The other day I saw a picture posted by a partnering church (Sugar Hill Church in Atlanta, Georgia) and it grabbed me. We have 16 partnering churches that invest in us, but Sugar Hill Church is by far the farthest away. Just over seven hours.
Back to the picture (posted here). It is a simple yet powerful picture of a high school student from Sugar Hill praying with one of our students. We have over 18 student mission groups that visit us during the year to serve our students and community. They are a blessing to us… to our families… and to our community. These student groups do great work. I am constantly on social media and see the hashtags of #TMPfamily and #teachmypeople as these students post pictures of themselves with our students and it blesses me.
While we love all of the groups that take time out of their summer schedules to serve our community, the reality is we will never see those students again. I have been in youth ministry for 25 years and it’s simply the way it works. Every summer is a different site in a different state (or country) providing different exposures into other people’s worlds.
Back to that picture. What makes Sugar Hill different is their partnership with Teach My People. Their group has been to our campus every summer (and every other Spring) for the past SEVEN years. Our kids know their students' faces and names. FAMILY is a big value at TMP and to know someone's name in the midst of hundreds of students visiting our campus each summer is a BIG DEAL! And it means that these out of state students are extended family.
After Sugar Hill’s first year with us they heard that Teach My People high school students were setting off for their first mission trip. They donated $2,000 to our students embarking on their first trip. A year later, our high school students were able to spend a leadership weekend on their campus in Atlanta, Georgia. Many of our students still talk about this experience.
Back to that picture. What I see in this picture is more than just one girl loving on one of our kids. What I see in that picture is a church teaching their students to love on a community for the long term. A church doing its best to live out the great commission even outside their own community. A church that understands the value in relationships.
I personally desire to do more to increase the partnerships with our churches and work on NOT letting the tyranny of urgency take over, which it often does. For a few years now I’ve wanted to set up an eight-week, summer internship program to further allow opportunities for out of town students to engage with our students and summer program. Maybe that is the next step in growing our extended family. Praying and working towards this becoming a reality!