Here at the start of a new year, I know some of you parents have children who would like to go on a mission trip. And it might not seem like it, but now is the time for them to sign up. Your children may have felt a tug at Falls Creek, another camp or even during a sermon. I don’t know of anything better you can do than release them to go engage the lost.

If I were in charge of the world, I would require that all parents let their teens go to the nations. Mission trips have the potential to transform their lives.

I’ve worked with students for more than 40 years. I’m well on my way to become the world’s oldest youth worker. I started with students who were just coming out of the ’60s. I loved engaging that generation. You were either a Hawk or a Dove, an activist or a pacifist. You were either into head-banging music or traveling with your youth choir performing the musical Good News. Everyone stood for something, and there was no middle ground.

I’m no anthropologist, but I can tell you that in all my years of youth ministry, I’ve only worked with two types of students: the Me Generation and the We Generation. You can recognize the way advertisements fluctuate as they try to reach each type. For instance, for the Me Generation, the Army used the slogan, “Be All You Can Be.” But for today’s We Generation, it’s “Army Strong.” Since the beginning of time, society’s pendulum has swung with regularity between me and we.

As you help your child choose a mission trip, I want to introduce you to a new word: transformissional.  No, I didn’t make it up; you can also find it in the title of a book that addresses mentoring among church planters.

Type “youth missions” or “student missions” into a search engine, and a hundred organizations pop up. I’ve served alongside many of them around the world, and I highly respect and appreciate their work. But I’m a child of the ‘60s, never satisfied with the status quo. I knew there had to be more than just getting on a plane, flying to a country and doing some type of mission project. I knew in my heart that the journey must have a greater impact than the destination.

That’s why, 40 years ago, I embraced the concept of leading students on a transformissional journey. I did this first as a youth pastor and for the past 22 years at Awe Star Ministries. And we continue to refine those journeys. Jesus never called us to a trip, but into a journey with Him—one that will last a lifetime. That journey has a mission (a purpose and direction) and is transforming. Hence the compound word, transform + missional = transformissional.

I have spent my life calling students to embrace the Jesus journey.  As I was seeking God about how to impact these lives placed in my care, I realized I had to teach them a combination of knowledge and skills. Some things cannot be taught in a classroom, but only in the crucible of life. When you learn to drive, you can sit in the classroom as long as you want. But until you get behind the steering wheel and pull out into the road, you’ll never have the skills or ability to drive.

The same goes for being a Christ-follower. Knowledge teaches us what to do, but skills teach us how. These days, most teens only get knowledge, and we wonder why they fail when they go out on their own. A transformissional journey provides an intentional balance. We accomplish this by casting in the knowledge and then calling forth the skills to walk it out. But this doesn’t just happen. Someone must walk alongside the students as Jesus did: teaching, coaching, mentoring and modeling until a particular skill set is firmly planted in their lives.

What does the transformissional journey boil down to? Teaching each student knowledge and skills with the intention of having them embrace a rite of passage that moves them to lay down their adolescence and become a capable, responsible, self-reliant adult. Today, when it’s more and more difficult for young people to learn real-life skills, wouldn’t it make sense to maximize your child’s missions experience?

My advice: Research the organization with which you’ll send your child. Ask not only what they’ll do overseas, but also what kind of teachings they’ll receive. There is a difference in mission organizations. Shouldn’t you pick one that will impact your child for a lifetime?

If you need any help, please call me at 918/664-3500. I’ll be praying for you as your prepare your child to go and tell.