By Nate Juvinall
Metro Atlanta Project or M.A.P. for short is a student-led/adult-supported mission effort based at Northside United Methodist Church. MAP began in 1999 after a group of students and adults traveled to Nashville to experience a local youth ministry mission. That group had a great experience in Nashville but came back to Atlanta convinced that Atlanta had just as many needs as Nashville so “Why couldn’t we start something here?!!”
From that moment, MAP has strived to be a beacon of light in the community to "Rebuild the city one life at a time."
Through the years, MAP has taken on several different types of work projects to help the community, early years focused on minor home repairs, later on, MAP switched to exclusively working on and repairing roofs. After repairing roofs for about 8 years MAP again switched to repairing and building new playgrounds for low-income neighborhoods. Today MAP focuses on low-income housing and partnering with other non-profits to help strengthen our neighborhoods.
The participants for MAP have come from many churches around the country. It is always inspiring to see students and adults come to MAP not knowing each other but in no time becoming "fast friends" and living out what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ. The students and their youth ministry leaders spend the nights at Northside in a camp atmosphere. They eat together; experience amazing worship, small groups, and numerous fun activities to help build relationships with one another.
I have had the privilege of helping to lead MAP for several years and one of my favorite aspects is the student leadership part. When we say "student-led and adult supported" we mean it! First, we are able to hire several MAP interns to work for the project during the summer months. These interns are usually college students who work tirelessly to help ensure the project is a great success. The interns do everything from helping to plan worship, creating a theme, visiting non-profits, developing relationships with adult volunteers, writing grants, soliciting for donations, and working closely with the student teams. They learn so much during the few months they are with us! I have been told time and again by past interns of how much they grew as an intern both in their faith and as a person. Second, we have a team of 30 high school students called ‘Tour Guides’ that serve as our student leaders. Each of the 30 students goes through a great amount of training after an interview and applying for the position. The training sessions work through group dynamics, faith development, potential scenarios they might encounter at MAP, the meaning of worship, and how to relate with a non-profit. Also, each Tour Guide will be CPR certified. Strong relationships are formed between the Tour Guides and then, during MAP, they are the leaders of their work crews. We usually have 15 sites during the week of MAP – so two Tour Guides per site. It is amazing to see the students lead the project.
Lastly, for me, one of the best aspects of MAP over of the past couple of years has been to see how the idea of local missions that are "student-led and adult supported" has multiplied. Students and their leaders would come to MAP, get inspired, and create something in their own towns! One great example is Dalton Area Project in Dalton, Georgia.
We are busy preparing for MAP 2018 which will take place July 17-23. If you are interested in learning more, please check out our website.
Nate Juvinall is Director of Student Ministries at Northside UMC in Atlanta. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.