*This article was written by Kevin Mahaffy, Jr. Kevin is the youth pastor at Shelter Rock Church in Long Island, New York and has been bringing his groups on Mission Discovery mission trips for several years.
I love short-term mission trips! I know of no better way for people to see how God can use them to impact someone else's life, and for them to see the world as God sees it, than by going on a mission trip to serve others. Here are the steps we ask people to take if they want to participate on a mission trip. Use it if you’d like, tweak it a bit, or create your own.
1.Pray - Ask God if He wants you to go and serve Him on a mission trip.
2.Reflect - Consider what your motives are for wanting to go. Going because your friends are going, or because you think it's a cool location, or because you want to complete community service hours for your school are not good reasons. Having disunity caused by people who go with wrong motives can often be detrimental to the entire team. Mission trips are not designed for people who are not serious about showing and telling people about Jesus. We want them to understand that they are going as ministers of Jesus Christ.
3.Discuss - Share your desire to go on a mission trip with your parents and other important people in your life; ask them for their prayers and counsel.
4.Apply - If you feel you can commit to the trip requirements, complete the Short-Term Missions Application and hand it in along with your Non-Refundable Deposit.
5.Live Right - We are meant to live on mission for Jesus every day! Your serving Jesus doesn't start the day the trip begins; it starts now. Spend time daily connecting with God, growing in your faith, and being a missionary right here, right now. Respect your parents, do your best in school, share Christ with your friends, etc. Mission trips should just be an extension of who you are every day at home.
6.Get Your Passport & Shots - Once you receive a letter of acceptance onto the team, [if youre going on an international trip] getting your passport and any required shots is job #1. Dont hesitate! These things can take time. If you have a passport, be sure it does not expire within 6 months from the end of the trip. (Example: If the trip is June 17-24th, your passport needs to be valid through December 24th.)
7.Raise Support - Write your support letter and send it to your friends and family, inviting them to participate in your faith adventure! Do this sooner rather than later.
8.Work Hard - Mission trips don't just happen during the week you're gone. They take a lot of work, commitment, and sacrifice in the months leading up to them.
Journal - As soon as you’re accepted onto the team, begin documenting your experience - the practices, how God is providing, your prayers, etc.
Participate in group fundraisers, team meetings and practices, and attend youth group weekly.
9.Go - You've prayed. Youve taken a step of faith. You've prepared. God has provided. Now its time to go!
10.Serve - You will be asked to do all kinds of things on a mission trip. Remember, nothing is below you as a follower of Jesus. Serve the Lord in humility and with gladness, because you are serving Jesus Himself when you serve people. And be flexible. Things will not go as you planned. Just keep smiling and roll with it.
When the trip is over and you're home:
Reflect - When you return from your trip, be sure to take some time to reflect on your trip.
What did you learn? About God? About yourself? About your team? About the culture? About God's heart?
How can you continue to build on your learnings now that you're home? What are the transferable principles?
Share - Be sure to share what God did through you and in you during your missions experience with your family, friends, classmates, teachers, and others!
Thank - Send your prayer team and people who helped you financially a Thank You letter for their support. Include a report and some pictures of your trip so they can see how their prayers and money made a difference.
Keep Living on Mission - Mission trips are not the end-all. They are a step on our journey of faith. Allow the experiences you had and the lessons you learned to shape you and motivate you to serve God each and every day with more passion than the day before.