The time has come for us to really look at why we take our youth on a mission trip and look at what impact are we really making. It seems so easy to call up short term agency “A” and or get in touch with the guy or gal from college that is doing missions some where and work with them to plan our yearly mission trip. But what is the purpose or goal of the trip? Will this just be a downgraded vacation for our students? How can we make this trip long lasting in their minds and in their hearts? How can we make an on- going difference in those we minister to? The answer is very simple and does not cut out these short term agencies or missionary friends.
We need to decide today that when we take our youth on this trip that it will not just be the mission trip we do every year to the location to be decided on later. We need to start making the decision to make a long term difference in the location we choose. That means making a long term plan to support the work there. We can do this by working along side local ministries and churches. We need to building relationships with pastors and leaders in these locations. Just for the sake of sanity in this article, let’s choose Mexico as our location. Mexico is the Mecca for short term mission trips. (Although domestic trips are on the rise and are very much needed, most churches believe we need to go international to be doing a “mission trip”.) How many people do you know that have gone to Mexico to build a house or do a VBS? Do not get me wrong, those are needed and when you do that you put a spark in the heart of a child and you put a roof over the heads of a family. But our impact could be so much more than a 10 day trip to do this.
We need to build relationships by returning to the same location year after year and working in the same churches and neighborhoods and town centers. We need to help the churches in their ministry. We need to adapt our mission trips and styles to those of the churches and ministries we serve while on a trip. How do we do this?
- We commit to one location for a minimum of 5 years.
- We connect at least monthly with the pastors and leadership their if possible to find out the real needs.
- We take at least 2 trips if possible a year to the location.
- We take smaller teams or groups. (Large teams of Americans overwhelm the local population and cause chaos) If we take teams of 12-15 each time, we can really build relationships.
- We pray for the churches, leaders, neighborhoods, city, and country on a daily basis.
- Do fundraising projects year round to support the church or ministry there.
- Financially support at least one pastor as part of your missionary budget.
- Invite your students to be involved in this process as much as possible.
By taking responsibility and choosing to make an impact in a location of a long term period, we can see fruit in our church as well as the churches or ministries we are helping to impact.