In three days our youth group will be off to Florida. This is a trip they have prayed, worked and prepared for, for many weeks. Their (and our) effort and attention have been on the “entry” side of the mission experience.
I am writing to help us prepare them for their “reentry.” Reentry is often the overlooked component of a mission experience, short or long term. We would like to be our teenagers’ and children’s reentry advocates—people who will be there to listen, ask the right questions, recognize God’s work in their lives and to cheer them on in areas where they are beginning to change.
May I suggest a few ways to help them reenter well:
- Allow them to share their stories. Be there to listen. Even if they are repetitious, be there to give focused attention. Withhold judgment.
- Avoid asking general questions e.g. “How was it?” Try the following questions:
- Which part did you like best?
- What was the hardest part for you?
- Would you do it again? Why?
- Tell me about…(the work with the senior citizens’ home; the concert; the food; the motel where you stayed; the beach ministry and prison outreach, etc.)
- What did you learn about God, yourself or others through the experience?
- Understand that in some cases, they may just want to rest and sleep.
- Pray for the appropriate time and times to listen and ask questions. Allow them to open up without being too inquisitive.
- Better yet, take your teenager out to a meal and give her/him your listening heart and ear.
I believe God is doing a great work among our youth. Let us recognize encourage and affirm those signs of growth.
Warmly in Christ,
Lisa Espineli Chinn
This is an actual letter sent July 3, 1997 by Lisa Espineli Chinn to parents of the youth group of Christ the Redeemer Episcopal Church in Centreville, Virginia. It is excerpted from her Reentry Guide for Short-term Mission Leaders.