Elements Involved in Successful Mission Experiences
By: John Bailey
Mission trips are quickly becoming a staple of churches and youth programs all over the United States. In the past year alone, more than 20,000 participants have been involved in doing their own mission trips, resulting in more than 4,000 recorded professions of faith.
The astounding numbers are only the tip of the iceberg. Other church groups have done great mission work but have not reported their involvement. Both the numerical data and the amazing stories from the field have pointed to one thing: We are daily advancing toward fulfilling the Great Commission, and God is using mission trips - and your youth - to get us there.
So, why else are mission trips so successful in putting youth and others on mission for Christ? As I've tracked the student groups who have served over the past few years through the North American Mission Board, I have noticed definite components in how churches are doing their mission trips - elements that work.
1. Make sure there is a clearly defined need to be met.
The North American Mission Board has a Student Mission Group National Needs List, which has become a hot spot for groups looking for a project. Gone are the days when the board gave out assignments. Leaders are now asking, "Where is God at work so we can join Him?" This needs list has become the starting place. More and more group leaders are using the National Needs List.
2. Gain pastor and church-wide support.
The best way group leaders gain support is by calendaring and budgeting early and paying attention to details. Wise financial planning is critical to gaining the support of the church and staff. Many groups use a three-way split in dividing the cost of a mission trip among the student, the church, and a fundraising activity.
Other ways to gain church support are by planning a commissioning service before the trip, using prayer strategies during the trip (daily prayer guides for the church, prayer chains, or prayer partners), and by scheduling a reporting service after the trip. These things will help include the church in what God is doing in the lives of students.
3. Do a local mission project as preparation for the trip.
This is a good answer to the query of, "Why do they have to go so far on this trip? They need to stay here and serve." Many churches tell me they cannot do their own Vacation Bible Schools back home without the help of teenagers. The local mission project gives youth an opportunity to serve at home while preparing to serve others away from home.
4. Be aware of and prepared for safety issues.
There are three safety preparations that are a key on any mission trip: do not let teenagers drive, be careful around water, and be sure about times of supervision. Some churches say their insurance policies make very clear what they can or cannot do on trips. The best mission projects create a sense of risk but at the same time maximize safety. Group leaders say the way to do this is through detailed preparation and clear communication with leaders.
5. Complete Student Mission Group reports and return them to Student Volunteer Mobilization at NAMB.
Even with more than 20,000 participants involved in mission projects, the fact is, there is more being done for Christ. The view that numbers are important sometimes seems shallow, but I love to tell our convention how students are making a major contribution in winning the world to Christ! These reports give the information to tell this incredible part of the story. Through this report, leaders can also request a certificate of recognition for their youth group to frame and display, etc.
6. Use an intentional follow-up plan.
There is strength in following up a mission trip with a discipleship small group study. Groups use the bounce of a mission trip to promote See You at the Pole or the formation of a Christian club on campus, not to mention individual opportunities to serve as Campus Missionaries or Sojourners.
John Bailey is an associate, Student Volunteer Mobilization, with the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Georgia. This article is courtesy of Lifeway.