Church links 300 students to community needs

A few of the students in the Blackhawk Church Madison Missions program.

A few of the students in the Blackhawk Church Madison Missions program.

By Sarah Smith
Collaboration Project Story Team

A single van-full of 6 middle school students and their leader spending a week in the summer serving at a local school. This is how Blackhawk Church’s Madison Missions began back in 2001. It was an idea to teach middle school students the vision and mission of Jesus to serve in the community.

Since then, has grown into a summer of week-long service camp; this year has seen 293 students with 60 leaders serving a total of 5,500 hours with 70 different organizations. It is a classic example of how one congregation (yes, a very large congregation) can collaborate with lots of community organizations.

For a full week (repeated 5 times in June and July), students spend their days serving throughout the Madison community at places such as community gardens, food pantries, senior centers, local schools, in all the ways that they need help most.

I have been a participant in Madison Missions for many years, but it was great to sit down with Brianna Bero (Director) and Megan Smith (Site Director) and talk about where Madison Missions has been and how it has evolved over the years.  

One important point they both stressed is that as Madison Missions grown and changed, the heart and vision have stayed the same. In Fact the heart and the visionhave even grown more important and more fulfilled as the years have gone on: to teach students the mission and vision of Jesus in the community and to partner with others who are already doing great work serving Madison. 

“Essentially,” Brianna says, “It’s a mission trip to our own city.”

The twofold mission of student growth and city service is at the heart of what makes Madison Missions great. Middle school students are of an age that reminds adults of their own awkward and challenging years, but what is so fulfilling about many of Madison Missions’ partnerships is that organizations are willing to give students of this age a chance and are pleasantly surprised by and respond positively to their service. 

Megan summed it up well: “The students who participate wantto be there and that shows. They are curious about the organizations and excited to learn and serve.” 

It’s a give and take. Students get an active lesson in service and in doing so they learn about these valuable organizations who do such good for our city - and they are blown away by them. The organizations receive service from great volunteers and are teaching the importance of being involved in a community. Mutual benefit is a huge part of what makes Madison Missions so successful.

I have seen firsthand how impactful a week of Madison Missions can be - students return year after year to give up a week of their summers to serve others. When they are old enough, many are excited to return as leaders to share and teach how serving their community brings joy to those they are helping and grows their relationship with Jesus as they participate in the service that he lived. 

And it’s not just Blackhawk students that are participating. Madison Missions now works with many churches to get their students involved, welcomes many students who come from un-churched backgrounds, and engages family and friends of those who are regularly involved in Blackhawk’s programming. Service is for everyone.

That message - service is for everyone - is what has propelled Madison Missions across the past 18 years and it is the message that will propel it into the future as more students and more organizations collaborate to make the community a better place for all.

(For more information about Blackhawk Church Madison Missions, contact Brianna Bero at She is the Associate Director of Middle School Ministry.)