Membership in an active church can present some incredible opportunities to travel outside the United States to faraway lands where your volunteer efforts can have a great impact upon the lives of local people. Many US churches do conduct active periodic mission trips to Third World nations in order to fulfill certain activities that without these volunteers would either be underdeveloped or nonexistent. However, even though this is a church activity, there are certain reasons why you should NOT participate including:
Do Not Go If You Believe You Are Taking Jesus With You
Some of the worst experiences I have seen people have when participating in an overseas missions trip is the naïve belief that the volunteers are taking Jesus to a place where there are people that God has either forgotten or abandoned. Keep in mind that God does not need you to take Him anywhere. God is already where you are traveling to. In fact, God may be taking you to places so you can see His work personally. You need to make sure if you’re going on a mission trip that you also expect to see God’s action around you as opposed to coming through you.
Do Not Use A Missions Trip As A ‘Group Building’ Experience
If the group in which you are traveling has not already been thoroughly “built,” thoroughly trained and already possesses its own identity, do not expect the activity during an overseas missions trip to create such identity because this particular goal will only distract from the actual mission goal offering some form of help to the people and the location to where you are traveling.
Do Not Use A Missions Trip To Make Kids Excited About Jesus
One of the biggest problems I’ve seen throughout the years is groups taking mission trips that bring the wrong kids with them. This does not necessarily mean kids who are sort of non-committal in their belief about serving God but have not really caught on yet to its beneficial reality, because these kids usually work out in the long run. The kids I am talking about are the ones that are more concerned with experiencing the adventure of a lifetime rather than serving Jesus Christ. Mission trips that bring children looking for adventure, usually wind up with challenges because these kids wind up finding that adventure in all the wrong places.
Don’t Go On A Mission Trip To Just Swing A Hammer
If you have as a goal in going on an overseas mission trip so you can swing a hammer, hang drywall, install plumbing or some kind of other “construction-like” activity, save all your expenses and stay home. You can always volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and not spend a lot of money traveling clear across the world to do the same thing you can do at home. The most important activity that can really have a great deal of impact on another person’s life during any cross-cultural mission trip is building a relationship with the people you serve. What a great blessing is people who want to invest relationship capital when it may not be comfortable to accomplish this. Typically, people who go on mission trips who hide their giving hearts behind saws and hammers are viewed as contractors that make local people feel poorly about themselves since they cannot afford to pay for the construction completed.
Don’t Use A Missions Trip To Expose Students To Poorly, Downtrodden Third World Populations
Too often, goals set by well-intentioned church leaders and parents are to expose their children to the hardship of life experienced in undeveloped countries. Going on a mission’s trip with this thought in mind usually only reinforces the same stereotypes that kids originally had before they embarked on a trip. Kids on a mission’s trip need to hear from real people that are passionately building God’s kingdom, loving Jesus and are exactly where the Lord wanted them to be. A missions trip plan should be guided by lots of prayers that the stereotypes held by your kids are never reinforced but are quickly crushed and shattered from their once held beliefs.
Do Not Use A Missions Trip If It Is Believed To Be Just Something To Do That Is Somewhere Other Than Home
As a Christian, taking upon a “mission” is a lifelong commitment and not something that is just done once a year. A group experiencing a mission trip with the belief that such activity comes from a consistent mission that we are all on for life will arrive in the field with the correct spirit and heart in order to serve God. If not, the trip may actually do more harm than good if the participant believes that they should separate the “mission” from their everyday life back home.
Practice At Home Before You Preach On The Road
This is a follow-up from the statement above insomuch that people involved in a missions trip should not be going into the field to practice their Christianity. Practicing your Christianity should always begin at home before taking to the field. I cannot emphasize this more strongly. Sometimes kids have such arrogance that they believe themselves superior to the people they are serving and whatever they are offering will be well accepted by the people they have come to serve. This attitude does not necessarily contribute to participants on a mission trip giving the “first fruits” of time, talent and, above all, love.
Always remember that the battle does not belong to you but to God. (2 Chronicles 20:15)
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