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Roger Davis, YM360 President, has always had a heart for missions. He takes his family on mission trips, he gives leadership to YM360, but also, he provides leadership to one of our partner organizations, Servant Life. As a long time participant in missions, Roger understands the power of mission trips.
Roger was in Richmond, Virginia, recently and saw a brochure for a commissioning for an international mission board sending out several family units. In the pamphlet, it mentioned how people got their start in mission, and according to Roger, over 75% of them started with some short term mission trip, probably when they were teenagers.
In our discussion, Roger and I mentioned a few reasons why short term missions are so vital in the spiritual formation of your students.
Where You Go Is Not as Important as Why You’re Going
In missions, people tend to focus on the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says: " Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” There is nothing about that command that feels optional. Jesus isn't saying, “Go when it’s convenient." Jesus is telling us, “go.”
Tying this back to Rogers story about the commissioning brochure, not only does going on mission advance the work of God’s Kingdom here on this earth but typically, that first mission trip ignites a fire in a person's soul for global mission work. If you take your students on a mission trip before they graduate out of your ministry, there is an excellent chance that your students will start seeing the world, and their lives in a different light. They will understand, “I have brothers and sisters in Christ who don’t look just like me, or who don’t live just like me, yet we still serve the same amazing God.” It's a view that drastically expands their understanding of the Family of God. They will also have the opportunity to see and gain a heart for the lost people out there as well.
No matter where you go, and no matter what it looks like (whether you offer the trip for your entire youth ministry, or offer it only to your older students), the most important thing is that you go.
It’s Important to Go and to be Prepared as You Go
The last thing that any youth minister wants when he or she is planning a missions experience is to have an excellent location, an awesome group of people to work with, and everything planned out, only for the mission to fall flat on its face because they didn’t adequately prepare their students. Some resources are specifically designed for preparing your students to do everything on site in the context of the Word of God, asking "why am I here, who am I serving, how is the going to affect the world"? Missions Journals from YM360 are a perfect example of this resource. We created our Missions Journals in a partnership with Servant Life, and they function on a 4-week framework helping your students process the before, during, and after of their experience.
Don’t Think about Your Mission Trip as a Trip
A trip is like a vacation; it has a beginning and an end. Your trip to the beach begins and ends, and then you go back to normal life. Same with your trip to the mountains, or your camping trip; they have a beginning and an end, and then it's over. But, if you are on missions, your mission doesn’t just end because you get home. When you return home, your journey is just starting. Don’t look at your mission trip as “checking the box” and then coming back and posting pictures on Instagram; look at it as a chance to learn and grow from your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Being on mission can happen in a country in Africa, or it can happen in the halls of the high schools in your community. It’s important for your students to grasp that their mission field is wherever they are.
Watch the video below to learn more about the importance of mission trips!
Andy Blanks is the Publisher and Co-Founder of YM360 and Iron Hill Press. A former Marine, Andy has spent the last 17 years working in youth ministry, mostly in the field of publishing. During that time, Andy has led the development of some of the most-used Bible study curriculum and discipleship resources in the country. He has authored numerous books, Bible studies, and articles, and regularly speaks at events and conferences, both for adults and teenagers. Andy and his wife, Brendt, were married in 2000. They have four children: three girls and one boy.