Servant Life Blog

Servant Life Helped Me Realize My Vision For Students


I had been a student minister for 16 years before I really sat down to hammer out some purpose statements and visions for student ministry at my church. I kept it simple and decided on KNOW, GROW, and GO. Simply put, I wanted students coming to First Baptist Church in Russellville, Alabama, to have an opportunity through events and weekly Bible studies to KNOW how to accept Christ as Savior, to GROW in their faith, and to GO into the world and share the Gospel through mission and ministry.

While mission trips were a yearly part of our ministry, it was not until 2012 that we took our first international mission trip with Servant Life. Our group of thirteen along with three students from other states served in Costa Rica at La Montana Christian Camp up in the Cloud Forest region of the country. The experience of seeing a different part of the world and meeting people from a different culture was incredible.  The pinnacle of the week was the worship service on the last night of camp at La Montana.

Costa Rican students responded in huge numbers to the invitation and while I was standing at the back of the auditorium watching this happen, one by one all of the American students on our mission team started to make their way to the altar. Even with the language barrier they prayed with students, cried with them, and embraced them. I was actually seeing the entire plan God had given me for students unfold right before me. There the students were, GOING into the world and sharing a Gospel that at that moment had no barriers because they were sharing the bond of God’s love.

The Servant Life experience was awesome. They took care of all the flights and details of getting us where we needed to be in Costa Rica so all we had to do was just concentrate on ministering to students and help with daily duties at the camp. We went back to Costa Rica in 2013 and are planning to go again in 2014. In Costa Rica, I got to see the fulfillment of a dream. I had the opportunity see my students minister to others in an amazing worship service and to say, “That’s the progression I want to see in students involved in student ministry at First Baptist Church.” Thank you Servant Life for helping me help students to experience what it is like to GO and take the Gospel to the world.


Richard Parker, student minister, FBC Russellville AL 

5 Ways To Ruin Your Short Term Mission Trip

There are plenty of things you can do to ensure you have a great mission trip.  On the flip side of that, there’s even more ways you can sabotage your short term mission trip…

1. Have an “It’s all about me” attitude.  If you want to have a terrible mission trip, then definitely act as if the world revolves around you.  Plus, you’re the one going to help other people, so they should be worshipping the ground you walk on, right?

“For I say to every man that is among you, through the grace given unto me, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” Romans 12:3

2.  By all means, don’t be flexible.  If you don’t live out the words of Philippians 2:14 to “do all things without grumbling or questioning” then you are guaranteed to have a trip full of complaints.

For this, just read all of Philippians 2.  Seriously, go read it. Right now.

3.  Don’t devote yourself to prayer or time in the Word.  Why would you do that?  Spending time talking to the Lord and studying His word only ensures that your heart will be aligned with His will.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

4.  Deliver empty words.  Surely, the people to whom you’ll minister will be hanging on to every word you say.  That means you should just say whatever sounds best.  There’s no need to make sure your words are rooted in Scripture or anointed by the Holy Spirit.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

5.  Think your mission trip is terrible because you didn’t see much fruit.  So you didn’t see hundreds of people come to know Christ? Your trip was a bust then.  Forget what people say about “planting seeds,” YOU must have done something wrong.

“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:7-9

(We want you to have the best mission trip possible. So please do the opposite of these 5 things. Always keep the Lord and the gospel in the forefront of your mind!)

The following is an excerpt from an article by Jackie Knapp entitled How God Changes Us While We ‘Change’ the World. You can read the entire article on The Gospel Coalition’s website here.

“If we enter service expecting to be changed first, we will be much better equipped for the journey. If we are prepared to ask forgiveness from the people we are trying to serve, we will actually learn to show someone Christ, because we believe we need him too.  If we begin by praying that God would use these experiences to rescue us from ourselves, rather than being the rescuer, then we will learn to see his grace in our weakness.

If we daily meditate on these principles, we are freed to get out of the way and actually see God work. We are freed from insisting that our agenda, strategy, and timeline is perfect and instead begin to see what he is doing, not only in the world, but also in our own hearts.”


You can also follow The Gospel Coalition on Twitter at @TGC

Missionary kid.

Those two words probably don’t induce an image of a child passionately following their parent’s spiritual footsteps.

The stereotypical wayward path of the MK is being broken by a family of missionaries high in the Tilarán Mountain Range of Costa Rica at La Montaña Christian Camp where children play sports, hear the Gospel and grow in their faith.

Joe Pent Sr. and his wife Clara originally followed the typical career path after graduating from Moody Bible Institute by taking a job as a youth pastor in Chicago for a few years.

But God had other plans, tugging on the young youth pastor’s heart to go into the mission field and minister to teens. In 1962, Joe accepted a position with the Latin America Mission because the missions organization would allow him to focus on young people in Costa Rica.

Joe Pent, Jr. explains, “Right from the beginning, [Dad] developed a ministry to young people working with evangelism, discipleship. That developed a dynamic of renting facilities, going to different camps, using those different facilities and created a desire and the focus to someday develop our own Christian camp.”

Joe Jr. was born and grew up in Costa Rica during his father’s 47 years as a missionary and caught the vision for youth ministry at a young age. By 13, he was speaking to groups where his family ministered. Joe Pent Sr. said all three of his sons served and led in their barrio (poor neighborhood) ministry and national youth movement, Movimiento Cristiano Juventud Nueva, which Joe Sr. founded with a friend from Colombia.

“When the national youth movement was founded in 1980, even though Joe Jr. was in early adolescence, he and his brothers each became part of a barrio leadership team, planning and directing weekly meetings, camps, prayer retreats and many other unique programs,” Joe Sr. said. “

“As leaders, they were part of an outstanding discipleship committed wholly to Jesus Christ, and they were witnesses to all God was doing in many young lives.”

Joe Jr. said his involvement in the family’s ministry helped him stay strong in his faith. Since his parents lived out their own teachings, he was able to see the practical application of faith – and in the kids they ministered to, the consequences of falling away.

“During their ministry years (that continue today) I personally witnessed the transformed lives of tens of thousands of young people,” he said. “I saw the Lord change hearts and lives that left me impacted with the power and the need to continue to use Christian camping to reach countless more.”

Three anonymous donations enabled the Pents to fulfill their calling of a permanent camp ministry. A Costa Rican company, led by a Christian couple who shared their vision for ministry, donated the original 550 acres of cloudforest (land at an elevation that literally places it within clouds). Two other financial gifts, each enough for an additional 80 acres, were given by Christians in the U.S. Joe Sr. said he considers this the most recent of the many miracles he has seen throughout his life.

The Pent family converted the miraculously donated land into a fully functioning camp, complete with water blob, ropes courses, archery, etc. Because La Montana transports Costa Rican youth far from the pressures and distractions of daily life, it allows them to focus on God — which has prompted amazing spiritual transformation. The Pents make sure each camper that becomes a new Christian gets connected to a local church for immediate, deeper discipleship.

“Discipleship has always been my passion throughout the almost 50 years of youth ministry in Costa Rica,” Joe Sr. said.

And the legacy grows. Both Joe Jr. Kannada dictionary and his wife felt called to camp ministry and they are passing on their enthusiasm for youth ministry to their kids: their oldest son is currently studying youth ministry at Azusa Pacific University.

“Like my parents before me, my three kids have also become very involved in serving in the ministry,” he said. “They all love it and look forward to the opportunities that it provides. That is the key: We all love what we do and we all feel equally involved in it.

“Kids today are so bombarded with options for fulfillment. I want my kids to know that the only true way to be filled is in Christ,” he said.

Joe Jr. recommends mission trips to parents and youth leaders as a way to give teens a broader global perspective.

“You know, your U.S. kid is living in a bubble,” he said. “Their reality is based on their experience. Until you take them out of that comfort zone and out of that reality and expose them to as many places as you can, then what it does is throws open the blinders of the limited reality that they have and it really expands their worldview.”

He said youth ministry is different in Costa Rica compared to the U.S. because of the Costa Ricans’ openness to the Gospel. Often, a typical U.S. teen doesn’t see the need for Christ because of all that they already have.

“Their cup is full. What we need to do in the U.S. is pursue ministry that knocks the cup out of their hands so that they can come face to face with how empty they really are and in need to be filled and FULL-filled,” he said.

Missions can also open teens’ ears to hearing what God is speaking in their own lives. He encourages challenging teens to follow the call of Deuteronomy 10:12-13 in seeking to love God with their hearts, souls and minds.

“I would include in that searching that they earnestly develop a life of prayer (talking and hanging out with God). If there is one thing our world needs today, it’s prayer.”

A tremendous spiritual legacy blooms – for one family as well as the nation of Costa Rica – because Joe Pent Sr. responded to the Holy Spirit’s prompting. And it won’t stop there as the ministry looks to help believers form their own camp ministries in other Latin American countries, including a new camp opportunity in Cuba.

“God’s work, done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply,” he said. “I believe the same miracles will happen in Cuba in the not-too-distant future.”

You can plant a legacy as well, and it doesn’t require moving to a foreign country or starting a camp. We impact eternity when we pour spiritually  into the lives of the children God places around us, whether that’s the teens in your group, the kids at your camps and events or the children who live in your home.


To serve at La Moñtana Christian Camp this summer, visit or connect via Twitter @servantlife.


Summer 2010 was by far the best summer of my life. I did not spend it, however, on the sandy shores at the Gulf, or lounging by the pool with my best friends. Instead, I was in the Ukrainian countryside, at my new favorite place in the world, Camp Friendship. For several years now, God has opened my eyes, and put love in my heart for the people of Ukraine. Ukraine is often portrayed as a dark place. However I know it in a completely different way.  I love this country. When I think of Ukraine, I think about Zhenya, the 11 year old orphan who has is so incredibly smart,  who could melt the hardest of hearts with his sweet smile, and who is a new brother in Christ. I think of Lera, the 16 year-old girl from the city. She has a great sense of humor, but is struggling with many things that most American teenagers struggle with. I think about Marina, the girl who told me that her family is Muslim and if they knew she had been at a Christian camp, she would be beaten, but who also loved learning about God. She was joyful, and although quiet, could brighten anyone’s day. I think of all the little boys in my group that I taught. How they soaked up every word like sponges, even if it looked like they were not listening. About 400 kids attended Camp Friendship while I was there, therefore 400 beautiful reasons why I love Ukraine.

Being able to serve in a camp setting is phenomenal! Camp Friendship is located in the Lughansk region of Ukraine.    The camp schedule is kind of set up like Student life camp. The mornings are filled with music time, small groups, crafts and games.  After lunch is recreation and free time!!  We played water games, ultimate Frisbee, freeze tag, and much more!! The screaming and laughter from the rec field could be heard all over camp.  Free time was one of my favorite parts of the day because that is when we really got to spend a lot of time one on one with the kids. Getting to know the kids is definitely the most rewarding thing about being there. God uses the staff and Americans there to show them His love, and teach them about Him. It is a wonderful thing to witness children coming to know the Lord. From the time they get up, to when they go to sleep, the campers are filled up with the Word. uncp blackboard They see how there Ukrainian and American leaders are set apart, and are different because they are filled with the Holy Spirit.  Camp Friendship has been going on for a few years now, and they are beginning to see the fruit of what they are doing.  God is rising up a generation to be strong in him tell others about His awesome and everlasting love.

God taught me so much during my time in Ukraine. He taught me how to strive to love unconditionally, as he loves us. During the first camp I taught eight teen 10-11 year old boys. I know right… what did I get myself into?! The boys in that group were so amazing, but sometimes I just could not get them to listen! However a team member reminded me of something as I shared my frustrations. I explained that I was not upset because these kids just wou;dn’t listen, but because I had grown to LOVE these kids, and I wanted them to listen to what God was trying to tell them during our Bible study time together.  I was reminded by my friend that this is often what we do to God.  We tune him out and focus on other things when he is trying to speak to us and teach us! I might think I love these boys, but it is nothing compared to how God loves us.  I was really humbled by this, and I was able to be more patient with boys. By the end of camp, their sweet smiles and great company made it very hard to say goodbye. But I know that the Lord has a plan for each of them.  I hope that during our time together they each saw Jesus in me throughout the camp. Some of them gave their lives to Christ, while at camp, and it was a beautiful sight to watch God transform them! To God be the glory!

I could go on and on for days about everything I did at camp, but nothing can amount to what God did, in the lives of Americans, Ukrainian Staff, and campers.  God is truly doing great things in Lughansk, Ukraine and I think that is what draws me there and makes me love it. So I would love to tell you that the reason I go is for the food, (definitely not that) the accommodations, or even the beautiful scenery, however that would be a lie. I go because I have a Father in heaven who loves me and cares for me. Who commands me to go and teach all nations, and who allows me to be a part of the wonderful work he is doing around the world.

-Katelyn Brock

Click here if you want to be a part of what God is doing in Ukraine this summer!


“If you happen to get around to it please go to the Nations.”

“If you could squeeze a few extra dollars out of your budget for missions, I would appreciate that.”

“I would really appreciate you starting a church and for the first 100 or so years of existence don’t bother getting involved in missions.”

These are all statements Jesus NEVER made.

The church has been commanded and commissioned to go to the nations (Mt 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15; Lk. 24:44-49; Jn. 20:21; Acts 1:7-8). These were the final words Christ said to His Church. Why would he have told His people to go rather than staying in our buildings? While there are many theological reasons why we should go, I want to share a practical reason for doing local, national, and international missions. Missions unifies the church.

I serve at a church that has been in existence for over 150 years. This church had never been out of the country on a mission trip. They had gone to Kentucky, North Carolina and places close, but had never seen another culture (outside of the Lottie Moon videos). Everything changed this summer. We went on a seven day trip to Costa Rica. There were many great things that came out of that trip.  People were saved, others were called to full-time missions, and many strong relationships were built, but there is one thing that happened that I had never seen before.

Missions unified the church! It served as an agent that unified the people in raising the funds to go. People would come in droves to help, give, and volunteer during the fundraising campaigns. The church came out and spent time with the team, prayed over the team, and spoke words of encouragement to the team. It was as though something had shifted in the church completely, and it had.

For the first time in a long time, the church saw the Mission of God as a reality. They no longer just heard, “Go therefore into all the nations” but now they were actually going to all the nations. It wasn’t just praying for, giving towards, or thinking about missions. It was being a part of missions.

Local, national, and international mission trips breed excitement. It breeds the opportunity to go and share the Gospel in a completely different context. It breeds the fun, lively, and often lost passion of the people going and not going. I am convinced that while there is nothing as life changing and unifying as a mission trip.

Local, national, and international mission trips bond students with adults.  It thrusts them into a situation of reliance on one another that is different than anything they have ever been a part of. What a great opportunity, in such a rich culture as ours, to unify for the mission of God to the nations. I promise you this, take a trip to a different culture or a different continent, and your church will never be the same.

When we returned and shared what God had done on the trip, how He changed lives, our trip for next year doubled in size. People want to be a part of something special and God ordained. Missions is an agent that unifies the Church.

-Chris Comstock

Should there be a cost for missions in youth ministry?  As I have done camp over the past seven years, I have seen the difficulty in teaching the importance of missions to students, the difficulty in getting a church leadership to get on board in sending students, and sadly for some youth ministers, I have seen the attitude of not caring about missions. First, let’s define missions: missions is the command Jesus gives in Matthew 28:19: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” I think that the gospel compels us in our seeking to go and preach in order to meet a spiritual need, as well as physical needs.


When it comes to youth ministry, there are so many hoops to jump through in order to get your church leadership on board with taking students out of the state to serve, and even harder to get them out of the country. I had a youth pastor write this to me once “…our students really feel a call towards missions in Africa.  We are trying to see if this would be possible for next year.  There is a lot of hesitation from our lay leadership about cost involved during these difficult financial times.” For some youth pastors, the church is having financial struggles and the leadership just isn’t sure if it is feasible.  Other leaderships are simply against it. This is tough all around because it isn’t always just the church; there are parents involved. I pray for the latter leadership that they would be broken for God’s command and support youth pastors in teaching the importance of missions.  And for church leaderships in financial need, I pray God overflows his resources and ideas to get you there. (“There” being wherever it is you go to spread this gospel; i.e.; school, down the road to the homeless shelter, to your neighbors, to a lager city with many needs, or overseas.)


For us in a leadership role, I believe the spread of the gospel to all nations should cost us every thought and decision. The growth of our church has some how taken the place of the growth of God’s kingdom. Instead of being on mission and seeing the cost as absolute necessity, we see programs as absolute necessity.


Would missions cost us our programs so God’s kingdom would be advanced, instead of our churches?


If we’re honest, there are some youth pastors who really just don’t care.  They have neglected the commission of Christ and only want to see their youth be the largest and coolest. The moment God’s kingdom being advanced is sacrificed for a great Wednesday night service, I believe we have failed. Until we take seriously the call that Christ has given us, I believe we will continue to see students fall away from faith.  Of course, that’s not true for every student, but all good things cost something. If you find your students to be apathetic about missions, both local and abroad, I pray for God’s provision in your ministry and for the Spirit’s conviction.  Committing to missions is difficult, but it is one of the few things worth committing to.


Would we rise up as the church and tell the world about Him?  Would we sacrifice the things we want, for what the world needs?


I am grateful for you.  Whether you are a youth pastor or an adult leader, you are living out the cause of missions, right now in your local church to students in your community. ip information  I pray that we all would have passion for introducing missions into the lifeblood of the next generation.

-Jared Brown, college pastor at Christ City Church in Birmingham, AL

I think it’s imperative youth ministries take students overseas on missions. It may seem difficult and there are many hurdles to overcome. But it’s worth it and it will completely change the culture of your student ministry – for the good.

I’ve taken groups to Ukraine through Servant Life, Student Life’s mission sending initiative, for several years – 2006 (twice), 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012. And we’ll be going back this summer!

On our last trip our primary purpose was to share the Gospel through teaching English as a second language. Through this we built strong relationships with many Ukrainians, especially the Radooga staff. (Radooga, a partner with Servant Life, is a non-profit organization that ministers to orphans as well as uses English Language camps to reach Ukrainian teens for Christ.) We still keep in touch. We talk through social media almost every week. server ip In fact, I saw a friend from Ukraine last week in Atlanta and it was like we had just seen each other yesterday. These are great friendships that I believe will last a lifetime.

My hope for this most recent trip – as with all of them – was that my students would see the heart of God – that they would sense God’s call on their lives and become stronger leaders within our student ministry. God blew my expectations out of the water. I saw my students worldview completely change. They began to realize God is the God of all nations. Not just home sweet America. Our experience in Ukraine completely altered the landscape of our student ministry – affecting everything from their worship, to their Bible Study, to their interaction with others, to their leadership. Even the younger students saw how the experience impacted the older students and now those younger students want to go!

Please, if you can, try to send your students (and you too) to serve the Kingdom of God abroad – or at least in a different community, city or state. You won’t be sorry. (You might even get to eat something unique like Borshk – I’m just saying.)

-John Bodine, youth minister

“How different can Mexico really be,” I asked myself just before leaving the church parking lot for my first youth group international trip. In my high school, America-centric mind Mexico was almost an extension of Texas. As I sat in a 12-passenger van about to cross the border I realized how wrong I was.  I will never forget the confusion I felt when I looked to my left and saw beautiful “American-dream” homes. Then I looked to my right and was shocked to see homes made from a tarp hanging cement blocks. God used that moment to awaken something in me – something I wasn’t even fully aware of yet.

Our youth group was headed to Juarez Mexico to build a house for a family in need and to show the love and compassion of Christ. There was great poverty there. dns test A home made of a tarp and block was not the worst I would see.

As a teen I believed that real service and being a “missionary” required someone more mature in their faith. But throughout the week the Lord opened my eyes that he wanted use ME to help meet the needs of people in my own country and around the globe. Both physical needs like new homes and more food, but also spiritual needs.

“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  (James 2:15-17)

This understanding came because I was given the opportunity to experience it. The encouragement to step out of my comfortable context came from three people. My mom, who actually came on the trip, guided me in Colossians 3. She provided an example of what it looked like to clothe myself in compassion and kindness towards others. My dad, whom I greatly trust, gave me the confidence to go to a new and uncharted place. And no matter how cliché this may sound: I wouldn’t be the person I am today if my youth minister hadn’t given me the chance to serve in a context that wasn’t my own.

My faith became active because my mom, dad and youth minister encouraged me. And gave me room to grow.  Parents and youth ministers, you may never fully know the seeds planted through the opportunities you give. So give them in abundance! Teach students to serve and allow them the chance to do it. Show them how to put their faith into action – abroad and next door.

-Lesley Blanton, event coordinator for Student Life

Through the years, The Lord has led Servant Life to a list of four Core Values that shape all the work we do.  They are: Gospel-centered ministry, long-term strategies, one-on-one relationships, and a focus on youth and children.  Every missionary in our global network is prayerfully and specifically selected by the type of ministry they are doing.  We are highlighting each of these Core Values in a four part series.  The first is “Gospel-Centered Ministry”.

Now this one may seem like a given, but unfortunately “Gospel-centered” is not a characteristic of all Christian organizations.  When we say, “Gospel-centered,” here is what we mean.

First, a Gospel-centered ministry exists to meet spiritual needs.  As great as the physical need is around the globe, there is even greater spiritual need in the heart of every man.  Servant Life works in many areas to meet physical needs, but first and foremost we desire to see souls saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.  This same focus is consistent throughout Christ’s earthly ministry.  In Mark 2, Jesus heals a paralytic but He does not overlook his sins; He forgives them.  In 1 Samuel 16:7 we see that man’s tendency is to look at outward appearances, but The Lord looks at the heart.  Servant Life strives to have that same focus.  We believe that, as Christ-followers, we are called to more than humanitarian aid.  The Gospel is the only thing that will truly save.

Secondly, a Gospel-centered ministry has a commitment to Scripture.  We are not in the business of broadcasting their thoughts or opinions.  Each missionary in our network of partners has been sent as an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ.  They have been sent to preach and teach the Word of God.  We trust that where the Word is, there is power.  Isaiah 40:8 tells us that, “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”  A Gospel-centered ministry is committed to the Word, because eternal impact is what they are after.

Lastly, a Gospel-centered ministry has a desire to create opportunities for people to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.  The Lord has sovereignly chosen to use man as the primary means in which the Gospel is spread to the nations.  Matthew 28:18-20 clearly commands us to go and to teach.  This call is for every disciple of Jesus Christ, no matter how old or young they are.  Servant Life believes that teenagers and college students have a unique and important role in the advancement of the Kingdom.

We, at Servant Life, routinely evaluate our processes and partnerships based on these values.  We are daily being refined into all that God has called us to be.

Only the Good News of Jesus ultimately has the power to save people from their sins and lead them to a life of hope and freedom.

Therefore, we center our ministry around the Gospel.  Praise The Lord that He allows us to be a part of bringing this Good News to the nations! accommodation sbsavings