What then? – Part 2

By Dale Lusk

Studies by important missiologists have shown that although over 50% of students who have participated on a mission trip say their lives have changed as a result of what God taught them on a mission trip (we have all heard students say “that trip changed my life forever!”) the reality is less than 2% of those students actually change their behavior toward missions, missionaries, ethnic groups, community ministry, prayer or serving as a result of mission trips. If this is true, then mission trips often do little to change the lives of our students.

Don’t we want to have a higher percentage of our students truly have a life-changing experience through Christ as the result of mission trips?

I believe the key to this is follow up. Youth pastors who have required students going on mission trips to commit to a lengthy process of follow up have much better success at how their students respond to what they learn on a mission trip. More students from those groups are developing cross-cultural relationships, participating in community ministries (or even starting them), praying for missionaries and giving financially to their ministries, and sensing a call to the mission field. Many change their behavior in how they respond to the poor, their families and to consumerism.

What can we do as youth pastors to utilize this important time of follow up? Here are some ideas:

  1. When a student signs up for a mission trip require them to commit not only to preparation meetings and the trip itself, but also to follow up meetings up to six month after the trip.
  2. Have follow up meetings two weeks, four weeks, two months, three months and six months after the trip. These meetings are only for students and adults who went on the trip.
  3. At the first meeting, or even at the end of the mission trip, have students write down three ways God has called them to change their lives as a result of what they learned on the mission trip.
  4. Make the focus of your meetings:
  • Reminisce about the trip itself. This is important. No one else understands the feelings and emotions that went on during a mission trip except others who went on the trip. The families and friends of students who did not go will never be able to comprehend the depth of those feelings. Give your students an opportunity to share with people who “know.” This will help your students process.
  • Have everyone share about difficulties/dissonance they have felt since returning to their home. After being confronted by what they experience in another culture students often struggle with North American cultural values. Give them a chance to talk this through and support them.
  • Have a time to allow students to share how they are following through on their promised behavior changes they committed to at the end of the trip, or at the first meeting. Holding the students accountable will make it much more possible for students to develop new consistent behaviors that are more Christ-like as a result of what they learned on a mission trip. Allow students to tweak commitments that were made at the passion of the moment they wrote them, but still challenge them to figure out how God wants them to live differently as a result of their learning on the trip.
  • Share about any follow up communication there has been with the hosts (ministry/church) your team went to serve. Any communication is usually very uplifting and encouraging.
  • Spend time in prayer for each other and the commitments made, for the hosts and their ministries, and for any frustrations students feel as they returned to live in their native North American culture.

Make this follow up commitment in six months and you will see a much greater life change for Christ in any students who participated on a mission trip.

For more information on Merge Ministries, click here!

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2 comments “What then? – Part 2”

Thanks Dale, this is good stuff. 

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Very interesting and will be helpful as we plan our youth group mission trip! Thanks for sharing

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