Fusion: Short-Term Student Missions
Have you ever heard the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none”? I resonate deeply with this phrase — not so much because I’m good at a lot of things, but more because I feel like I haven’t really mastered anything. I like working on projects with my hands, so I’ve dabbled in building different things (furniture, a carpet ball table with my son, etc). I like photography and videography, as well as video editing. I enjoy extreme sports like snowboarding, mountain biking, and rock climbing. I like doing a little bit of graphic design from time to time and playing the guitar. The list could go on, but as I think about each of these areas of interest, there’s one common factor. I have tools that I use for each.
When I’m engaged in one of the activities that I enjoy, I reach for different tools based on what I’m trying to accomplish. If I’m going snowboarding, I don’t bring a drill. If I’m building a coffee table, I don’t use my guitar tuner. I use the tools that are specifically suited to help me accomplish what I’m trying to do.
When we talk about student ministry, one question I often hear is “What’s your mission?” This is a critical question to answer, and it should be given serious thought. But there’s another question that we should follow-up with — “What tools do you have at your disposal that are specifically suited to help you accomplish that mission?”
I served as a youth pastor for 13 years, and one of the hardest parts of my role was finding the right tools for the job. I was committed to the mission of making disciples who could make disciples, but when I tried to figure out the day-to-day, practical methods for accomplishing that mission, I was often overwhelmed. There are so many great tools out there, it’s hard to sift through them and figure out which is best for the job at hand.
One of the things that helped me immensely was studying Jesus’ ministry strategy. While looking at the master, I began to notice that he used specific tools to help his disciples move through the stages of the disciple-making process. As Jesus invested his life in a few, he used different tools for different purposes.
One of those tools was the cross-cultural mission trip.
Jesus took his disciples on several short-term, cross-cultural mission trips during their time with him, and he used each of these experiences to accomplish various training objectives (deepen their understanding of the disciple-making process, teach them dependence, grow their obedience, strengthen their faith, etc). He understood that sometimes the best tool for equipping his team was an experience outside of their home culture and comfort zone.
As Jesus’ disciples grew to be like him, adopting his character and priorities as their own, they had to learn to lift their eyes to see the harvest fields all around them:
Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.John 4:35
They also had to be equipped and sent out to work in the harvest fields:
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”Matthew 9:37-38
As I searched for a tool that I could use to help my students lift their eyes and also be equipped and sent into the harvest fields, Sonlife’s FUSION short-term missions process rose to the surface as the best cross-cultural opportunity. FUSION is a short-term missions experience that strategically partners churches in North America with churches in Latin America for the purpose of multiplying healthy, disciple-making student ministries.
As a youth pastor, I used FUSION as a tool for making disciples within my own student ministry for 13 years, and I’ve had the privilege of overseeing the FUSION process throughout North America and Latin America for the last 10 years. As FUSION has developed and grown since 1995, several unique components have emerged as reasons why I believe it’s one of the best student ministry tools for equipping students as workers in the harvest fields:
- FUSION is closely tied to Jesus’ strategy, rooted in the phases of his ministry
- FUSION is specifically designed to be a tool that student ministries can use to equip teenagers to be and make disciples of Jesus
- FUSION leverages cross-cultural experiences to get students out of their comfort zones and teach them dependence on the Holy Spirit
- FUSION isn’t just about what happens “over there” — it’s equally focused on equipping students to make disciples in their home culture, context, and community
- FUSION is student-led
- FUSION is relationally-driven
- FUSION is designed to multiply healthy, disciple-making student ministries
Short-term mission trips aren’t the goal; making disciples is the goal. FUSION is a tool that allows student ministries to stay focused on the mission of disciple-making while imitating Jesus’ model. Our team works hard to create opportunities for teenagers to experience what Jesus’ disciples experienced in places like Samaria, Tyre & Sidon, the Decapolis, and Caesarea Philippi. Crossing into unfamiliar environments to be stretched, challenged, and equipped in ways that just can’t happen at home.