We haven’t taken students on a mission trip since 2007. Prior to then, my personal practice was to take students on mission trips every year. After 2007, students would go on inter-generational trips from our church or go with other churches.
My reasons for discontinuing were two-fold. 1) Our trips were usually not part of a larger missional strategy and seemed, in hind sight, mostly self-serving…mission tourism. 2) Our trips were very consumed much more time and energy than I could afford (fundraisers, training sessions, trip preparations, etc.). I had to give up something in order to sustain the growth of our youth ministry.
Now, we’ve just announced our first mission trip as part of a new strategy for missions. This strategy is laid out below.
- A Ministry of the Missions Committee – I have submitted all decisions related to mission trips to our church’s Missions Committee. They do a great job. They are very in tune with the big picture of missions, missionaries, organizations, etc. To think that I can do missions better than them is not warranted.
- Planned and Led by Lay People – All trips will be planned and led by lay people in the church who are passionate about missions. They will also be led by lay people, as well. I don’t need to go on these trips. I think I should be putting my time and energy elsewhere.
- Long Term Commitments – We will carefully choose our destinations and projects with the intent of returning to them year after year.
- Church/Ministry Partnership – Our destinations will be in close partnership with churches or non-profits already firmly rooted in that community.
- Born of a Missions Team – We have a team of about 15-20 students who meet weekly for discussion and training about missions. They are engaged in significant discussions and fundraising regardless of when or where the next trip is planned.
- Strategically Developmental – Our mission trips will be planned in such a way as to help students gradually develop their passions and skills for more advanced missions. There are three levels of trips.
- Level One – A trip at this level is considered an entry level. It is not cross-cultural. It’s primarily task-oriented. It’s very close and short. It’s educational. It’s cheap. And, it’s fun. Furthermore, it is a prerequisite for attending a mission trip at the next level. Our primary example of a mission trip at this level is a weekend trip to Minneapolis (just four hours away) sponsored by our denomination (the Northwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church) called M.O.V.E.
- Level Two – A trip at this level is further away and what most people would call a domestic mission trip. The trips destination shares a similar yet slightly different culture. The work is still primarily task-oriented but has additional relational components to the trip such as a children’s ministry component, social engagements and cultural activities with locals, etc. The evangelism and ministry components of the trip will stem primarily from the ministry of the local church’s relationships with the people of that community.
- Level Three – A trip at this level will be much more intense in several ways that require more training in advance. These trips will often have students fully engaged in significant relational ministry. They may also be cross-cultural, longer, and much more expensive. Few students will advance into trips at this level.
So that’s our plan. We’re just starting to really implement it. It’s exciting to see the lay leadership part of this take off. More people have more ownership in the process. It’s great. I can’t wait to see where this goes!
Oh! By the way. We will still continue our inter-generational trips. Those are golden!