There seems to be no shortage of folks who are eager to point out the possible pitfalls of mission trips. For starters, any ministry has possible pitfalls. However, just because there are possible pitfalls that come with the territory of engaging a particular ministry does not mean that we should avoid that type of ministry all together.
Many folks approach short-term mission trips with fear, skepticism, or even disdain simply because of what “could” happen. Here are three of the greatest benefits of short-term mission trips.
1. They encourage missionaries.
This is one of the most significant things our teams do. You can’t possibly understand how huge this is until you’ve seen the excitement in a missionary couple’s eyes when you offered to babysit one evening while they went on a date. Even more affirming is the look on the mom’s face the day before your team leaves when she explains through watery eyes how great of a blessing it was to watch the team engage and converse with her children.
It’s easy to forget that missionaries are often starved for Christian fellowship. Even if they are on a team, it’s typically a very small group that’s likely to be void of certain age groups. The missionaries our teams work with often have pre-K and elementary kids, and never get the chance to be around high school and college students who are Christ followers. I become more convinced every year that the most significant impact our teams make is not with the lost, but with the missionaries and their families.
2. They free up our focus.
Regardless of the ministry focus of a trip (acts of service, prayer, evangelism, etc.), you are free to put your normal day to day obligations aside and focus intensely on that work. We often remind students who are about to return home from a trip that they can’t expect themselves to keep up the same level of investment and focus that they had during the trip. Of course, we do hope that what they learned and experienced on the trip will spur them on to spend more time and energy living intentionally in their day-to-day lives.
I want to be careful here, because I’m not saying that these obligations (jobs, school, family) are nothing more than roadblocks to our ministry involvement. Indeed, we will find opportunities to engage in spiritual conversation and honor the Lord with our diligence in those things. But if we are spending 6-10 hours per day prayer-walking and sharing the Gospel, we are likely to lose our job or flunk out of school.
3. They train us.
One might object and say, “Sure, it’s easy to engage in ministry all the time when you’re on a mission trip, but that’s not going to help you learn how to live intentionally in your everyday life in the midst of daily obligations and responsibilities.” I’ve heard similar objections that say mission trips are nothing more than conscious cleansers. They fear we will justify our lack of effort to reach our lost neighbors because we went on a trip last summer.
But that’s like saying a college students who works for a lawn care business in the summer will not learn how to take care of his own lawn when that’s not his “job.” We all know that the opposite is true. That student will likely end the summer much more motivated and equipped to maintain his own lawn well where he lives.
There are always exceptions, but what we see 95 percent of the time is that students who engage well on a trip come back more equipped and motivated to live missionally at home.
This information is courtesy of iGo Global, www.igoglobal.org. By partnering with local churches, iGo Global mobilizes students to join in the work God is doing all over the world, training them to live on mission.