Rick Warren once said, “How big a church is should never be determined by the seating capacity but by the sending capacity.” How true. We need to take the great commission seriously because as someone put it, “You are either on the great commission or the great omission.” Contrary to common belief, the field of missions is not a reserve of the traveling evangelists. Mission trips are not only meant for full-time missionaries. Every Christian should participate directly or indirectly in the mission of the Church – and that includes youth.
Some ministries are committed to taking students on mission trips. They have even built this in as their primary focus. Examples include Mission Discovery, YWAM, and Campus Crusade for Christ. These ministries are doing a tremendous job, but every local church must play their part as well. The words that Jesus spoke are still true:
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Mathew 9:37, NIV
Anyone that has ever gone on a mission trip knows it’s true – there are so many hurting and lost people just waiting for someone to come with some good news – and what better news can they hear if not the good news of the kingdom of God?
For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” Romans 10:13-15, TLB
There is a dire need for the church to get more serious about missions, both short-term and long-term. That’s right – a mission trip does not need to be more than a week, as long as the ministry plays a part in the long-term, sustainable goals of the community leaders. In fact; they are perfect for students and youth groups who may not get time for longer trips because of their school work. Some people think short-term missions are goer-centered and a waste of money. But the truth is, these mission trips can yield excellent results and change lives if they are well planned.
It is vital for students to get engaged in missions. Let’s look at the top 3 reasons why this is important:
1. Mission trips help students bond
A youth ministry that is united can achieve great things. Just like in any other community, your youth ministry has all kinds of students. Some are outspoken while others are not, some are introverted while others are extroverted, some are deep thinkers while others are quick movers – there will be all kinds of personalities in the group. As such, you will most likely see groups and clusters forming. This may result in loneliness. Some of the students might feel left out. This is especially true in a large group.
A mission trip provides a unique opportunity to bond and rediscover each other. They get a chance to travel together, live together, ride together, dine together, minister together. The list is endless, but the keyword is together. There is an African proverb that goes, “If you want to go faster, go it alone but if you want to go further, go it together.” The relationships that are forged in the youthful years are often lifetime relationships.
2. Exposure leads to growth
Social media often gives youths the impression that people are connected to the rest of the world – and in a sense, they are. But to get a clearer understanding of how the world operates, it helps if they can be there on the ground. Some students who have a rebellious attitude toward their parents and figures of authority might have a new mindset after meeting their age mates in a different country who are not as privileged.
Traveling has a way of making us understand that the world is larger than our daily lives. It broadens our view on life which can help instill a sense of purpose. There is something divine about suddenly realizing that you are just a tiny part of the grand plan of God for the universe. As overwhelming it may be, mission trips have the potential to give students a desire to contribute to the story of God.
3. Mission trips build and strengthen faith
Jude tells us to build our most holy faith (Jude 1:20). A mission trip is a great way to help young people build their Faith. Every mission that is planned is a faith a venture - it is planned in faith and executed by faith.
- It will take faith to meet the budget, whether the youth will raise support or the church will raise funds for the mission trip.
- It will take faith for some of the teens to be allowed by their parents/guardians to travel with youth leaders.
- It takes faith to minister effectively in a different culture.
- It takes faith to meet the needs of the people being ministered to.
- It takes faith to travel safely to and from the mission location.
By the time the mission trip is over, students will have grown in their faith. A mission trip as an opportunity for them to do some “spiritual exercise” where they will strengthen the abs of their faith.
It is important to include the youth ministry when planning mission trips. Start by taking them for a local mission trip and then eventually think of going out of state and overseas. Some of them could find their calling as full-time ministers because of the experience. Youth ministers have the opportunity to leave an imprint on their students, showing them the urgency and importance of being actively involved in fulfilling the great commission.