The hidden danger of mission trips for students:

This article was published at youthworkerjournal.com

It is once again time to start gearing up our annual mission trips.  There are so many great options out there.  Some are as close as an urban setting, some are in rural and isolated contexts, and some are international ranging in proximity to Mexico all the way to Thailand or Africa.  One of the key considerations when planning a mission trip with students has to be assessing the potential dangers of the context we will be traveling to.

Our church has changed our context for short term missions several times depending on concerns for danger.  We have taken into consideration the violence in an urban setting or an outbreak of hepatitis within the street community.  We have wrestled with the potential danger of crossing a drug warfare zone in the boarder towns of Mexico.  Add to the danger of the location transportation and housing, and we start to realize that a mission trip for students is a costly and dangerous endeavor.

As someone who thinks that short term mission trips is the bread and butter of student ministry, I have come to the conclusion that these potential dangers are part of the process of helping students (and parents) to live outside their comfort zone.  And taking our students and putting them in a totally foreign and partially dangerous context softens their hearts and opens their eyes to see the working of God in new and fresh ways.

But after leading dozens of trips over the years, I am starting to realize that while the surface dangers are real and must be taken seriously, there is actually a bigger danger that is hidden lurking just below the surface.  This danger is cementing in our students a false view of missions and of themselves.

Every year we ask students to fill out an application.  One of the questions has something to do with why they want to participate in this trip.  And with almost 100% unanimity the answer is “we want to help those less fortunate than ourselves.”  Don’t get me wrong, this is an awesome value, it is a value that is at the heart of the Christian faith.  Those of us with power and resources are to care for the orphan and the widow, for the poor and oppressed.

However, when we unintentionally frame missions as us, wealthy suburbanites, helping those poor people, we continue to instill in our students that they have their acts together and are “above” others.  I am not saying that the suburban church is the problem, or that we need to beat down our own context or culture and make students feel awful for the blessings and resources they have.  The suburban culture is just that, a culture.  But when we engage in missions we must consider and celebrate the culture in which we are going to.  We have to help students see that we are guests in another culture, not superior to those we visiting.

Our students are naturally self-absorbed and limited in their worldview.  And when we set up our trips as us coming to save the day, their foundational worldview doesn’t have the chance to be challenged.  And this is the true danger of student ministry short term missions.  We take one of the most significant spiritual experiences of their high school carriers and actually solidify some of the worst of suburban thinking.  Missions is not suburban kids with their wealth and privilege helping the poor.  This is the danger in compassion ministries.

One of the best books I have read on mission for those of us leading trips from a suburban context is When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself by Brian Fikkert.  This book is a must read for anyone leading a trip.  My biggest take a way from my read of the book is that we must change our view of wealth and poverty.  All of us are wealthy in some ways and poor in others.  The challenge is to identify the ways in which we are wealthy and the ways in which we are poor.  Once we have done this, then we can come into any context, specifically impoverished ones, and easily become partners who share resources.  We then have a real chance for cultural exchange, instead of seeing ourselves as superiors above the poor people we help.

As the fundraising, logistics and training for our annual short term trips are gearing up.  There are many practical dangers we must take into account.  But it takes intentional work and training to breakthrough and breakdown the traditional mindset of many suburban students, and leaders.  Here are four values to consider as you plan your short term missions trip this year:

1)   Short term missions is about recognizing that God is already at work wherever it is we are going. The God we serve, so loves the entire world.  And the place that we will be heading off to for our short term missions trip is already loved by God and God already has people in place doing great ministry there.  This immediately takes the focus off of us and what we bring, and opens our eyes to the spiritual reality that God is alive and at work long before we showed up.

2)  Short term missions is about partnering not helping. We now have the privilege of coming alongside the people who God has called to love that community for the long haul.  And when we see our role as partners there becomes an exchange of blessings that occurs, we become givers and receivers, rather then saviors.  For this to be successful we must find organizations that are not only established and committed to that particular community, but organizations that we can trust.  The more you trust an organization, the more you can truly partner and celebrate all that God has done before you got there, is doing while you are there, and will continue to do when you leave.

3)  Short term missions is about student development. There is little long term benefit our students can bring to mission field.  We are only there for a week and often have little knowledge of the culture and language.  At best we are a blessing to the organization / missionaries we partner with.  Because that is the case, we get to use this experience to shape and transform the students we are called to be missionaries to.  And that means that we must help shape this trip in a way that broadens their view of ministry, not affirm their privileged world view.  Their spiritual health and development is our chief concern.

If we are taking students on short term mission trip we must clarify what we are doing.  It is true that many of us come from churches with significant resources and we want to partner with the heart of God in doing ministries of compassion.  But we cannot solidify the thinking that financial resources are the definition of God’s blessings.  Wealth does not put us a superiors.  We can not let our students live into this false and dangerous reality.

Our task in short term missions is to help our students understand how big God’s heart is for the world, to partner with those who are already there, and to be a blessing for the short time our paths cross.  We all have wealth and we all have poverty.  By helping our students identify and articulate where they are wealthy and where they are poor allows them to truly be partners in ministry and cultural exchange.

Are you looking for a missions opportunity for your students?

It is getting to be missions season and I love looking through the many opportunities that are available for our students.  Short term missions is the bread and butter of student ministry and I hope that you are planning on finding some way for your students to get missional, get cross cultural, and serve the poor in what ever context you are and are going.   Nate McHenry is the Founder of IMchange a missions organization that provides missions opportunities for students.  He wanted to share is origination with you, and I wanted you to be spurred on to think biblically, mission ally, philosophically, and theologically as you consider missions.

IMChangeLOGO2

Engaging Jesus through the poor

Have you ever asked yourself, "How in the world can I get this student to see that Jesus is what he/she needs?" For the last 15 years, nothing has accelerated my student's passion and love for Jesus and others more than mission trips.  For me personally, mission trips and serving the "poor" have provided unparalleled context to my pursuit of Jesus. Several years ago, I watched (and re-watched and still watch) an interview with Bono of U2 (not just because I love U2) by Bill Hybels that significantly encouraged my suspicions that the greatest way to connect young people to Jesus is through the poor.

James 1:27 (the message) says, "Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

Next to the theme of salvation, the poor is the most dominate topic throughout the Holy text.  The reason that student's relationships with Christ go deeper in missions experiences is because Jesus is with the poor, marginalized, forgotten, and underprivileged. It is impossible to not see Christ at work in the lives of the poor if you hang out there with any sort of sustained time.  He resides there.  If a student is struggling in his/her relationship with Christ...stick them in an outreach with the poor. It is a transformational epiphany or recognition and reality that places correct context around our lives at a quickened pace. I often liken it to the original Mario Brothers on Nintendo.  Throughout the journey to save the princess, you're given the opportunity to advance your play through "Warp Zones." The warp zone fast forwards your play to higher levels.  Likewise, providing our students with missions experiences will propel them to a new level of relationship with Christ and with people.  There is nothing like a compassion encounter with the poor that stabilizes and reduces the pervasive humanism spirit and reorients us to Christ at the center of our lives.

The light of Scripture

IMchange Mission trips have evolved out of this revelation of "Christ is with the poor."

1. Take a quick look at some of the Bible's commentary on where God resides and spends His time. 

Deuteronomy 10:18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing

Psalm 12:5 "Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise," says the LORD. "Then I will protect them from those who malign them."

Psalm 72:12-14 For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.  He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.

Luke 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed."

2. Now look at how God invites us to the place of His presence and dwelling among the poor.

Proverbs 31:8-9 "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Isaiah 1:17 Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Luke 14:12-14 Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

I John 3:17-18 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth

5-P's benefits of a Mission Trip in a student's life

1.  Positions a young person to experience Christ in a formative encounter.

2.  Personalizes a common bond for a student with his or her peers in a context that propels everyone toward Christ.

3.  Provides a tangible life and purpose to Christianity in our world today

4.  Postures a student's heart to live their life purposefully for others and not just for their own pleasure.

5.  Pushes away the affections and temporary attractions of this world and molds an eternal reality in the heart of the student.

IMchange Missions

IMchange Missions Trips (stateside and international) at www.imchange.org/mcw. Nearly every student ministry facilitates a "camp or retreat" type trip for their students. These are powerful, meaningful, and often life altering events.  However, IMchange Mission Camps enhance that experience by providing a missions element to that camp event.

What is an IMchange Mission Camp Week? 

You can bill it as a mission trip, a new look summer camp, or call it what you like. IMchange Mission Camp weeks are Sunday-Friday. Your group will arrive on Sunday afternoon around 3pm. After you’ve moved into the lodging facilities for the week, you’ll eat dinner and have your first evening gathering. The evening gatherings are customized for your group. It may include a time of worship, teaching, small groups, etc. We can provide the worship team, speakers, and gathering time direction or you can bring your own (most groups bring their own). Monday-Thursday during the day (8-4pm) your group will serve a community through home repair projects or community service programs. Typically, your group is divided into teams of 10-15 people and sent out to make a huge impact on people’s lives. Teams are assigned one project for the week that may include building a wheelchair ramp, painting a home for an elderly person, building a fence, gutting a home, assisting in disaster relief efforts, etc. Each team will have the opportunity to personally interact with a resident and show the love of God through word and deed. Each evening, when your group returns to the lodging facility, there is some free time, dinner, and the evening gathering. Some groups opt for a fun party on Thursday night after the last day of work. Friday morning is departure time and a ride home with many memories and God-filled stories.

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ACTION STEPS

1.  Go to www.imchange.org/mcw right now and watch the short video.

2.  Fill out the inquiry form on the webpage to initiate the process of a life changing mission trip experience for your student ministry.

3.  Receive a timely and friendly response from the IMchange staff.

4.  Plan your mission trip with the IMchange team.

5.  GO

6.  Do it again!

Love God-Love people,

Nate McHenry

Founder, IMchange LLC

www.imchange.org

The hidden dangers of short term missions

When-Helping-Hurts-Alleviating-Poverty-Without-Hurting-the-Poor-and-Ourselves-0802457053-L

This article was published at youthworkerjournal.com  

It is once again time to start gearing up our annual mission trips.  There are so many great options out there.  Some are as close as an urban setting, some are in rural and isolated contexts, and some are international ranging in proximity to Mexico all the way to Thailand or Africa.  One of the key considerations when planning a mission trip with students has to be assessing the potential dangers of the context we will be traveling to.

Our church has changed our context for short term missions several times depending on concerns for danger.  We have taken into consideration the violence in an urban setting or an outbreak of hepatitis within the street community.  We have wrestled with the potential danger of crossing a drug warfare zone in the boarder towns of Mexico.  Add to the danger of the location transportation and housing, and we start to realize that a mission trip for students is a costly and dangerous endeavor.

As someone who thinks that short term mission trips is the bread and butter of student ministry, I have come to the conclusion that these potential dangers are part of the process of helping students (and parents) to live outside their comfort zone.  And taking our students and putting them in a totally foreign and partially dangerous context softens their hearts and opens their eyes to see the working of God in new and fresh ways.

But after leading dozens of trips over the years, I am starting to realize that while the surface dangers are real and must be taken seriously, there is actually a bigger danger that is hidden lurking just below the surface.  This danger is cementing in our students a false view of missions and of themselves.

Every year we ask students to fill out an application.  One of the questions has something to do with why they want to participate in this trip.  And with almost 100% unanimity the answer is “we want to help those less fortunate than ourselves.”  Don’t get me wrong, this is an awesome value, it is a value that is at the heart of the Christian faith.  Those of us with power and resources are to care for the orphan and the widow, for the poor and oppressed.

However, when we unintentionally frame missions as us, wealthy suburbanites, helping those poor people, we continue to instill in our students that they have their acts together and are “above” others.  I am not saying that the suburban church is the problem, or that we need to beat down our own context or culture and make students feel awful for the blessings and resources they have.  The suburban culture is just that, a culture.  But when we engage in missions we must consider and celebrate the culture in which we are going to.  We have to help students see that we are guests in another culture, not superior to those we visiting.

Our students are naturally self-absorbed and limited in their worldview.  And when we set up our trips as us coming to save the day, their foundational worldview doesn’t have the chance to be challenged.  And this is the true danger of student ministry short term missions.  We take one of the most significant spiritual experiences of their high school carriers and actually solidify some of the worst of suburban thinking.  Missions is not suburban kids with their wealth and privilege helping the poor.  This is the danger in compassion ministries.

One of the best books I have read on mission for those of us leading trips from a suburban context is When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself by Brian Fikkert.  This book is a must read for anyone leading a trip.  My biggest take a way from my read of the book is that we must change our view of wealth and poverty.  All of us are wealthy in some ways and poor in others.  The challenge is to identify the ways in which we are wealthy and the ways in which we are poor.  Once we have done this, then we can come into any context, specifically impoverished ones, and easily become partners who share resources.  We then have a real chance for cultural exchange, instead of seeing ourselves as superiors above the poor people we help.

As the fundraising, logistics and training for our annual short term trips are gearing up.  There are many practical dangers we must take into account.  But it takes intentional work and training to breakthrough and breakdown the traditional mindset of many suburban students, and leaders.  Here are four values to consider as you plan your short term missions trip this year:

1)   Short term missions is about recognizing that God is already at work wherever it is we are going. The God we serve, so loves the entire world.  And the place that we will be heading off to for our short term missions trip is already loved by God and God already has people in place doing great ministry there.  This immediately takes the focus off of us and what we bring, and opens our eyes to the spiritual reality that God is alive and at work long before we showed up.

2)  Short term missions is about partnering not helping. We now have the privilege of coming alongside the people who God has called to love that community for the long haul.  And when we see our role as partners there becomes an exchange of blessings that occurs, we become givers and receivers, rather then saviors.  For this to be successful we must find organizations that are not only established and committed to that particular community, but organizations that we can trust.  The more you trust an organization, the more you can truly partner and celebrate all that God has done before you got there, is doing while you are there, and will continue to do when you leave.

3)  Short term missions is about student development. There is little long term benefit our students can bring to mission field.  We are only there for a week and often have little knowledge of the culture and language.  At best we are a blessing to the organization / missionaries we partner with.  Because that is the case, we get to use this experience to shape and transform the students we are called to be missionaries to.  And that means that we must help shape this trip in a way that broadens their view of ministry, not affirm their privileged world view.  Their spiritual health and development is our chief concern.

If we are taking students on short term mission trip we must clarify what we are doing.  It is true that many of us come from churches with significant resources and we want to partner with the heart of God in doing ministries of compassion.  But we cannot solidify the thinking that financial resources are the definition of God’s blessings.  Wealth does not put us a superiors.  We can not let our students live into this false and dangerous reality.

Our task in short term missions is to help our students understand how big God’s heart is for the world, to partner with those who are already there, and to be a blessing for the short time our paths cross.  We all have wealth and we all have poverty.  By helping our students identify and articulate where they are wealthy and where they are poor allows them to truly be partners in ministry and cultural exchange.