Earlier this week I posted a blog about some of the potential dangers of short term missions. This post has generated some really fun and interesting conversation among my friends, colleagues, and my little social network. In the course of these conversations Carrie Dotson, who blogs at summernannyjobs.com, pointed me to her blog post about some of the benefits leaders get when leading a student ministry missions experience. She brings up some great points and wanted to share them with you. I love how there are so many voices that speak into student ministry and always gain fresh perspective when I engage them. I hope you are encouraged! (Thanks Carrie)
Leading a mission trip provides church leaders and involved adults with an opportunity to help the young people in your group learn about the power of helping others while spreading the message of Christ. On the surface, it’s more of a learning opportunity for the youth involved than an experience that teaches leadership skills, but there are a variety of lessons that even the adults on a youth mission trip are positioned to learn. If you’re receptive to the experience and approach leading a youth mission trip with an open mind, these are only a sampling of the lessons you can learn along the way.
- The Importance of Your Own Influence – Whether it’s helping the young members of your team make a difference in the lives of others while witnessing for Jesus or seeing the changes you help to effect in the lives of others, leading your first mission trip will help you see just how important you are and how much of an impact your efforts truly make.
- The Broadening of Your Cultural Horizons – Traveling to Africa or South America to share Christ’s love through service helps you learn more about other cultures, but so does a trip across the country. Removing yourself from the comfort zone you’re used to forces the broadening of your horizons, a valuable lesson regardless of where you learn it.
- Crisis Management Skills – There’s no such thing as a group travel expedition that doesn’t include at least one minor crisis, something you’re certain to learn on your mission trip. There’s also a very real difference between crisis management in theory and the practical handling of an unforeseen difficulty.
- Conflict Management Skills – Even the closest friends can have a few conflicts when they’re in close quarters on unfamiliar territory, especially when the parties in question are in the throes of adolescence. Leading a mission trip will teach you plenty about how to diffuse a conflict before it gets out of hand.
- How to Serve While Leading – Few experiences blend the responsibilities of service with the duties of leadership as completely as leading a youth mission trip. You’ll be responsible for the well-being and safety of your group members, the management of daily tasks and making sure that you do your part to make an impact while you’re visiting.
- How to Be a Better Leader – When you’re removed from the familiar areas of your leadership experience and thrust into the role while navigating a strange place, you’ll experience a very real change in the way that you lead your youth group. The hardships of a mission trip will force your strongest qualities to the forefront and help you reevaluate the way you’re leading at home.
- The Scope of Others’ Need – Until you witness real poverty or devastation first-hand, it’s difficult to grasp the depth of other peoples’ need. Seeing the way that people in third world countries or even poverty-stricken areas of the United States live will change your perspective on need altogether.
- How to Set and Reach Realistic Goals – When your end goal is so large, the only way to reach it is to break it down into a series of smaller, more realistic ones. Managing and leading a mission trip is a great exercise in goal management.
- The Power of a Team Effort – Regardless of how strong a leader you may be, the real difference comes when the efforts and strengths of an entire group come together with one common goal in mind. Witnessing the power of a dedicated group of young people will help you learn just how powerful a crowd can be, especially when they’re committed to making a positive change.
- The Depth of Your Good Fortune – Seeing just how difficult the circumstances of some lives are can give you a new humbleness and appreciation for how fortunate you really are. Even if you think you’re aware of how good your life truly is, seeing the joy that far less fortunate people take in little victories and everyday triumphs can put your own life into clearer perspective.
Leading a mission trip not only allows you to make a physical difference in the lives of those you witness to, but also gives you the opportunity to offer spiritual guidance as well. While you’re making such a strong effort to improve the living conditions of those you’ve come to help, make sure you keep sight of your primary goal: sharing the message of Christ.