If you are taking students on a mission trip and you see it merely as an event you're "supposed" to do, you’re doing it wrong. I know that's a pretty controversial statement, but hear me out for a second. Taking your students on a mission trip is predicated on building a missions mindset before the trip. This new mindset not only prepares them for their upcoming trip, but impacts them into adulthood. Let's be clear. The mandate to equip believers for works of service is clear in Ephesians 4:12. This passage states serving others is not only required but should be a natural desire of our heart once committing our lives to Jesus. Here are five ways to get your youth invested in their mission trip before they leave:
- Physically: We’re not talking about having tryouts like Little League, but we need to ensure the students are equipped for the physical demands of the mission trip. If you’ll be serving at a higher altitude or if there will be a lot of strenuous activity, encourage them to be as prepared as possible for more vigorous activity.
- You could have them walk as a group for one mile and tell them it’s not a race, but the point is to walk and talk with each other. It's another opportunity to build relationships.
- Have fun practicing or learning whatever tasks they will be doing on the trip. If it’s painting, find somewhere to paint. If it’s construction, have a fun work day and teach them the skills or at least improve their skills. Preparation is key.
- Spiritually: Create or find a devotional that your team can do a week before and during the trip. This will give them a shared experience and prayer goal that they can do together. If they are praying for this before the trip, it’s more likely to happen on the trip. If you're using an official mission trip organization, they've probably developed this resource and will make it available to you as part of your trip package.
- Mentally: Whether you'll be serving in your own community, a different state, or a different country, it’s essential they know what to expect about the area and the culture. It’s also crucial they understand their role as a servant on this trip. Find three to four articles on Group Mission Trips' Blog and print them for the students to read. It’d be best to have them read one at the same time and then use it as the basis for discussion with each other.
- Experientially: One of the best things I ever did was to require local service before anyone had clearance to go on the regional or international trip. I’d offer three or four service projects during the school year. They were allowed to miss one, but full participation was best. Think of it as an experiential payment. It also gives you a chance to see group dynamics between individuals who might not regularly interact with each other.
- Practically: When kids leave home for an extended amount of time there is generally a detailed packing list. If we leave it up to the kids, you'll have boys carrying bags full of firecrackers, Pokemon cards, and honey buns. Make sure the packing list is known long before it’s time to load the vans. Follow up with them or their parents before the trip because you don’t want something as simple as not having the proper work shoes or dress clothes to be a distraction from the work you're trying to accomplish for the Kingdom.
By preparing your youth for their next mission trip, you are laying the foundation for your youth to develop a missions mindset and become mature believers.