When Todd Hampton leads teens on missions trips, he’s doing more than traveling — he’s equipping the next generation to transform the world.
When you hear the title “youth pastor,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
A guy who loves pizza parties, ping-pong, and water balloons?
Someone who’s a little bit crazy … and a whole lot of fun?
If you Google “youth pastor,” you’ll find the two most important recommended things a youth pastor needs are a Bible and a dodgeball.
It’s definitely a job like no other!
But seriously … where would we be without them?
High school pastors like Todd Hampton at West Ridge Church in Dallas, Georgia, are raising up the next generation of Christians, leaders, and world-changers. And because of their passion and dedication, lives are being transformed for years to come.
Seeing God Move Around the World
One of the best ways that Pastor Todd has found to help students grow in their faith is through international missions trips. Every year, he leads trips to a poverty-stricken community in Nicaragua.
“You’ve got to get students out of their context and allow them to see other parts of the world so they can learn how to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” says Pastor Todd. “They are so focused on the here and now and their own community. They get caught in that bubble.
“Getting them out of their rhythm forces them to learn to desperately depend on Jesus.”
Through the missions trips, kids gain a completely new perspective.
“Missions gives us the chance to say, ‘This is going to break you out of the mold of what you’ve seen and know, so you can see other views of how God is working.’”
And as teens see how God is moving around the world, their faith in Him is strengthened. They start to see the church beyond their own community — and understand that it’s an amazing body of brothers and sisters united across the globe.
Unplugging and Connecting With Others in Hard Places
Pastor Todd has also seen how missions trips help students flourish when they are forced to break away from their cellphones and social media.
“You realize the dependency that they have,” he says. So he encourages parents not to turn on international data plans so students can have the chance to truly unplug and connect.
He remembers one mom who decided to turn on her son’s data plan in the middle of a trip. Pastor Todd saw how fast he went from engaging with others to being dragged back into his world at home.
But when students do unplug, they’re able to live in the present and build strong friendships.
“There are some really fun moments when they learn to disconnect,” says Pastor Todd. “They learn how to interact and be social and have fun!”
What a great reminder! It’s important for all of us to take a break from our phones once in a while so we can focus on God — and connect face-to-face with the people He has placed in our lives.
Sharing God’s Love Gets Easier
Another way that students grow through missions trips is learning how to talk about their faith.
Before they travel, many of them feel uncomfortable telling others about Jesus. But by the time they come home, sharing God’s love becomes second nature to them.
“The thing that they’re most fearful of, they are begging to do again!” says Pastor Todd. “They embrace their fear and trust the Holy Spirit to give them the words to say. And then they jump off the cliff and step out. And we watch God use them.”
After the trip, students discover the courage to boldly share the hope of Jesus.
“When they come home, they realize that they can do this every day, in the classroom, in the locker room, and in their neighborhood,” says Pastor Todd.
Pastor Todd’s words remind me of 1 Timothy 1:7 — one of my favorite Bible verses:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
I love that God fills us with His power and boldness when we need it most!
Experiencing Hard Places Firsthand
Teens at Pastor Todd’s church are also stretched when they visit hard places and see people living in extreme poverty firsthand on missions trips.
“I tell them, ‘You are are going to see poverty in a way that you’ve never seen it’,” he says. “‘And you’re going to interact with people who have so many differences. But you’re going to see some of the beautiful things that connect us as God’s church’.”
Want to journey deeper into “hard places?” Watch this powerful video! Be sure to stay with it until the end — because you’ll find HOPE on the other side.
After meeting kids in hard places who don’t have access to basic necessities like safe water, nutritious food, medical care, or educational opportunities, many students return home with mixed emotions.
On the missions trip, they were filled with joy. But they come back with a sense of guilt.
Pastor Todd encourages them to make permanent changes in the way they live so they can help as many people as possible. And he reminds them that instead of living with a sense of guilt, they need to live with a sense of generosity.
Creating a Culture of Generosity
At West Ridge Church, Pastor Todd has worked hard to create a culture of generosity.
He understands that some students may not be able travel, so he gives them opportunities to support the trips financially. They have a special missions offering every week so the whole church can feel like they’re part of the vision.
I love that Pastor Todd doesn’t designate that money ahead of time — he leaves it completely open for God to work. He calls it “bless money” and uses it where it’s most needed.
Through the “bless money,” his students have been able to help fund a well for a community that lacked clean water. And another year, they were able to pay the fees for kids to go to school.
“It’s really cool to see God provide,” says Pastor Todd.
If you’d like to help meet urgent needs like Pastor Todd’s students do each year, you can send a special gift today! Your donation to OneChild’s Crisis Fund will help children who are in the midst of crisis. Whether your gift provides emergency food or vital medical care, you will give families hope in their greatest hour of need.
Reaching Your God-Given Potential
Pastor Todd also explains that missions trips create strong leaders and help students recognize their unique, God-given abilities. As they serve others, their talents shine.
And as soon as students come home, he gives them opportunities to plug into ministries so they can keep growing their gifts.
It’s Pastor Todd’s prayer that as they develop their leadership skills, talents, and confidence, over time they will transform their communities with the love of Jesus.
And eventually — the world.
To all the youth pastors out there — thank you for raising up the next generation of world-changers!
Thank you for investing in them, encouraging them, and believing in them. And thank you for helping them fulfill God’s plans for their lives.
You are amazing Child Champions — just like Child Champions in the hard places who help impoverished kids see a bright future.
Every day, I have the honor of reading inspiring stories about caring Child Champions around the world:
Here’s one of my favorites …
Meet Daritza and Nicole in the Dominican Republic! These bright young women graduated from OneChild’s program and are now Child Champions who volunteer at their Hope Centers. They are determined to give kids living in poverty in their community the same love and support that they received.
And if you’re a OneChild sponsor, you are helping create the next generation of world-changers, too!
You are making it possible for your child to overcome poverty and thrive. At OneChild’s Hope Centers across the globe, kids receive vital care that transforms their lives.
Kids in OneChild’s sponsorship program also receive outstanding child development opportunities that empower them to pursue their dreams. Discover how you’re helping your child reach their full potential!
That reminds me of Irene, who came from a hard place. But Child Champions at her Kenyan Hope Center inspired her to reach her full potential and pursue her dreams of becoming a teacher. Today, as an adult, she is helping kids in her community believe that a better future is possible.
“As a teacher, I strive every day to help bring light to a child’s life,” says Irene. “I help them identify their dreams, and I also help untap hidden potential in them, just like it was done to me while at the Hope Center.”
Thank you so much for your passion for bringing hope to kids in hard places.
If you haven’t sponsored a child yet, you can start building that special relationship. Find a boy or girl who needs you today!
Check out more insights from Pastor Todd and others in OneChild’s podcasts. Be sure to share the podcasts with your pastors to encourage them in their ministry!
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