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The New Abnormal: Impact Mission Camps Adapt

Impact Mission Camps embraces challenges of a pandemic to move forward

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by Glenn Maddox

Almost since the pandemic began, we’ve been hoping for the day things get back to some semblance of normal. Even while longing for what used to be, we’ve slowly adapted the way we do everything. Dining out has become carryout, movies out have become movies in, and the home has become the center of the universe. Those who have adapted the best have done so by creating new experiences – restaurants offer complete experiences that you can prepare and share at home, streaming services offer first-run films and a watch party feature so you can still share the experience with those you love. They have embraced the new reality and created something new rather than just hoping the old will come back soon. There’s a lot to learn from that. We can suffer through – holding on until we can get back to normal, or we can accept that the old isn’t coming back and move forward to what is next.

People will be very discerning about how they return to normal

People have gotten comfortable with how things are now, and many won’t be returning to the old way of doing things once that is considered safe again. Focusing on attendance will lead to a lot of discouragement – we have to focus on how we can engage people where they are and where they’re willing and able to go. Mission opportunities in particular will take a new way of thinking. Service will tend to be a lot more local. Local relationships to organizations that minister to people in need are key to establishing good mission opportunities. Individuals and families may be less likely to be able to give their time regularly, so long-term relationships will involve relationships between a church and an organization. Mobilizing individual volunteers as part of the church’s overall mission will help those long-term relationships thrive.

Family has become the center of everything – engaging family is going to be key

Family has become the center of ministry. We’ve long wanted to make family units much more central to our ministry, but now that it’s a reality, we have to figure out how to harness that potential. Mission opportunities are going to need to engage the entire family. This means we’ll need to know our own strengths and seek mission opportunities that fit well with those strengths. The devotional elements of a mission experience need to offer a chance for the whole family to reflect together. Worship related to a mission trip needs to give kids and parents a chance to feel part of the experience. Like the best children or youth-led worship services, worship will need to engage the entire family.

Mission trips are going to be more local, but can still be transformational

With summer approaching, some of our intense, week-long experiences (mission trips, Bible school, etc), we’ve got to give a new focus to those weeks – invest in them with the other 51 weeks in mind. One of the things students hear at Impact camps is that this week-long mission experience isn’t their only or even their main opportunity to do mission – it’s the pep rally that gets them excited for the big game – a lifetime of mission. These intensive experiences give us a chance to separate from regular life and focus on what God is calling us to, how we can be part of the mission, and how we can expand our view of the world to be part of God’s work in it. Of course, we also are serving others, and we have to focus first on making sure that the way we help actually helps - that we empower the people we serve and value their contribution as well. But along with that, we want to ensure that the experience teaches us about ourselves, God’s mission, and the ways we can be part of that. People may not be ready to do mission trips (or Bible school) the way we used to, even if we’re back to “normal”. So we can lament the loss or create new opportunities for our kids and their families to serve and grow together this year. Maximizing the week-long experience will involve an intentional approach before, during, and after the project. For those who are able to do in-person mission trips with travel, this will likely mean more preparation than usual and smaller groups (especially in camp settings). For those not quite ready to travel and serve, it will involve a lot of extra work to create safe environments for service and opportunities for community with a focus on family engagement.

This year, Impact is planning in-person camps again, which will allow groups to come together and serve God through home repair and restoration for those in need. It will surely look different, and we’ll be working with those who join us on exactly what that will look like. For those who want to serve but aren’t sure they’ll be ready to travel yet, we want to help you create a life-changing mission experience at home and in your local community. Our virtual camp this year will be an experience that focuses on helping groups understand their own strengths and place in their community, reflect on their place in God’s mission and what God is calling them to do, and offers worship that engages the family or your group together. If you need help developing the mission projects you engage in, we’ll be available to help with construction assistance, connections to ministry partners in your area, and training for whatever new endeavors you may want to try.

This summer’s mission trip, no matter what form it takes, will look different than the past. Join us and make this one week of mission this summer, whatever form it takes, an investment in the other 51 weeks of the year.

Glenn Maddox is BGAV’s National Mission Director.