In our community and parish there is a strong ethic of service. Mission trips are very well attended in our adult, youth, and children’s ministries. Our kids are highly motivated to earn their service hours for honors clubs or graduation recognition through school. This is a community and church that loves to serve.
Sticky faith points our that families that serve together create a “sticky faith” or “sticky justice” (justice, by the way, is a good way of saying “a service project with a good outcome for the whole system” [my definition]). When a whole family serves together, there is a whole new shared experience and shared license to participate.
IMO, the best part of this chapter is when they talked about thinking about the three phases of service; before, during, and after. This is the way we think about youth mission trips at Saint Michaels. There was a time when leaders would literally have to introduce themselves to the kids on the trip at the airport (okay, that occasionally still happens). Now we ask kids to come to preparation meetings when we work on “framing” the trip and experience they are about to have.
After the trip (the part we need to do better at executing), we need to provide opportunities for reflection and continued relationship with those that shared the experience of the trip. On the trip itself, I always consider it a good sign when the kids are tired of meeting. We always have a lot of logistical things to go over on a trip, but we also spend a lot of time in theological reflection; processing what we experienced and saw that day and looking at it through the lens of the Gospel. If they are complaining that we’re talking too much, we are on the right path.
We can and do all kinds of service projects and trips, but no matter how well we plan before and after events, there’s no way a church program can deliver the same processing and discussion opportunities that a family who experienced service together can. Families have so many more opportunities for small teaching moments and chances to contextualize.
Final thought; what if we saw each day as a mission trip? Each day had a preparation period, a ministry period, and a follow up processing period. That would be sticky.