Over the past few years, youth leaders have asked some wonderful and tough questions that have helped us to grow as an organization. We strive to work with consistency to support the work of local ministries and organizations that are pursuing justice in our cities and welcome this dialogue as it helps us to understand each other and refine God’s purpose for CSM.
Below are our responses to a few of the tough questions we receive every year. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to reach out to us. We strive for transparency and, as a member of the living body of Christ, we are committed to continued growth, refinement and development through the shared wisdom and insight of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
How Is CSM Different From Other Organizations?
Our City Staff live in the city year–round. This means that CSM is a part of the community you will serve in. Our staff is in constant contact with our partners to discern their volunteer needs.
We only partner with existing organizations. CSM teams become a part of the work that is already happening for the restoration in the city. Groups will be serving and learning from local leaders who are committed to working on behalf of the people of the city long–term. While we acknowledge the gifts and blessings of our guests who are coming to serve, it is important that our teams defer to the leadership of local organizations in order to be a blessing and a light in the specific city of service.
Is The Prayer Tour A Way To Put Poverty On Display?
No, is the short answer to this question. Since the people writing our prayer tours are residents of these communities, it is very important to them that their neighbors aren’t alienated or exploited in any way. This is a labor of love. We truly believe that the prayer tour is our first ministry opportunity in the city. It is an education and introduction to each city. We give statistics and historical facts. This is our opportunity to give the teams the background information necessary to serve our cities with love.
We invite you see these cities through God’s eyes during the Prayer Tour. He is present and invites us to see the beauty in the midst of the brokenness. We’ll tell you about the problems we face in our communities, the joys we celebrate here as well, and invite you into our story so that you are able to understand why we do what we do and why we feel the way we feel about the city.
How Will My Kids Actually Make An Impact When They’re Only There For A Short Time?
By partnering with existing organizations, students are able to come alongside ongoing work. The work does not begin when they arrive, and it keeps going for years after they leave. Your teams fill volunteer positions that are already open in organizations that have been working in the city for a very long time. The organizations we work with would cease to exist without volunteers to help them with day to day operations – whether it’s serving dinners at a soup kitchen, tutoring kids in after school programs, helping the elderly remain independent in their own homes or helping out at a homeless shelter. We are filling existing needs and closing volunteer gaps to make sure that the organizations that make a difference in our communities continue to do so for a very long time!
Could Our Work Actually Hinder The Work Of Those Who Are Working Here Long–Term?
Our goal is to be used by the Lord to support the work of those who are working here long–term. The health, growth and development of our host communities is the reason we participate in this kingdom work. Our full time staff is involved and communicating with our partners year round to maintain and build trusting friendships where honesty is pursued and valued. If at any time our partners, who are pursuing reconciliation in communities, feel that we are more of a burden than a blessing, we welcome that conversation! We work exceptionally hard to make sure we do not burden organizations with our volunteers and have stepped back from partnerships in order to help them pursue their mission.
What Value Are We Really Adding To The Community?
You serve as witnesses of Christ and sowers in the development of fruit. Some of our partner organizations receive increased funding and volunteer support from local sponsors because people from across the country are coming to serve with them! Your service increases their local profile.
It is also important to remember that people notice you. The neighbors we serve are in tough situations. Oftentimes they are lonely and feel unseen, forgotten and unloved. Your presence and commitment to traveling to a city shows them a small taste of the love that God has for them and plants a seed of worthiness. Your actions are small and may not always feel impactful, but your presence speaks to the love of a God who will spare nothing to make sure that each and every one of his children knows they are cared for, no matter what has happened in their lives.
How Can Short Term Mission Trips Be Relational?
This depends on each person’s willingness to be open to loving his or her neighbor.We rely on and try to equip team leaders and team members to prayerfully and boldly welcome our local community into their lives. A conversation and a kind word can change a heart. At some point in each of our pasts, a person has spoken love into our lives in a way that seemed quite small to them, but changed everything for us as receivers. We encourage you to share love throughout your trip. Remind someone that he or she has value! Your kindness matters and even the smallest kindnesses can save a life.
We also encourage our groups to place themselves in a place of need and allow themselves to be served. This is generally the hardest, but most important, lesson for our groups. Jesus placed himself in need throughout His life and His ministry in order to allow others to feel their value and worth. You have that same power. This is mostly a long–term goal of transformation as a result of seeing the impact that stepping out of your comfort zone can have on a community.
We pray that our groups will see the amazing healing that comes from honest and open partnerships. We also pray that they will cultivate similar relationships in their hometowns and churches as they become the standard–bearers of Christ for the next generation.
Are We Taking Away Jobs That Could Be Helping The Local Economy?
Since we are only filling existing volunteer opportunities, our groups are actually helping local organizations stay operational and impactful in the community. In fact, many organizations can continue to hire staff (though limited) because of the consistent base of volunteers that CSM provides. We also patronize small restaurants usually run by local families, many of whom are immigrants. They are doing their best to provide community and preserve their culture. Our groups are not only exposed to their home country’s signature dishes, but we provide these establishments with steady business throughout the year and help to keep them in business.
Are We Disempowering People And Keeping Them In A Place Of Need?
Because of our local partnerships, we are constantly evolving our ministry in conjunction with local leaders to make sure we are encouraging and empowering people. We recognize that we do not have all the answers and that we are background support for the amazing healing work they have dedicated their lives to building.
The Center for Student Missions