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The Value of Flexibility in Student Missions

The Value of Flexibility in Student Missions

Let me start with the hypothetical story of a man named Irwin (sorry if your name is Irwin, I’m sure you are lovely). Irwin is your terribly inflexible friend. He never compromises when deciding on where to eat. Irwin never decides for the good of your friend group. And you had better be ready to stick to your original plans on a trip because Irwin will always follow them. All in all, Irwin is exhausting. The odds are that if you have an Irwin in your circle of friends, you don’t invite him on many occasions. Of course, Irwin is a hypothetical person who does not really exist, but if he did, he would be so challenging to deal with. Why? Because Irwin is not flexible. He can’t adapt and bend for the good of the group.

 Just like we value flexibility in decision-making and plans with our friends, we also need to see it as crucial when approaching student missions. If you have led or attended a mission trip with 6th-12th graders, you are accustomed to changing plans and curveballs being thrown your way. This is precisely why flexibility is a vital component of your group. When it comes to student missions, we must be flexible, unlike our (insufferable and hypothetical) friend, Irwin.

Plans Will Always Change

You would be hard-pressed to find a mission trip that goes exactly as planned. Uncontrollable variables always pop up, and plans must change. They may not always be drastic, but change is change, nonetheless. A mission partner will back out, kids will get sick, bad weather will happen, buses will break down, projects will change, and times will come when what you experience is not what you trained for. The bottom line is that we are naïve to think we can avoid unexpected change, and our mission to spread the Gospel is better off when we can be flexible with the change we experience.   

In Luke 10, the story of Martha and Mary and their encounter with Jesus serves as a reminder of the importance of flexibility. The two sisters took two different routes after Jesus was invited into the home. Martha took the customary steps one would take when entertaining a guest at the time; she made herself busy serving. I imagine she was preparing a meal and ensuring that Jesus was well attended to. Understanding the gravity of Jesus’ presence, Mary sat at His feet and listened. Are serving and hospitality wrong? Absolutely not! Martha was doing a good thing, but Mary was doing something greater. Because of Martha’s inflexibility, she missed sitting at the feet of Jesus, the Son of God, and hearing what He had to say. Mary would have known that customs would have had her prepare and serve like Martha. However, because of her ability to be flexible and change course, Mary had the opportunity to sit with the God of the universe.

 Are you a Martha or a Mary in your approach to student missions? You may have the perfect trip planned out with a top-tier schedule and ample opportunity for students to serve, but sometimes, the plans we make need to flex to fit the needs of the context in which we are serving. By being flexible and listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit, our mission trips can become a time when God can do amazing things in and through students.


Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:

  • How have you had to be flexible in your ministry experience?
  • What do you think are the best ways to instill a culture of flexibility among students attending missions?

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