When the weather gets below freezing, summer can seem a long way off. But if you’re planning to volunteer abroad or at home this summer, now is the time to start planning. The planning phase is usually a time of raising funds, filling out forms, and (hopefully) prayer! But there’s another aspect to preparing for mission work: How do you know if your students are truly ready for the kind of growth that can happen on a youth mission trip? To help answer this question, we asked several youth pastors for their perspective.
Chad has worked with youth all over the United States. For him, trust is a prerequisite when it comes to a youth mission trip, whether that mission work is right in town or if students are going to volunteer abroad. Chad emphasizes that “it takes a lot for me to not trust a student… I always prefer to err on the side of grace. But occasionally, I’ll have a student that I just can’t let out of my sight.” His concern isn’t only for one person - if a student has shown themselves to be untrustworthy, they can inhibit potential growth opportunities for other youth on the trip.
Beyond that, Chad doesn’t look for any particular signs to tell whether students are ready, and he has a very simple reason. “Most growth in students’ lives happens WHILE they are serving, so I don’t set a standard of growth for them before they get a chance to serve.”
As an American youth pastor living and serving in Hong Kong, Dan brings unique perspective to the discussion of when students are ready for Christian missions. Hong Kong’s geography means that Dan and his students are only a 30 minute flight from an international mission trip, and that means he must take extra caution in assessing students’ readiness. Identifying their motivation is a key part of the process. “Do they have a desire to serve others, or do they look at it as a vacation?”
At the same time, Dan understands that motivations can change: Students who go for the “right” reasons can end up being distracted, just like students who seem to have the “wrong” motivation might end up experiencing incredible growth in their faith. “Obviously God can work through any situation, and I always try to be cognizant of that fact.”
Both Dan and Chad address an important point. It’s rarely up to the youth pastor to decide when growth will occur. It’s up to the youth pastor to put students in situations where growth is likely.
It’s never too early to start praying about opportunities to get involved in Christian missions. Whether you choose to do work in the US, or to volunteer abroad, you’ve got plenty of options with Mission Discovery. Please don’t hesitate to visit our website to see the variety of mission trips we have available for all ages, genders, and lengths of time. Now is the time to start planning for a mission trip with Mission Discovery.