NASHVILLE, Tenn. (GBOD) | Youth from United Methodist Churches around the nation can learn what it means to serve others, next summer, by participating in week-long mission work experiences in Nashville that help children, the elderly, the homeless, and people with special needs.
For the second year, the youth mission trips will be sponsored jointly by Young People's Ministries, a division of The General Board of Discipleship (GBOD), and YouthWorks!, a multi-denominational youth mission organization. They again will be hosted at McKendree United Methodist Church in downtown Nashville.
"What a great experience it was last summer, and we're expecting it to be great again in 2011," says Hank Hilliard, Director of Young People's Ministry Development at GBOD. "We'd love for youth groups from United Methodist churches to come to Nashville and do a week of service next year."
YouthWorks! is a Minneapolis-based organization that provides Christ-centered youth mission opportunities to churches and faith-based groups in North America. Last year, some 39,000 junior high and senior high students from the United States and Canada participated in the week-long mission trips run by YouthWorks in large cities and small communities around the nation.
Adrienne Harrell, who was the YouthWorks site director in Nashville in 2010, has since joined the staff at McKendree UMC as Director of Children's Ministries.
"Church groups who had been on many mission trips before told us that they really liked the work projects because they allowed for them to bond with the people they were serving, as well as [with] their team members," Harrell says. "We had a lot of small churches participate. There were many youth who had never been away from home or spent much time in a large city.
"It was exciting to see these churches have this new experience and tell us over and over how this trip had changed their lives and opened their eyes to a whole new world of need and ministry," she says.
Each week of the program, 60-70 youth and youth leaders arrive in Nashville on Sunday, work at area projects Monday through Thursday, then leave on Friday. The youth are divided into work teams with 6-10 people, usually from different churches, so the youth have the experience of meeting new people.
"In the evenings, participants take turn preparing and serving dinner," Hilliard says. "Each night following the meal, they go to an off-site activity before returning to the church for an evening program and finally a good night's rest."
On Wednesdays, local United Methodist youth groups from the Nashville area host a worship service. GBOD staff members host a cookout on Thursday nights, followed by a Communion service at the historic Upper Room Chapel near the Vanderbilt University campus.
"Each Thursday night at our closing worship, there would always be youth who I felt were the least likely to have been touched by this experience, who shared how much the week impacted them," Harrell says. "They often broke down into tears as they shared stories of how they were changed through this mission trip."
The mission experience is open to youth who will enter the seventh grade in the fall of 2011, through current high school seniors. Eight week-long sessions will be available in 2011, beginning the week of June 12 and ending the week of July 31. Cost is $248 per person.
For more information visit www.youthworks.com and click on the link for United Methodist Churches (in the left column).