Tony Myles

Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, conference speaker, author, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

My 3-year-old daughter likes to do things herself.

I know this because on a somewhat regular basis she’ll tell me, “I-DO-IT-MYSELF!”

It’s only cute the first time. The more she says it, the more I feel the need to put her in her place.

I’m pretty sure I know who she inherited that from. There are many things in ministry that I insisted on doing my own way. In hindsight, I wish someone would have challenged me on them.

For example, I used to avoid buying curriculum, thinking I was somehow a weaker youth worker if I used something “canned.” I likewise bucked at proven church campaigns, like the 40 Days of Purpose when one congregation I served in wanted to do them. I argued to my senior pastor, “Can’t you come up with your own vision?”

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(Yeah, I was that guy.)

For a number of years, I treated mission trips the same way. I’d typically plan our own experiences for students, juggling all the logistics myself that each trip required.

It’s no wonder why every year I became sick from fatigue the week after a trip.

Recently, my son and I agreed to take part in a mission trip together. He’ll be turning thirteen in March, and so we’re heading to Honduras with Lifetree Adventures.  I see it as a legacy experience, marking this season of him becoming a teenager.

That’s not to say my wife and I have settled every emotion we have about the trip. We’d love to micro-manage the experience and make it as “safe” as possible. And by “safe,” I mean in a creepy, co-dependent way.

Thankfully, we also know that’s unhealthy and want something larger than “safe.” We are praying for an experience that is God-sized, involves life-changing repair and gives him stories of transformation to mark his faith over the long haul.

Enter Lifetree Adventures.

I’ve been having an amazing experience working with its director Jobe Lewis, and can’t say anything but positive things about the details he’s helping us to take care of. There’s a real sense of professionalism in this process, which is making it easier for me to let go and trust in their competence.

It’s taught me a few things that you want to look for in a mission trip provider:

  • Listen for Jesus: Every conversation I’ve had with Jobe and his team has dared me to follow Jesus. While I might be tempted to keep flipping out as a dad over my kid’s first trip, we’re sensing the clarity of the Great Commission in everything these guys do. It even helped us identify how Honduras was our ideal landing spot.
  • Feel the details: As a leader, I have a ton of things that I have to give my attention to. It’s felt great feeling that I’m a part of a team that knows what they’re doing, especially about an area I’ve never traveled to. Part of that comes from feeling the details I know they’re covering, from the lists they give me to tell us how to prepare to the continual updates I get on how the trip itself is forming.
  • See the track record: Lifetree Adventures is a growing organization, adding trips every year. That tells me folks return back, because they had a great experience last time and want to invite others to join in.
  • Touch a real need: Virtually every missions provider does some type of good, but not all of them address the root cause of where the needs come from. Make sure the organization you’re considering has some real “skin in the game” by partnering with people in various areas who know the actual needs of that region. Otherwise you’ll end up painting a house this week that another group will come in and paint next week.

At some point you have to feel like you’re working with a real professional, especially if it’s something as serious as traveling internationally. Even if you like to do everything yourself, give it up, already.

I’m sure this is only the beginning of the process for us. I’d really like to hear your input on this, especially if you’ve ever gone on a trip with a family member. Anything I should pay attention to? Want to join us in Honduras?

Thanks in advance, and thank you for loving students!



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  • Andy Cornett says:

    Well said. Your four points are right on in looking for a partner to go with. In personal situations like this, I think that is the best option.

    To take it a step further, any of us who are youth directors, youth pastors, etc. could do the same when it comes to getting our churches or ministries involved in mission. I don’t have to do all the planning and make it happen by myself. That’s not me shirking the work: it’s actually me being responsible to equip for ministry. Gather a team, get them to engage with your desire to go, and enable them to find and choose a great partner to begin working with. Go for it.

    grace and peace – A

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