1. Mission Trips Bring Youth Groups Together.
If you’ve ever been on a weekend student retreat, you know how that experience can build community. Teenagers ride together, play together, eat together, stay up late together, get up tired together… “Together” is a powerful word. Think of “together” as glue – the more broadly it’s spread, the better a youth group will bond. Mission trips apply “together” to students’ sense of adventure, their desire serve, their relationship with God, their daily experiences, their broken comfort zones and much more (including these things below!).
2. Mission Trips Broaden Perspectives.
Teenagers might be more connected than ever with what’s happening around the world, but have they seen what it’s like to live below the poverty line in small-town America? Or experienced the energy and exhaustion of inner-city living? Or felt the heartbeat of Native America beaten across the taut surface of a drum? Pulling teenagers from their typical context helps them understand that the world is larger that their daily lives would have them believe. By beginning to understand another setting, their own context comes into truer focus.
3. Mission Trips Challenge Comfort Zones.
Beyond broadening perspectives, mission trips demand that teenagers participate. Painting a house, playing with kids, serving a meal, sleeping on an air mattress, experiencing a new culture – these are a few examples of ways comfort zones are crossed. But when coupled with intentional processing and worship, mission trips have the unique ability to challenge students’ comfortable perceptions of God and the world. Faith steps beyond the doors of the church and demands to be applied to real-world living.
4. Mission Trips Empower Students.
God is doing incredible work through the Church. The energy, authenticity, fresh perspective and passion teenagers bring are a vibrant part of that church. Done well, mission trips help students take ownership and initiative. Eyes are opened. Passions are ignited. Possibilities are exposed. Pursuits begin. Mission trips help teenagers see what they are capable of. But first, the Church chooses to believe in the incredible opportunity of being a teenager – not a possibility to be met “someday,” but a boiling potential just waiting to overflow.
5. Mission Trips Create Sacred Space.
The Israelites used to build monuments by throwing together big piles of rocks to point at later and say, “That signifies God’s faithfulness in our nation.” For many teenagers, mission trips represent a time and a place when God worked in and through their lives. More than a mere mountain-top high, these sacred spaces both anchor students in their faith and propel them forward in their relationship with God. Even in times of trouble, teenagers often point toward their mission trip experience and say, “That signifies God’s faithfulness in my life.”