day. During the VBS they work directly with the children. When the VBS is over, the X-Treme team goes swimming (our church does not have showers) and gets clean. After swimming and lunch, the Team spends the afternoon and evening being discipled. We visit local areas that have devotional qualities (museums, rock-climbing, historical sites, parks, natural attractions) We incorporate all of the ideas of a mission trip (daily quiet times, worship times, teachings) plus we address feedback we get from the adult helpers at the VBS.
Since we are still at church we have youth group as normal and have lots of hang time with our students. We are going to be exhausted by VBS anyway so we thought why not make it a Youth mission as well.
Our senior high youth went off for a weeklong mission in another state during the summer vacation. Many of our junior high youth felt left out as we could only take a certain number of people and the decision was made to take only the older kids. So while the older ones were away we set up a mission week in our own backyard for the younger ones. They spent one afternoon in a nursing home, they worked in orphanage fixing up old buildings, and they helped out at a community fair to benefit a homeless shelter. When the senior high group returned the juniors and seniors spent time sharing with each other on their mission work.
Secure the use of a bowling alley and set up a bowling tournament or just an evening of bowling with your young people. Pledges are taken from adults and businessmen in the community. Each kid enlists the help of sponsors who pledge 5 cents or more for each point scored while bowling. Each kid bowls three games and the total number of the points score determines the amount of the sponsors’ pledge. In a tourney, the “winners” continue scoring more points, therefore collecting more money for the cause. Money can go to Wing the Word or ERDO, or some other World Missions project.
Assemble the kids in the church van and drive around the inner city in front of spots you’ve pre-selected for your kids to lead out in public prayer while they’re in the van. For example you could stop in front of: an abortion clinic, a skid row hotel, a group of prostitutes on the corner, a soup kitchen for the homeless, a rescue mission, the county hospital, the police station.
Give the kids 30 mins to walk out into the surrounding neighbourhood to find things they could build a shelter with – a box, newspapers, etc. The goal is to find enough items to build a Shantytown with. When they arrive with their items, they have another 30 mins to build the Shantytown in the church parking lot. A 55 gallon drum for a fire will increase the shantytown feel. After they’ve set it up, gather around the fire and ask the following questions: How did it feel to scavenge? How did it feel to have to beg (for supplies)? What would it be like if you had to live like this night after night? Continue in the discussion.
Example situation: The youth fellowship was extremely involved in the workcamp; the sun was blazing. They were in need of a break and gathered in the shade of a nearby tree with some of the people who worshipped at the church. The teenager in charge read the account of the “Last Supper” in Matt 26:17-29. There was a watermelon sitting in the middle of the circle of 30 tired and thirsty teenagers. It was passed around (intact) and each person was asked to share how the watermelon helped him or her understand the passage. It was amazing how the students found a relationship between the watermelon and the passage. (i.e.: watermelon became the symbol of poor people.) After praying in a circle, the worship leader took a knife, cut the watermelon and gather the worshipers pieces of it.
At the beginning of the night youth groupers are put through customs (arrest a few for drug smuggling along the way, put them in jail). Give them money to buy things along he way (Monopoly money).
Send them off on a plane (do stuff on the plane – e.g. a hijacking).
At each stage of the night, we had some “guerillas” come and kidnap the group, blindfold them and take them to the next part of the world tour, e.g. an indian market, a jungle, night animal spotting (real or stuffed). Give them the experience of travelling overseas and plenty of third world hassles, even third world food, passports and problems etc etc. During some of the kidnaps, drive them to different places (suitably “guerrilla type” driving), and have tour guides rescue them.
This is an idea. The fun is in the plot and variations that YOU make up! Depending on your resources. E.g., we had animal spotting in a darkened church, an Arabic market at a friends house with sheets on the ceiling, candles, money to buy things, being ripped off by vendors etc. But YOU make the plot and the tour. Kidnapping and drug busts are good, so is jail.
Can be used as an experience of what missionaries go through in some countries. Tie in a talk along this theme.
Our 6th-8th Grade Youth Group participated in a 40 Hour Sit-out to raise money and awareness for homelessness in our area. Prior to the event we collected large boxes (washer/dryer – range size) and we prepared them in “shanty” type homes. We started the event on 5:00 PM (Friday) and lived outside in the boxes until Sunday @ 9:00 AM. We stayed out even in the rain. We had collected plastic and old tarps to cover us in the rain. We took pledges and donations from our church members and we had a lot of community people stop by to see what we were doing. We were on a main road in town and lots of people would pull up just to donate money because they had seen the segment on the Friday evening news. Members of our church also signed up to bring us food to eat for our meals (you can keep this from the kids, so they might start to wonder where their next meal is coming from.)
While this is only a glimpse into the life of homeless person, it made quite a large impact on our kids and adults too (we had lots of “security guards”). The total money raised was then donated to our local Gospel Mission. You can do many things with this concept, and while it’s a lot of work, God rewards those involved with a feeling of accomplishment. **you could incorporate the Shanty town idea on EGAD! with this event**