If a summer mission trip is in your future, you’re probably in the middle of planning, fundraising, team-building, and parent meetings. (If you’re thinking, “What is she talking about? I haven’t even booked our mission trip.” It’s not too late to book for 2017!) Whether you’re traveling far from home or serving just around the corner, every trip is a great catalyst for young followers of Jesus to understand that service is a lifestyle, not an event.
Pre-trip training helps teenagers know what to expect and how to act. Here are 10 tips I share with our group members before we head out into the mission field:
- Be FAT: Faithful, Available, and Teachable—No matter the destination, be willing and eager to serve. When you arrive, listen carefully and learn about what you need to do. Step outside your comfort zone and be willing to meet a variety of needs.
- Be proactive—If you see something that needs to be done, be the first to act. Don’t stand on the sidelines waiting for instructions. Washing dishes, stacking chairs, and scraping paint might not seem exciting, but they’re important jobs.
- Focus on the tasks at hand—Get involved with every aspect of your team’s projects. Avoid the temptation to just watch the action. You’ll have plenty of time to talk with friends after the work is finished.
- Follow the leader—If you receive specific guidelines, follow them carefully. Show respect to the missions organization and the people you’re serving by adhering to instructions, even if you don’t understand the reasoning behind them.
- Reach out—Listen to the people you’re serving. Tell them you’ll pray for them, and then keep a prayer journal. Talk to Jesus about what you’re experiencing and feeling during the trip, and let him challenge and grow your faith.
- Love your neighbors as yourself—You’ll be ministering to (and with) a variety of people who are different from you. Some might challenge you or even make you uncomfortable. No matter what happens, be a servant and set a Christlike example in your interactions. Treat everyone with respect. You might be surprised at who you get to know!
- Maintain perspective—The people you serve won’t always seem thankful for your help. Although this can sting, remember that Jesus changes people’s hearts. Stay faithful to him, the source of all our blessings.
- Remain Jesus-centered—Spend time with Jesus before, during, and after the trip. To hear Jesus and grow closer to him, you need to listen to him.
- Prepare to get tired—As the trip begins, you’ll feel full of energy and excitement. Expect that to wane as the week goes on. Even when you get tired, though, remember that you’re here to serve. Stay the course!
- Have fun—As you do everything to God’s glory on this mission trip, remember to have fun in all you do, too. Serving Jesus and other people is a joyful experience, so keep smiling as you work and play with all your heart.
It’s impossible to walk away from a mission trip unchanged. Jesus works in profound ways, and participants come home with new insights and new perspectives. As you prepare teenagers for a mission trip, remind them to focus on Jesus and on what he’s doing in their hearts and lives.
If you’re looking for a solid youth mission trip organization that emphasizes the spiritual growth of your teenagers while they serve, I recommend Group Mission Trips. They have domestic and international weekend- or week-long options available for this summer!