This is an older entry of mine. It was written in the summer of 2016. Hope you enjoy.
Summer means warmer weather, schools’s out, kids are home and vacations. But for youth ministry in the church, we see two big events often taking place: summer camp and mission trip. Both are useful. Both are profitable. Both can be used for God’s glory and for the maturity of our students.
But, I’m not here to write about the benefits of camp (Maybe I will on a later date). Rather, I want to write about the benefits of mission trips. Is there really any benefit to it? I would like to give several reasons why it is.
- Students partake in the Great Commission
As much as youth ministry harps on making disciples and making disciples that make disciples, the practice can remain absent from our ministries. Mission trips can help with this. Our students have heard it said that they are to go out and partake in the Great Commission teaching all peoples everything that Christ has taught us, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Spirit. So why aren’t they doing this? Perhaps it is because they have not been put in a situation where they must. Mission trips force students to be uncomfortable and to share their faith. To go on mission trips, even short term mission trips, is to allow them the opportunity to love on others, share their faith and possibly watch God work in the hearts of those they are ministering to.
- Students realize the things they have been blessed with
I have heard this response multiple times from those who have gone on mission trips. I also have experienced this. If we want to open up the eyes of the students to the great blessings God has given them, mission trips are a helpful way to do so. The common response: “I never knew how blessed I was and how much I take things for granted such as…” Trust me, you will hear this from at a minimum one student who goes on the mission trip.
- Students see modeled for them Kingdom work
I think of Paul’s command in Philippians 3 to “join in imitating” him as he imitated Christ. Students often only get to see their leaders on a Wednesday night of Sunday morning in the context of the church. If they are lucky, their leaders are meeting with them outside the context of the church. But, It is not very often that they get to see their youth pastor or their small group leader serving outside the context of the walls of the church building. By serving alongside their leaders, they learn to imitate them. They see their leaders serving and hopefully, as a result, they in turn desire to serve as well. It creates an opportunity of discipleship for the leader and an opportunity to learn for the student.
- Students live out their faith
This is not to say that students don’t live our their faith in their many platforms and roles at home. What this does imply is that they are more likely to live out their faith in the context of a mission trip. We can hear the text of James 2 when it says that “faith without works is dead.” James 1 goes even further to describe pure religion. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…” Mission trips are often spent serving the “orphans and the widows” of the area. When we serve the helpless, we are showing the love of Christ to those who have nothing to give back. This serving can and should be a response to the grace God has shown us and is a faint picture of that grace and mercy.
- Students learn their spiritual gifts and talents
Many students do not know the gifts and abilities that God has given them. This may be because they have not been given an opportunity in the church to use them. We can give them a spiritual inventory survey, but what good will that do if they never use their gifts? Enter in the mission trip. Mission trips can reveal the gifts and talents that God, through the work of the Spirit has given to them. Helping to run and VBS, the student may find that they are gifted at teaching. Helping with music ministry, a student may be equipped by the Spirit to help lead worship at their youth group or church. Some may simply find that they are incredible encouragers and can use those gifts in their own body.
- Students learn to love each other
Mission trips have a tendency to draw the people who participate close together. Whether this is a work of God or simply the amount of time that they spend together in a car, it is undeniably true. On mission trips we often learn the best and worst about people. We learn who they are, what motivates them and what makes them angry. Should we think this is a negative thing, I challenge us to think again. It is often these shared experiences on a mission trip that bring them close together and to develop a deep and profound love for each other.
- Students get a true vision of the Church
Chances are our students attend a church which has a lot of people that are like themselves. They have made friends at church with people who are like themselves. Many, as they grow up will experience “church life” with those who are most like them. But this is not reality. Revelation 5 gives a picture of people from “every tribe and language and people and nation.” This is a true picture of the Church. Mission trips can at least familiarize them with this vision. Christians are not simply those like them, but will include a multitude of cultures, languages, and peoples.
So Why Go?
The truth sadly is that these reasons may not be convincing enough for a youth ministry to get involved in mission trips. There are dozens of other benefits that could be mention. What I do hope is that these 7 benefits will at least spur some closer to the idea of going on a mission trip. For others who already do mission trips, I only hope that this is an encouragement to continue to do them.
If you still need convincing, let me remind you with the words of Jesus in Luke 11: “The harvest is plentiful, yet the laborers are few.”
My hope is that we can teach those students in our lives that they are a part of this call. They are called to go. They are called to labor. They are called to be obedient to the Great Commission. Why not do it through mission trips?