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Why Go on a Mission Trip?

NOVEMBER 2019

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by Abbie Thiebaut Abbie is a full-time member of the EM staff who uses her experience leading mission trips to encourage others to serve in communities across the U.S. and around the world.

The phrase “mission trip” can mean a lot of different things to different people. For some, it conjures meaningful memories about how they connected with a community of people on the other side of the world. For others, it may not be so positive. Headlines about mission trips done wrong and memories of seeing people treated like projects leave some asking, “Why should I go on a mission trip?

While Experience Mission is a short-term missions organization, it may be surprising to know that we think everyone should ask themselves, their church, and their family members this question because the honest truth is unhealthy mission trips can do more harm than good. They can leave people feeling undignified and small while making those who go feel big and important for what they’ve done. This is not the vision of self-sacrificial love we see in the life and teachings of Jesus, and we should say “good riddance” to this approach to missions.

Why go on a mission trip?

However, we believe that healthy mission trips—approached with intentionality, a focus on relationships, and a mission to dignify everyone we serve and partner with—are exactly what the world needs more of today. The following are three aspects of these kinds of mission trips that make each experience 100% worth the time, money, and effort you put into them.

1. Meeting Tangible Needs

In a world that’s not experiencing enough love, mercy, and justice, mission trips allow you to participate in God’s plan to redeem and restore the whole earth by serving your neighbors in need. From giving a little extra momentum to ministries serving around the U.S. to encouraging families as they recover from disaster, there are real needs around the world that we, as followers of Jesus, have the opportunity to help address. We call this “being a tangible picture of God’s love.”

While every mission trip is different, each service opportunity is born out of a need in another community.

When welcomed in by local leaders, mission trip volunteers play a critical role in tackling real problems alongside local residents.

How can mission trip teams help in communities?

Momentum & Energy — People working and volunteering at local ministries around the world are stretched thin as they seek to love and serve their own communities well. Mission trip teams have the opportunity to humbly do the “grunt work,” like cleaning, organizing, and expanding ministries, which frees up full-time staff and volunteers to gain vision, avoid burnout, and serve their own communities well year-round.

Ease the Financial Burden — On many trips, a large portion of your mission trip fee goes directly toward building materials that families would not otherwise able to afford. For families rebuilding after a disaster, this partnership can literally put a roof over their heads as they seek to rebuild a sense of hope for their future.

Power in Numbers — For some small and growing ministries, the help of short-term volunteers proves they are not in it alone. Mission trips create space for all of us to rally around people faithfully loving and serving like Jesus as they determine how to help and bring hope to their community.

Education & Training — In some rural areas around the world, access to educational resources are scarce. When specific needs align with volunteer expertise, short and long term volunteers can, when invited, help by bolstering programs, training volunteers, and providing a new perspective on ministry.

2. Building Meaningful Relationships

From our perspective, healthy mission trips don’t just focus on projects and agendas — they’re about building meaningful relationships across cultural boundaries that honor each person’s God-given humanity. Mission trips with a relational approach do more than just meet immediate needs, they empower everyone to “Live Their Mission” more fully each and every day.

From community members feeling valued and dignified as they work to fight cycles of poverty, to volunteers learning to have empathy for those around them, we believe intentional relationships unlock our God-given potential for compassion and grace.

What can relationships do on your mission trip?

Empower Everyone to Live Their Mission — Relationships are all about mutual respect and influence. This means allowing people to mold and shape us just as much as we hope to bring meaningful change to their lives. When we choose to approach mission trips as an opportunity to listen and learn from one another, everyone is empowered (both those who go and those receiving teams) to serve and partner together to create lasting change in our own communities.

Restore Dignity — Mission trips and charity organizations don’t always have a good track record when it comes to dignifying those in need. When we choose to build relationships that lead to serving and partnering together, community members receive more than handouts, they have a sense of dignity and ownership over what’s happening in their own lives.

Inspire Generosity — One argument against taking short term missions is that the money would be better spent by sending the funds for local people to do the work. While it’s true that those funds could certainly be put to good use, we believe that a long-term face-to-face relationship between real people and real churches has the power to transform the generosity of an entire congregation of givers.

When we can put a face and a name to a cause, it becomes a priority and challenges us to give above and beyond a simple, one-time gift.

Create World-Changers — Especially with youth mission trips (but also with adults and college students!), the experience of going on a mission trip can fundamentally shift our worldview. When we fully understand how vast and diverse the world is, we gain context about the impact and influence we can have, for good or bad. And hopefully, we choose to live into the good, showing God’s love to others in big, bold, world-changing ways.

 

3. Giving and Receiving

Life-changing mission trips are about serving with “open hands” — ready to give as well as receive. While we all understand the importance of meeting tangible needs, what does it look like to receive? We think it has a lot to do with your attitude and posture. When we come with open ears and open hearts to hear what God may be revealing to us during the trip, we can allow the people we meet to challenge and change us for the better.

What can you learn on a mission trip?

Compassion and Empathy for Those Around You — We’re all the same in God’s eyes, but in a world filled with news headlines and stories about “others” around the world, taking time to build relationships with those who might seem different than us unlocks understanding and compassion, not just with those you encounter on your mission trip, but for people in all walks of life.

Faith and Hope in the Face of Adversity — There’s power in sharing our stories with each other. When we take time to listen to those who have experienced difficult circumstances in their lives—whether it’s loss of community or family, generational poverty, racism and injustice, or simply being ignored and cast off in their struggles—we can learn what it means to depend on God in all seasons of life. Choosing to sit in the struggle with those we seek to serve is a humbling and hopefully inspiring approach to loving and serving like Jesus.

Leadership and Teamwork  Mission trips are a group effort! Hopefully, you’ll have the opportunity to see and experience God working as you come together with others from your church, family, and the community where you serve.

This is a rare glimpse into what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like, and hopefully, it inspires us to foster strong, loving community in all aspects of our life.

How To Live Your Mission  It all boils down to this! We believe that good short term mission trips transcend the week-long experience. When you take a week to live intentionally, love your neighbors, and see everyone the way that God sees them, you walk away changed, and you can and should apply that change to every area of your life. We call this “Living Your Mission.”

Mission trips are a powerful experience, and they should be treated as such. If you’re asking yourself, "Why go on a mission trip?" we think you’re on the right track! Serving with a humble posture and seeking to build relationships and create lasting change on your mission trip can be the difference between a meaningful, dignifying, transformational experience or one that wastes time, effort, and resources—or worse, degrades the community you hoped to serve.

Will you fight for a mission trip that dignifies, empowers, and uplifts those in need?

Will you go and allow people you meet to challenge and change you? Will you give your group the unique opportunity to meet tangible needs, build meaningful cross-cultural relationships, and grow into people who live your mission every day? We hope so.

Get started today!

Fill out an interest form for a 1-2 week mission trip (for groups) or a 1-9 month IMMERSION mission trip

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