Why do we take young people on missions trips?

We often ask that question of leaders who are planning a youth, preteen or family missions trip. And the answer is almost always the same: “Our young people need to learn to give.”

I don’t think that’s the right answer. In this context, we may actually be misleading our kids. It may be wrong to focus on what they need to give. We may be subtly teaching the wrong lessons.

Affluent Westerners (like us) assume that we are the “chosen people” because we have it all. We mistakenly believe that

…our education makes us the smartest members of the body.

…our wealth makes us the most powerful members of the body.

…our training makes us the most skilled members of the body.

And since we have all these blessings, we need to bless others by going on short-term missions trips and giving. It makes us feel good, but is it true? Yes, to whom much is given, much is required. But there is a difference between using our blessings for the good of others, and assuming we are to control others because we know best (and are used to getting our own way).

What a difference it would make if we taught young people to get! What blessings might our kids receive by learning that they don’t have it “all.” We have much to gain from humbly sitting at the feet of our brothers and sisters in other cultures:

  • We can learn to pray – with faith.
  • We can learn to worship – with fervor.
  • We can learn to evangelize – with force.
  • We can learn to obey – with freedom.

The next time you take kids or teens on a missions trip, ask them to watch each day for at least one thing about the culture that is better than their own. Ask them to find one thing they can learn from their new friends. Take time to share these as a group each evening.

The days of paternalistic Western missions are over…or at least they were supposed to be. It’s time we realize we have something to offer…but we’re not the only ones!


4 thoughts on “Why do we take young people on missions trips?

    • So glad to hear that report, Brandon. Thanks for stretching your own concept of missions even as you minister to and with those 18 young world changers!

  1. I have been wondering
    I have often wondered why missions has been predominantly one way.
    I wondered what impact it would have if a church spent half of its mission budget on bringing short-term missionaries from the places that they do their short-term missions too.

    • Creative thought! While short-term teams do some good around the world, most missions agencies will admit that their primary purpose is to raise the awareness of missions for those going on the trip. Therefore, we would sugges that every local church should have some ongoing involvement with short-term teams in order to connect their members’ hearts with God’s Great Commission. In general, missions is for the purpose of bringing God’s love and message of grace and redemption to those who have not heard it or have not yet received it. So, whether the church is “here” or “there” we are commanded to be involved in sending missionaries and going as missionaries to reach those for whom Jesus died.

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