“A lot of youth ministries are in the same boat because of the recession,” said Kurt Kessler, Youth Minister at Rockbridge Community Church. “These financial struggles are hard. We’re doing anything we can do to keep the kids involved and excited about the church but keep the cost down.”
“A lot of local youth groups are doing it,” said Stacy Long, coordinator of the Voluntary Action Center. “We had about 45 youth volunteers here last week, all of them with youth groups.”
“First Presbyterian volunteered to serve in our community kitchen,” Long said.
Kessler said that more and more local youth groups are choosing to do their mission work locally instead of traveling on mission trips.
“Last, year we did a mission trip with 14 kids, which was way down from what we had in past years…so we asked what was causing that problem. What we decided was, how can we keep the cost down? A normal mission trip is $300 to 3$50, to go away for a week. What we decided to do was keep it local.”
“It costs considerably less to just do local stuff,” said Calhoun First Baptist’s youth minister Mike Beeler. He also said that his youth group chooses to engage in both local mission work and travel opportunities.
“It opens their eyes to the world around them,” Beeler said. “to the environment they’re living in. It helps them realize that there are people hurting right here in town.”
“Staying local makes it easier to bring everyone together for a common cause,” said Tim Erwin, youth minister at Meadowdale Baptist Church.
“You don’t have to travel to Africa or India … ” Erwin said. “And not everyone can afford going to those places… And certainly, it’s very cost-effective. You can actually save money by staying local, and that can go towards more ministry.”
“It’s just a chance to plug into our community,” Kessler said. “I don’t know that many of our kids had ever been to the Voluntary Action Center … Our theme for the week was ‘reveal,’ which is what we wanted to do, just to reveal the needs that are right there in front of them.”
“It’s exciting,” Kessler said, “definitely an opportunity.”
These groups are doing local mission work in various places.
“We’re doing a sort of Meadowdale Baptist version of Extreme Home Makeover in a house on May Street,” Erwin said. “Everyone is really looking forward to it.”