Backyard Missions, Part II

Here’s a really good question: How can you equip your students with practical tools so they can spiritually
nourish themselves, grow and reproduce?
After all, those are the basic functions
of any living thing. And your kids can’t be dependent on you forever.

With that, how do you expose them to God so their faith can be tested and
grow, so they develop a hunger, so Jesus can take over their life? How in the world do you turn a teen away from him/herself?

Not by talking.

Your youth nights once or twice a week may be complete with super snacks,
wonderful worship music, great games, and the wisest, most persuasive words
combined with the slickest, most culturally relevant multimedia. You may even
give an application challenge, remind your kids you’re available to talk,
and just go home feeling pretty good.

Jesus taught, true. But he sure didn’t stop there. He and the disciples
went and did what they were talking about. They loved, they served, they gave;
they lived and grew in faith. Their group healed people and cast out demons.
Maybe yours could start with loving your neighbor.

Michael Meyer likes to focus his youth’s go-and-grow efforts on evangelism.
Every one of the teenagers who went on the group’s summer missions project
committed to be a part of “Peer Ministry 415.” They meet at 4:15
every Sunday to practice evangelism strategies.

“Before,” he reports, “nobody was sharing their faith. Now
even kids who didn’t go on the missions trip are catching the excitement.”

John Santaferraro ties his entry-level summer missions project in with ongoing
ministry. Students spend a month serving and developing real relationships
in a poor neighborhood nearby. Then throughout the rest of the year, they are
encouraged to visit and maintain those relationships. Students ‘earn’ the
right to go away for a short-term project next year. In the meantime, they
learn what it means to commit, to love and to serve, so that they’re

I’d love to start a ‘backyard missions’ program in my community.
Start With Missions Trip Preparation
What does your mission trip preparation look like? Do you use the months of September
to January after the missions project? This is where many youth pastors miss
the boat.

If you’re like most, the summer has been a busy and exhausting time. You don’t
really have anything to plug your students into when they return from the field.
This is highly unfortunate, a waste of real enthusiasm.

Understandably, September is a poor time to begin dreaming up a program of
regular outreach. So begin now. A good assignment for some of those preparing
for next summer’s trip is to research nearby service and evangelism opportunities.
Or take the list below and brainstorm possibilities. Perhaps a group of your
students could assist you in designing a regular program of outreach.

Who Are the Needy?
I hear someone asking, “Where are these people? How can I reach them?” These
people in your community will often have the greatest needs:

The elderly, the retarded, migrants, missionaries, prisoners, children, unwed
mothers, AIDS patients, crack and AIDS babies, juvenile delinquents, international
students, refugees, runaways, the homeless…

How Do We Reach Them?
With a double-edged sword. Service has a limited effect without sharing the “why” through
evangelism. Evangelism’s impact is often limited, too, without developing
relationships and showing love through service. So mix and match from these
lists, or create your own… there are so many ways to reach out to the
needy with Christ’s love!


  • Taking part in your church’s existing outreach ministries
  • Babysitting for the church or leading a children’s Sunday School
  • Adopting a “grandparent” at a convalescent home (bring puppies to
    visit, bake them some homemade bread or cake, just go and be with them)
  • Give gifts during Christmas
  • Prepare a Thanksgiving dinner
  • Collect toys, clothes, or eyeglasses
  • Help stock and promote a food bank
  • Go Christmas caroling where no one else would go
  • Sponsor a free car wash
  • Assist the elderly in your church
  • Create “This is Your Life” videos of the elderly remembering the
    highlights of their life and what they’ve learned, then give copies of it to
    their children
  • Paint or repair buildings


  • Windshield witnessing
  • VBS
  • Evangelism Explosion-type visitation for your church
  • Surveys
  • Dramas
  • Beach, mall, football game, or whatever-makes-sense-in-your-area evangelism
  • Youth group meeting/outreaches, encouraging members to bring their friends

Specific steps

  1. Read Isaiah 58. Soak it up. Understand God’s profound concern for the world’s
    downtrodden and His great blessing on those who help them. Scripture like
    this should be the fuel to get you started.
  2. Talk to another youth leader who has already had some success in translating
    missions to their backyard.
  3. Brainstorm opportunities in your area, starting with the above lists.
  4. Make regular local service and evangelism a requirement for those going
    on summer missions trips. Start your group out with one or two outreaches a
  5. Assign a committee of young people the job of designing an actual program.
    They should answer the questions first of Who?, then What? and finally How
    often? Let your service really meet the needs of your ministry target. Be intentional
    for your group, too; let it fit your teens. Hundreds of organizations across
    the U.S. will be anxious to use your group’s volunteers to meet local needs.
  6. At the conclusion of your trip, plug students right away into your program.
  7. Give your program a high profile and an identity. Pitch it to your kids,
    but don’t be disappointed by small turnouts. It’s a great thing to get
    to focus on and disciple those few that self-elect into this service. Like
    Bill George, you’ll find that those who do come will be the ones you point
    to in future years; the ones you’ve developed as Christian leaders; the
    evidence of the validity of your work.