Summer mission trips can be transformative experiences, especially for youth. And when these trips are done well, they can also have a great impact on local communities. Nonprofits and other organizations thrive on volunteer help to accomplish their mission. So when a group of youth partnered with a local church converges on a single community, the impact can send ripples across a city, bringing hope and encouragement to those already doing great work there.

This summer, youth from four churches across the Diocese of Central Florida met at St. Barnabas in DeLand for the annual week of service known as Soul in the City. In addition to those from St. Barnabas, youth came from All Saints’, LakelandChurch of the Messiah, Winter Garden; and St. Edward’s, Mount Dora. Forty-eight students and 12 adult leaders camped out on the church campus and worked at a total of 17 different community work sites.

These work sites included faith-based thrift shops, animal rescue shelters, local public and private schools, pregnancy centers, counseling centers and the Deland Police Department. Split into five to seven groups each day, the youth visited the various sites, doing projects to help support each group’s vision. The tasks varied with the organizations’ needs and included general cleanup and organization, planting gardens and completing other outdoor landscaping projects, filling gift bags and many other supporting assignments.

Representatives from the local organizations often had opportunities to share with the youth about the work they do and why it matters to the community. Understanding the role of the organizations brought the youth perspective and purpose regarding their volunteer efforts. Many were surprised at how much great work is being done that they didn’t know about.

“I got feedback from a lot of sites about how appreciative they were to have students serving with them,” said Skylar Jones, youth pastor at St. Barnabas. “They also indicated that all of our groups did good work while on-site.”

“Soul in the City has had clear positive impacts on not only the local community, but also on the reach of our church,” he added, noting that part of his church’s purpose is “promoting God’s love through outreach to the communities we serve.”

St. Barnabas had a lot of work to do to establish more connections with these local organizations, Jones explained. Now that the work has been done, “Our church and youth ministry have much greater opportunities to faithfully serve in our community in the years to come.”

The youth also experienced the impact of the week at Soul in the City. “Mission experiences are transformative for young people,” said Kirsten Knox, youth ministry liaison to the diocese and executive director of Youth Ministry Institute. “Soul in the City gives students in the diocese an opportunity to contribute to their community and be a part of something bigger than themselves.”

Soul in the City 2022 proved to be a great experience for local organizations in the DeLand community, the local church at St. Barnabas, and for dozens of youth and their adult leaders. The excitement for next year’s trip is already building, and there’s no doubt that Soul in the City will continue to transform both communities and individual lives.

The current generation of youth is looking for ways to have an impact on the world around them. Many will carry the experience of this week home and ask questions about how they can do the same thing in their own community.

“At Soul in the City, we want students to experience how they can make life better for others,” Knox said. “They don’t have to wait until adulthood. Right now, where they are, they can bring life to others.”

Mission accomplished.


This article was originally published on CFE Online, Youth Bring Soul in the City to DeLand.