The Urban Mission Inn
Are you seeking a hands-on mission opportunity for your youth , young adult , college or intergenerational group but not sure where to start or how to plan such a big project?
Union Avenue Christian Church hosts its own year-round Urban Mission Inn – dedicated space within our inner-city St. Louis church, designed to house 20+ people who have come to the inner city for mission work (or those groups who are passing through St. Louis on their way to do hands-on volunteer mission elsewhere and need a “port in the storm”).
Who Are We? Union Avenue is a congregation diverse in age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, biblical interpretation, HIV status, physical ability, and political inclination. We celebrate and honor that diversity and welcome the struggle necessary to maintain it. We welcome you to join us in embracing that struggle by serving the inner city of St. Louis in hands-on tangible ministry. Our goal with the Urban Mission Inn can be best summed up in the quote attributed to St. Francis: "Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words."
Please note: Currently, all of June, July, and the first two weeks of August are completely booked. Occasionally groups cancel their reservation so you may want to check this page periodically for new openings. If you are still seeking a mission location in St. Louis on the dates we are unavailable, we recommend these two organizations:
We are prepared to welcome groups of up to 25 people (though we can negotiate with slightly larger groups).
- separate sleeping areas for males and females (or however you would choose to divide the group)
- bunk beds and inflatable mattresses (to save you a little packing space in the van)
- three on-site showers
- on-site washer/dryer
- extra towels, washcloths, soap, etc.
- community lounge areas suitable for meals, group worship or discussion time
- commercial-quality kitchen space for preparing meals and storing food
But wait … There’s more! In addition to providing space, we also offer help in planning your urban experience by assisting you, if needed, in scheduling up to 4 days of volunteer opportunities and urban immersion experiences at local food pantries, homeless shelters, programs for inner city children, senior centers, community gardens, and other ministries and outreach organizations that might suit your group’s gifts. Some of these projects offer chances to hand-on service. Others provide an opportunity for groups to learn more about the cries and needs of the inner city. We can also offer suggestions for cultural activities unique to St. Louis to help enrich your urban experience. Groups are invited to stay for anywhere from a week to just a weekend. See below images of the mission inn sleeping space and images of youth at work out in the city.
“Great,” your thinking, “but what will this cost?” Though we welcome any donation a group might want to give to this outreach ministry, we only ask a “save-the-date” deposit/donation of $100 per group. Our main goal is to provide a welcoming space for those who are coming to help the “least of these” in the St. Louis area.
To learn more about what it's like to serve through our Urban Mission Inn, go here to read an amazing blog written by recent UMI visitors from Chenal Valley Church in Little Rock Arkansas as they share a day-by-day account of their time with us in the inner city.
Check out this documentary excerpt detailing the social justice issues of inner city St. Louis as represented by the stark difference between wealthy/poor, black/white in our city along Delmar Ave, right next to the Urban Mission Inn.
See below a video made by recent visitors to the Urban Mission Inn as they the share the sights and sounds of their week serving with us in St. Louis:
If you are interested in offering your group an experience of the sights, sounds and challenges of the inner city while putting their faith into action, please feel free to contact Rev. Brian Kirk [email@example.com] for more information. We would suggest you email or call us with your proposed dates for your mission work. If those dates are available, we will pencil you in on our calendar. We will then forward you a group registration form. Once we receive that form and the deposit, your group will be confirmed on our calendar.
See what some groups using the Urban Mission Inn have to say about their experience:
“Your accommodations were fabulous. Without your program we would not have been able to accomplish a mission trip out of our own small town.” Fredricktown Christian Church
"Thank you so much for your overwhelming hospitality through the Urban Mission Inn. The youth from FCC Paris were profoundly impacted by our experience. Because of your help, they encountered poverty in a new way and realized that they can make a difference. Plus, at the end of each day we could come home to a clean and spacious living area. Your ministry is so powerful and it is obviously not a coincidence, but the result of much intention." First Christian, Paris TN
"Thank you so much for hosting us in the Urban Mission Inn. Our group had an amazing experience and were challenged by everything from the humidity, to fear, to hard work and breaking assumptions. It was a transformative experience and since returning home we have already done mission work here to continue "seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly" as we did in St. Louis." First Christian, Fort Morgan, CO
"Everything exceeded my expectations. Our whole group wants to come back. Hospitality was shown to our whole group through all the resources you provided. Our group not only looked forward to the work assignments but all the downtime at such a comfortable and relaxing church. As a leader, I have never had so much time to just listen to how our kids were seeing God active because I am usually so busy planning the next event. Your staff did an amazing job setting up meaningful worksites for us to see what God is up to in the St. Louis area." Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Champaign, IL
“Way above what we would have expected for accommodations on a mission trip. Extremely friendly for ages 10-70. Would recommend to churches wishing to attend ‘Mission 101.’” Affton Christian Church
“We were welcomed very generously. Thank you for the extravagant hospitality. It is such a blessing to find a church with showers -- not to mention one intentionally opening their doors to teenagers.” Lee's Summit Christian Church
“I was just hoping someone could host us but you gave us great contacts for work too. It's been a blessing to bring my 'country' youth to an urban setting and have such helpful guides.” First Christian Church, Pittsburgh
“This location was excellent for our trip. I couldn't have asked for anything better. The staff was very kind and let us know anything we asked or needed to know. You all are truly a blessing and we thank you for allowing us to utilize your facility. This has been the best stay I've experienced out of my five alternative spring breaks!” Ball State University
Read below a description by Illinois youth minister Jason Fisher about his group's stay at the Urban Mission Inn:
"Last week a group from our church had an opportunity to serve in the St. Louis area during spring break. I can't speak highly enough of the hospitality and organization that was put into our service trip thanks to our host church Union Avenue Christian. Normally they fill up their summers hosting groups who come to stay at their church and serve in their area, but this time they allowed us to visit during Spring Break. Not only were their accommodations amazing, but they even set up various service projects with local agencies for us before we arrived. What follows are some of the stories from people I met while serving with our church in the St. Louis area.
The Five Star Senior Center was our first stop Monday morning, which gave us the chance to talk with some of the elderly before packing lunches to deliver for the meals on wheels program. All of our students quickly wrapped up meals and took off with their separate drivers to deliver food for the morning. In the afternoons on both Monday and Tuesday our group headed over to East St. Louis to work at the Christian Activity Center helping kids with homework and just hanging out with them in the park. This was an amazing experience and I highly recommend any group that is in the area to check it out. Drew Phillips, who is the resident chaplain shared some of his story about how he ended up serving at the CAC. After he gave our group an orientation to the building and introduced us to the staff we were able to talk more about various books he and I were both reading. Have you ever met complete strangers and after talking with them for only a few minutes you feel like you have known them for a long time? Turns out Drew and I have been influenced by similar voices within Christianity and could have talked for hours. His story of growing up in a county that was, shall we say less than diverse, and then encountering people whose radical hospitality welcomed those different from him was very powerful. Indeed it was so life changing for him that he now serves in a predominantly African American neighborhood in East St. Louis having grown up only knowing one black family in his county. I was so glad that he quoted Frederick Buechner to our group about vocation: "The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done....The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.
The third place we served was a shelter for battered women and children. We didn't get a chance to meet any of the residents because confidentiality is so high. However, the coordinator Janel had an amazing testimony about what God has done in her own life and the lives of her children. I am sure many women and children have been blessed by her leadership and wisdom during very difficult times. We spent a beautiful morning doing yard work and getting a garden ready for planting. My prayer is that just as new seeds are planted in their garden this spring, so might God do a new thing in the lives of those who find shelter in that place.
In between these service projects our group had a chance to see some of the gorgeous parks in St. Louis, go up in the Arch, tour the old Capital building, see the Cathedral Basilica, walk the Loop, and just enjoy the fellowship of meals together."
Union Avenue Christian Church is situated near downtown St. Louis, mere blocks from “The Loop” (a trendy neighborhood in nearby University City that caters to colleges students and offers a host of ethnic restaurants, affordable fast food, and shops) as well as being conveniently located near the St. Louis Arch and riverfront, the City Garden, the City Museum, Busch Stadium (home of the St. Louis Cardinals), and Forest Park (home of the St. Louis Zoo, Science Center, Art Museum, and other free attractions).