Engaging Local Youth In Local Mission

Each summer, youth groups and youth ministries from around West Michigan join our ministry for a week-long trip where they are immersed in biblical teaching, robust prayer rhythms, urban neighborhood engagement, and missional community.

The first 3 days are spent in the wilderness, strengthening relationships with God and each other. The rest of the week, students are immersed in the West Side of Grand Rapids, learning and serving. 

For more information or to schedule an Immersion trip for your students, contact Derek Sterenberg.

Immersion 2021 dates: June 14-17 (middle school), June 21-26 (high school), July 12-17 (high school)


Bridge Street Ministries is an urban Christian Community Development organization with an emphasis on youth development. We believe in holistic discipleship as a key to accomplish our mission. All our programming fits within this organizational priority.

GR Immersion exists to engage local youth in local mission.

Each summer, youth groups and ministries from around West Michigan join us for a week-long trip where they are immersed in a diverse community in urban neighborhoods around Grand Rapids. The first three days are spent in the wilderness, strengthening relationships with God and each other. The rest of the week we are immersed in several Grand Rapids neighborhoods. Throughout the trip, students engage with scripture and practice rhythms of prayer and worship. We listen to stories and learn about the beauty and challenges of these neighborhoods. We explore them and interact with the people who live there, serving alongside them in God’s mission of redemption in our city.

GR Immersion is unique from similar youth experiences in several ways. First, the emphasis on engaging local youth in local mission helps reinforce the message that following Jesus is not an event that happens far away, but a lifestyle for right here and now. Second, students are immersed in a diverse community of youth from various ethnic, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds which adds a cultural richness in the experience for everyone involved. Another distinction is our strong emphasis on interactively listening and learning about the neighborhood and what following Jesus looks like in an urban environment. This approach models and teaches young people a biblically grounded and sustainable approach to life and mission that values the poor and marginalized, and lays a practical theological foundation for students to apply in any context.

Our goals are for students to increase in biblical literacy, develop an active prayer life, experience the depths of living in diverse Christ-centered community, and apply their biblical knowledge and experience to living a life of mission wherever God calls them.

The primary role of the youth pastor and volunteer leaders is to build and strengthen discipleship relationships with their students. Immersion simply sets the stage for this discipleship work to happen. Youth pastors and volunteer leaders will carry the title, “Family Leader”, during Immersion, in which he/she is responsible to oversee a co-ed small group of 3-5 students during teaching discussions, prayer walks, family challenges (games), etc.

Additionally, there are daily debrief sessions each group. The group leader is encouraged to use this time to process with students and leaders, discuss, pray, worship, etc.

While the overall experience remains consistent, we are always adapting to the ever-changing needs and dynamics of each group.

For safety and effective discipleship, we require a minimum ratio of 1:5 leaders to students of like gender (since they will also be sharing sleeping quarters).

Yes. The success of Immersion is largely dependent on the consistency of volunteer leaders.

The teaching style is text-based and interactive, meaning students and leaders spend a lot of time with bibles open, reading it in context and talking about it. This helps students walk away with increased confidence and skills for reading the Bible on their own well after the trip has ended. Each year, we prayerfully select a theme and scripture verses to focus on. Overall, some common themes and ideas that are consistently drawn out of scripture include: The nature and character of God, the gospel of the Kingdom of God, the cost of discipleship, relationship with God, prayer as a lifestyle, identity in Christ, Christian response to poverty and injustice, living a life of mission, and boldly living out our faith in our own contexts.

We encourage groups to bring their own gear, but we have resources available so that camping supplies can be available to everyone. The minimum items needed are tents and sleeping bags. See the packing list for more details.

The location of the wilderness camping portion of the trip may vary, but is usually at a state park or national forest within 1-3 hours of Grand Rapids. After the wilderness portion of the trip, groups will stay at a facility owned by Bridge Street Ministries or a partner site. We have separate housing available for male and female Immersion students. We require at least 2 adults per room where students will be staying.

All diagnosed food-related or other allergies will be taken into consideration before the trip begins, and the menu adjusted accordingly. Please let us know if a student has a severe allergy, and we will determine whether or not we can ensure an allergen-free environment.

We will need a rough estimate upon group registration. Please give us your final number of students 2 weeks before the trip.

Yes. Work to build community among students and leaders, expose them to issues of injustice in our city and talk about them, help them identify the marginalized in their own neighborhood or school. BSM staff will gladly visit your ministry in the spring before Immersion to share some of our story.

We have a limited number of need-based urban scholarships available. Email derek@bsmgr.org.

Group leaders can register their group at bsmgr.org/grand-rapids-immersion/. Students will need to individually register online within 2 weeks before the start of the trip. A link will be provided to group leaders.