History matters. It lays a foundation for everything that is to come. We've noticed that for a lot of the "big box" mission organizations that offer urban mission trips, their story starts something like this...
Youth worker realizes that students are more impacted by serving on a mission trip than anything else the youth worker does. Youth worker quits church-based youth ministry to start a new missions organization to facilitate these experiences so that students can be impacted AND make an impact on other people who have some kind of need. Now the organization is now able to facilitate (broker) these trips in multiple communities with groups from all over the country. The trip brokering organization partners (substitute "collaborates," "cooperates," or other word that implies a close and active relationship) with needy churches and community organizations on the front lines of ministry to a needy community in a city with lots of need. Today, this organization is helping lots of people in lots of places through lots of trips with lots of students.
Our story starts a little differently...
It starts with a youth worker who came out of the projects of LA and in the early 90's, after Bible college, was recruited for church plant in one of the most diverse communities in the United States. The youth worker had a passion for "at-risk" youth. He was relentless in his pursuit of resources to fund effective programs to engage the inner-city youth between 16 and 24 who were falling out and headed for lives of crime, victimization, and poverty. Pastor Pete became known on-campus, in the rescue mission, on the asphalt basketball courts, the football fields of urban high schools, and to the gangs as someone who genuinely and passionately cared for the welfare of the broken, lost, and hurting on the streets of San Diego.
Others joined and left this team, including another youth worker with a calling to help young people and their families discover their purpose and promise in Christ. His skill with experiential-based teaching and an enthusiasm for innovating ways others could "get it" added a new dimension to an already effective strategy that was being employed in the church. He immediately gravitated to the urban mission trips and saw their value to "bridge the gap" between the urban and suburban church.
Two of the biggest challenges in urban ministry are: 1) the bottomless pit of material need AND 2) the lack of resources for ministry. So, instead of just asking for money from suburban churches, one of the strategies of this team was to actually bring suburban churches alongside them to do ministry in the community. This had multiple benefits. The mission teams were able to contribute to ministry that was tangible and obviously on-going. They helped build a bridge of service, ministry, outreach, AND resource from the suburbs to the inner-city of San Diego. The mission teams were exposed to profoundly simple and effective methods of outreach that, out of necessity, relied more on relationships and face-to-face contact than programs, events, and flyers. This broke down stereotypes about "those people." It challenged values related to possessions, giving, and serving. They left trained with experience-tested transferable skills that could be exercised in their own community. For the inner-city church, to leverage the manpower and enthusiasm of the group for Kingdom work was important and accomplished much. But beyond that, the trips also provided a critical source of revenue that could help fund sustainable ministry in the long-term.
Both of these youth workers eventually left the church plant.
The youth worker from the projects of LA remained in the community. He and his family became involved in a church that was strategically positioned to serve urban poor of downtown. He raised his family in the community of City Heights and became well-known for the warm welcome everyone received in his home. His passion for youth did not waver, nor did his vision to bring others alongside the various outreach ministries that he developed. He continued to bring mission teams into San Diego to expand Kingdom work and provide resources for ministry. Pastor Pete remained faithful to the same community and ministry sites that he had served from the beginning. Ultimately, God called him to plant a church with a new vision.
The DNA of New Vision as a church is tied closely to heart, attitude, and methods employed by Pete Contreras, his choice to live where served, and the way his family extends welcome and respect to all people. Community, collaboration, service, and outreach are distinctive qualities at New Vision. We don't have to write these on a wall because it is evident. Pete's gratitude for God's kindness, goodness, mercy, grace, and for His many blessings are present in every prayer along the way. The church grew, first in his backyard, then a school, then a warehouse. At every stage, mission teams were part of the story and helped amplify the new church's ministry. Then came an unprecedented merge and act of Kingdom work... a 3 year old independent urban church plant was virtually given a valuable multi-million dollar property in a strategic location, access to a fleet of 15-passenger vans, and ministry space galore.
The other youth worker, Mike Haskins, and his wife Amy, was called away from San Diego. God sent on a 16 year journey to walk through a crisis of faith, deal with personal mess, accumulate a unique skill set, find renewal in his call to equip and encourage families, parent "at-risk" foster kids, and after much waiting... have a child of their own.
His passion and desire to serve in the city remained, even as God sent him to serve in an economically depressed rural area. After three years of youth and worship ministry, he spent another three years working on his own plans (organizational consulting) and had the opportunity to work for Apple as a trainer. It was for "such a time as this" that God brought their family back to San Diego. It was quickly evident that everything in the past 16 years had been preparing their family to come back and serve in San Diego with New Vision.
The past three years have seen miracles of provision, healing, and reconciliation. New Vision is a very diverse congregation in a very diverse community. We have a unique blend of socio-economics that spans from homeless individuals, through business owners and professionals, to doctors and lawyers. Respect is given to everyone regardless of their circumstance, need, or mess. There is an enormous amount of Kingdom work that happens here despite severely limited resources and a painfully high cost of living. We are a mess... a glorious mess that God uses to demonstrate His kindness, goodness, mercy, and grace, and His many blessings.
This has also been an incredible journey with a rapid expansion of our urban missions program. We have grown from just a handful of trips each year during spring break and summer to a steady flow of trips year round. We will have had more than 2000 participants by the end of 2015. Collaboration has expanded our network of ministry partners and given us credibility in our community. Mission teams are able to come alongside a thriving food distribution ministry, a new church plant, numerous community and ministry partners, and many other ministries.
WITH NEW VISION...
You won't just "go" to serve in San Diego with some organization. We "invite" you to come and to share in church-based ministry.
You represent more to us than just a source of revenue or manpower. We bear a responsibility to equip you for works of service and outreach.
The money you pay to be here does not end up in another state or with another organization. It is invested here in our community, helps us keep the lights on, contributes to the modest pay of pastoral and program staff, and funds sustainable ministry.
You don't pay another organization to help you help us help our community. You invest it all right here in one place so together we can serve a community to which we are deeply committed.
Collaborations here are more than keeping a list of community organizations that need volunteers or willing to coordinate activities at little or no-cost.
QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK YOUR TRIP BROKER
1) what % of the money that we give you is divided as follows:
% to the direct expenses housing and feeding of our group
% applied to the needs, projects, and welfare of the community where we will serve
% that never reaches this community and goes back to their missions organization
Here are our answers for this...
Roughly 30% is applied toward feeding, supplying, and facilitating the activities of your group while you are here. This includes serve projects materials and consumable resources that are used for outreach. We pinch some pennies to lower our costs, but we are generous hosts that want your experience here to be fantastic.
25% provides cash flow and underwrites the expenses of the church. 10% comes right off the top as a "program tithe." These resources go into the general fund and contribute to underwrite the pay of pastoral staff and fund ministries. Another 10% goes into the general fund to cover overhead and facility impact. This helps with the increased load on our utilities, wear and tear on the building, and provides resources to upgrade our facilities. 5% covers the time of someone to manage the accounting of our program and pay for a dedicated phone line for the urban missions program.
10% is applied to development of the program. We spend less than 5% on marketing and our website. Most is used to fund supplies for our ministry sites and to assist other ministries.
35% goes to program staffing. This includes the partial salary of the program director who is also a member of the pastoral staff and additional paid staff who help keep ministry at New Vision resourced and flowing year round. We don't push a lot of paper here. Much of our time is spent with people in our congregation, on our staff, and in the community. Dedicated staff means that your trip gets our full attention from planning to departure AND that there is follow-up after you leave.
2) Who will be on the ground facilitating our trip? How long have they been in the community? What is their connection to your organization? How long have you worked with them? Will they be able to answer our questions about the community, the people we serve, the ministries who will be hosting us? Will they be able to field the deeper questions that our students may ask about the human condition and the .
We are concerned about the practice of some trip brokers who send passionate, but inexperienced college-age staff into cities and communities where they have never been and expect them to bear the responsibility of facilitating your trip. They sometimes arrive only a week or two before your trip and are just getting their own bearings. Other trip brokers will under pay someone to coordinate their trips who doesn't realize the real demands that will be placed on them and who almost always has a full-time job or ministry.
3) How much of our time will be spent doing "free volunteerism," like serving a meal at a rescue mission, working in a food bank, sorting clothes in a thrift store, or other activities that require no collaborative relationships to arrange? What is the nature of the relationship that your organization has with the people of this organization? How often do you communicate?
These activities are great... but they have become the staples of the trip brokers and represent a certain kind of laziness on their part. These organizations already utilize volunteers and most have set shifts. They have a deep volunteer pool, if volunteers are even really needed at all. They take nothing more than a phone call or visit to a website to arrange. You don't have to have a relationship with anybody in this organization to serve here... they have volunteer coordinators who will take your reservation and sign your group up to serve.
To them, you are just another of a revolving door of groups. We aren't saying that they don't have need or that we don't send groups to them ourselves. But if your trip is almost completely composed of these types of organizations, you are not getting your best value. One organization we know claims to collaborate with organizations that fall into these types of activities and their trips are almost entirely composed of volunteer time in one food bank, thrift store, or rescue mission or another.
4) What does the trip broker mean when they say they "collaborate," "work cooperatively," or "partner" with these ministries? Are they just organizations the trip broker makes arrangements with for their trips?
We take issue with the trip broker who claims they "collaborate" with a local rescue mission and their only apparent interaction is to book all the volunteer slots for the summer at the mission thrift store. Collaboration is a core value at New Vision and you can see it everywhere. We don't claim to value it... we operate with that value. Some examples of true collaboration. We have a men's program on-site that houses men, mostly graduates of the rescue mission. Our food distribution program, one of the largest in the county, was the vision of a former graduate of the rescue mission. We receive large quantities of food from the mission warehouse. Several of our staff have worked for the rescue mission in a variety of roles and one is currently an administrator there. Our lead pastor, a former chaplain at the mission, still preaches for their Sunday chapel service once a month. We consult with the mission on one of their biggest events of the year and our youth pastor and urban missions pastor are vocal promoters of the program. Any pastor at New Vision can refer people to their programs with confidence that they will find a bed if one is available and can make room if one isn't. We'd ask the trip brokers to take a closer look at the words they use to describe the level of involvement they really have in our community and to see if collaboration is truly an accurate word
You have paid your trip broker a lot of money to arrange your trip. If they are doing it from another state, that makes them nothing more than a glorified travel agent. Do they claim that they have staff on the ground that actually go to these organizations. These are short expeditionary trips to help orient the trip broker's staff, make arrangements face-to-face, try to find more places to serve, and appear more credible to you. True collaboratio