Getting Serious About Transformative Mission Experiences
Today’s Mission Monday blog post is by the Rev. Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook, VP of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty at Claremont School of Theology. She serves as professor of practical theology and religious education at Claremont School of Theology, and as professor of Anglican Studies at Bloy House, the Episcopal Theological School at Claremont. Sheryl originally wrote this piece for a mission exchange project initiated several years ago. As we resurrect this important project under the new working title, Episcopal Youth in Mission, her words are as timely as ever. I encourage you to carefully read and process Sheryl’s wisdom before planning your next mission experience.
Social Action Projects:
A More Excellent Way
As the summer program season approaches, many congregations and dioceses begin planning social action or “mission” trips with young people. But just how meaningful are these “trips”?
Such learning experiences can build self-esteem and leadership skills, as well as a greater sense of social responsibility. Yet well-intentioned projects far too often fall short of potential benefits, becoming primarily opportunities for travel on the part of the sponsors, and sources of anger or feelings of powerlessness for those visited. Some projects, emphasizing work and the desire to help others, only reinforce the status quo, rather than offering a transformative opportunity for young people to see the world anew.
Social action projects for young people, in order to be transformative experiences, need to both educate young people on how oppression operates in our society, and stress how we, who are part of the dominant culture, participate in that oppression. Rather than patronize the poor and the oppressed, participants need to learn to recognize how God is already at work among those they encounter.
These are just the opening paragraphs of this powerful article. Download the full article, Social Action Projects: More Excellent Way, for Sheryl’s criteria for congregations and dioceses planning mission experiences for youth.