How important is an engaging missions education experience for youth? According to Candi Mains and her sister, Linda Bradley, it makes a tremendous difference in young people’s missions interest and involvement — both today and in the future.
Mains, who serves as family life director at Fruitland Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C., and Bradley, who served with her husband for more than 25 years as volunteer youth directors, recently helped launch the church’s Youth on Mission program.
Over the past several months, their Youth on Mission group has gotten involved in such hands-on mission projects as assembling and distributing “blessing bags” for the homeless, filling backpacks for children in Appalachia and providing needed resources for hurricane victims and disaster relief workers.
Bradley said she compiled a list of possible mission projects from National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) resources, organized the youth into teams and invited each group to choose a project to plan and coordinate.
“Each month, we are doing an activity that they chose to carry through and see to success,” she said. “That makes a huge difference. Someone’s not just telling them what to do. They’re actually getting to make a decision for themselves.
“Once they realize that they can actually lead and carry out an activity that makes a difference in somebody else’s world, I think it will change their lives not just for today or tomorrow but for many years to come,” she said. “I hope that they’ll really be the leaders on the field in the places that have so much darkness.”
“Me, me, me” vs. serving others
Noting that much of today’s teen culture focuses on “iPhones, selfies, me, me, me,” Mains said Youth on Mission is geared toward providing young people an opportunity “to focus on others and do things for people who are less fortunate. It’s just been a blessing watching them and they really get something from it because of the time that they spend on others.”
Citing her personal motivation for helping youth gain a passion for missions, Mains said, “As a child, I was involved in [Girls in Action] and Acteens, and I really believe that it has made me the person I am today. I learned to be a giver and not a taker. I learned the importance of missions and going and doing and praying for missionaries.”
As a result, she wanted her church’s young people to continue to enjoy and embrace missions education and involvement after completing Fruitland Baptist’s well-established Children in Action program. The youth participating in the new Youth on Mission group agree.
“I like being involved in Youth on Mission because I enjoy helping other people,” said Chloe Smith, who will be entering eighth grade this fall.
“I gain a lot from it,” she added, noting that her leaders “help us experience a lot more than we would experience just sitting here listening to them talk. We like to do things and we actually get to experience it.”
Garrett Jackson, who also will be an eighth grader this fall, echoed Chloe’s perspective. Recounting the variety of mission projects that he and his friends have been involved in through Youth on Mission, he said, “It means a lot to help somebody and to help the community.”
As an example, the blessing bags for the homeless featured Ziploc bags filled with such practical items as canned goods, bottled water, Band-Aids, cough drops and a pair of socks stuffed with a Subway gift card.
The students also included a handwritten letter in each bag.
After they assembled the bags, each of the students “was to give their bag to someone they saw that was homeless and ask their name and try to remember their face to pray for them,” Mains noted.
“That’s been a really neat project,” she said. “In fact, they want to make some more because most of them have passed them out and they’re ready for a second one so we’re going to do that…. I think their eyes were opened to realize there is poverty among us and that they can help right here in Hendersonville.”
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Source: Baptist Press