Being Missional Is About Giving AND Receiving
Earlier this year, an educator told me that it’s not just important for kids to go on field trips, but parents need to go as well. Children — especially those in poverty and from rural areas — need horizon-stretching experiences, to see a bigger world so that they can expand their dreams. But many of the parents in this community haven’t had those experiences, and if they don’t see these places, how can they talk to their own kids about them?
During our month-long Elevate Summer Camp, different churches each sponsored a field trip, so that we could have one per week. The field trips were incentives for our campers (and all summer school students) to attend, behave well, and work hard. Additionally, it was an opportunity to put the advice I received into practice. On each trip, we had multiple parents and other family members.
The counsel I received was on the money. These parents not only helped us by chaperoning, but they all had fun being with the group of children and leaders. And for many parents, they had first time experiences, like one lady who had her first Chick-fil-A sandwich!.
But what I enjoyed the most were the two trips in which families were able to serve other children, in specific ways.
In both instances, these family members drove separately, following the bus to the destinations. Other family members rode the buses, but these people insisted on driving. It was a fortuitous choice.
In one situation, we had a picnic dinner, but realized that we had nothing to drink for 90 children and leaders. On another trip, a student from Greenville had a personal / health issue. Here were the initial solutions that popped in my head:
- Tell those affected just to tough it out. Yeah, that’s about how compassionate I am.
- Ask the bus driver to take me to a store to get what was needed.
But knowing that we had people who drove separately, in both cases I approached them for help, asking them if they would mind driving me (or, in the case of the health issue, another leader) to a store. They were happy to assist.
Here’s what I learned:
- Just because we are treating someone to an experience doesn’t mean that we can ask them to contribute, if they are able.
- Most people want to contribute. In a culture where isolation and independence isn’t an option, we need to look for ways to let others give.
- If giving only flows in one direction, the relationship will be incomplete and unhealthy. As Robert Lupton writes in Toxic Charity, “Relationships built on need tend to be short-lived.”
It was especially thrilling to see the situation of the student having a health issue. The family members that helped us took extra measures to show her love and care — purchasing things with their own money, and spending time with her. What a great experience for this student, and for all the leaders who were involved, who were blessed by this Allendale family.
All this time I thought taking parents on field trips would be a small blessing for them. But it turns out it was a huge blessing for me.
**image courtesy of nosheep via sxc.hu