Do you take students on short-term mission trips?
If you do, you know the incredible work that happens in the hearts of students and also in the hearts of those receiving ministry. Kids can make a huge impact across the street and around the world.
I just got home from an international mission trip with our students so this is very fresh. Here are some important questions I'm trying to answer in my own heart...
How do we maximize and inject discipleship into our short term mission strategy?
How do our trips fit into the rest of our ministry strategy?
How do we help students see and trust Jesus more through our short trips?
How do we use our mission trips to teach kids theology?
A short-term mission trip is a horrible thing to waste.
Some quick and very random thoughts...
Jesus is the model and the fuel
Helping students understand the centrality of Jesus in mission is crucial. He modeled mission with his life and he infuses our mission with his power.
The goal of all mission is the fruitfulness that Jesus describes in John 15. When remaining in the vine we are used by God to produce fruit that brings him glory. And of course, the chief end of a mission trip (and all of life) is the glory of God.
Are you building a house? Are you painting a school? Are you providing presence at an orphanage or special needs facility? Are you digging at ditch? Are you leading Bible clubs?
None of these will produce fruit that remains if Jesus isn’t the focus and the fuel of the trip.
As the trip is planned we need to help students recognize how much they need God. As they are preparing and praying for God to work in them and through them on the trip, it’s natural to encourage them to lean into Jesus.
What a great excuse to raise the frequency and intensity of their time in the Word and prayer.
Jesus is the recipient of our service
Jesus says, “as you’ve done it unto the least of these, you’ve done it unto me."
In a strange way not only is Jesus the model and fuel for our mission; he’s also the recipient of our service. As our students are preparing to serve orphans or handicapped people, helping them understand that as they look in the face of a child, they are looking into the face of Jesus is powerful motivation to prepare well.
God has called us to share the gospel not only in word but also in deed.
When the pressure’s on
Traveling to uncomfortable and unfamiliar places can be stressful. It’s amazing how stress exposes issues in our lives. These issues are probably personal but they most likely manifest themselves communally.
On a trip I recently helped lead, the issues of my heart began to surface. I didn’t like the fact that I was a little uncomfortable. It exposed my own self-centeredness and my need to trust Jesus to move me from being self-centered to selfless.
As the trip progresses the same process is happening in the hearts and minds of students. Encouraging to them to pay attention to their heart may help expose deep issues that our hidden in comfortable suburbia.
It’s an amazing opportunity to confront selfishness and point students to the hope we have in the gospel.
Knitting our hearts together
On the other side of self-centeredness is deep community. As students take their eyes off themselves they begin to see others differently. Some of the deepest most authentic community I’ve experienced has begun on short-term mission trips.
This isn't surprising is it? When students play together, work together and pray together their hearts become connected.
Wonder Voyage, who leads our trips, has great traditions on every trip. One that I particularly love is their challenge for students to find their “wonder moment” of the day. In other words, asking students to look for God’s work throughout the day.
Maybe a student notices another student being the hands and feet of Jesus, maybe a student discovers something fresh in the Word, or maybe a student sees something incredible in nature. There are all kinds of examples of how students may see the greatness of God.
Around a circle at night students are asked to share the “wonder moment." As the group closes in prayer it becomes natural to praise God for his grace and work throughout the day.
By the way, you should check out Wonder Voyage.
Taking mission home
No, I'm not talking about trying to fit an orphan in your suitcase. (Although it has entered my mind)
For me “post trip” really begins on the mission trip itself. If you wait until you get home to debrief and apply what you’ve experienced and learned it will be too late. One of the sayings around the student ministry at my home church is simple but important; “mission isn’t a trip, it’s your life."
Reminding students that serving their friends at their high school is just as important as serving orphans in Honduras is vital. God does work in the hearts of students on these trips and it’s amazing how it affects their view of everyday life.
After one trip we had a student research how to feed the homeless and hungry in the downtown Dallas. The next thing I know she’s at my house to get my credit card so she could buy supplies to work with an organization by making sandwiches and distribute them for lunch.
The next morning, 30 students showed up at the church to make sandwiches. As God works in the hearts of people it’s amazing how they respond. Sometimes we just need to hand them the church credit card and get out of the way. (Just make sure it’s the church credit card).
I love mission trips for kids. There is no doubt the world has been impacted for the Kingdom where kids have served this summer. I just want to make sure I'm faithful to maximize the potential and think holistically about our ministry.
Would love your thoughts and input.