Summer camps are here! I know these camps will challenge many students to take an international mission trip. I’ve been taking students to the mission field for almost 40 years. If I’m an expert on anything, it’s moving, caring for and discipling students while they serve around the world. I understand that you as parents want to provide the best opportunity for your children, so allow me to share some guidelines about what to look for in a sending organization.
Training: How does the missions organization train its staff? Are the people taking your child overseas trained in worst-case scenario? As long there are no problems, any organization can handle the job. But what if a medical emergency occurs or your child’s passport is stolen? What if there’s an emergency back home? Is the staff trained to handle and communicate with you effectively? Ask how often they require their leaders to be retrained and if you can see their worst-case scenario training manual.
Insurance: Does the organization provide international medical insurance for your child? Many cut corners by failing to include this in the trip costs. If insurance is included, make sure it provides a way for you to reach your child in case of emergency. Also, check to see that the in-country staff knows how to contact the insurance company to provide the best care for your child.
Evangelism: On this mission trip, will your child engage the culture with the Gospel? I’ve talked to many students who have traveled the world doing mission work but never shared their faith in Christ. All that money, all that time, all those prayers and never once mentioning the name of Jesus? I wouldn’t call that a mission trip. Send your child with an organization that intentionally leads students into the skills of sharing their faith. Yes, buildings need to be painted and dogs to be petted, but if the Gospel isn’t shared, then how can they hear? “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom. 10:15).
Discipleship: Does the sending organization provide in-depth discipleship? There is never a greater time for young people to grow in their faith and understanding of the reality of Jesus than on a mission trip. I would ask about the structure of the quiet times. Does the group focus on a particular theme while on the mission field? Do they embrace the five levels of Jesus’ ministry? Yes, Jesus had five levels of ministry: ministry between His Heavenly Father and Him; one-on-one ministry as he had with the woman at the well and Nicodemus; small group ministry as He had with His inner circle: Peter, James and John; family discipleship ministry as He had with the Twelve; and ministry to the masses as when He stood at the bottom of the hill and preached to the multitude. “They were amazed at His teaching, because he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). Ask your child’s sending organization how they incorporate the ministry of Jesus into their trips.
Reputation: What is the sending organization’s track record? I would recommend getting references from pastors and parents who have sent their children with that ministry. How long has the organization been taking students overseas? How many students have they sent? How many countries have they worked in and, most importantly, what do the missionaries in those countries say about the sending organization? These are all important questions.
Communication: Does the organization communicate with you while your child is on the mission field? Can you and your family follow them online and see pictures of them doing ministry? Is it possible for you to post notes of encouragement to them while they’re serving? Check out the sending organization’s website to discover the answers to these questions.
Costs: Make sure you understand up front what the trip costs do and don’t include. Some organizations have hidden fees to cover the cost of an airport pickup or special excursions. When looking at the cost of a mission trip, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.
Mission trips are a partnership between you as parents and the sending organization. Do your homework, ask questions and prayerfully seek what is right for your children. But in the end, send them to the mission field. It will be one of the best things you can ever do for their spiritual growth.
There are many good organizations out there, and sometimes making a choice can be difficult. If you’d like some expert assistance, my staff and I would be glad to help. You can call our office at 918/664-3500 between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. CDT to speak with an experienced staffer.
Blessing on you as you raise the next world changer!