The Top Five Things Parents Need to Know
Before Sending Their Children
to the Mission Field

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  1. Why should my child go?
  2. When should my child go?
  3. How do we choose the best trip?
  4. How should my child get ready?
  5. How can I help?

1. Why should my child go?

Discipleship has a price tag. Making Jesus Lord is a process which involves the sacrifice of time, and of desires or rights. Giving up rights, an unpopular activity in our rights-conscious society, finds its ultimate expression in the Christian who forsakes all to pursue a call to missions. Doing so involves taking a risk. As parents, we have to weigh the risks to which we expose our children.

The risks involved in a short-term mission experience are many:

  • The risk of a possible mishap while traveling

  • The risk of being rejected while sharing your faith

  • The risk of being vulnerable with your team

  • The risk of contracting an illness or having an accident

  • The risk of being unprepared to deal with culture shock

Against these risks we must weigh the risk of not engaging in a short-term mission experience:

  • Students will grow up with a narrow, self-centered worldview.

  • No one will share Christ with the lost.

  • Students will inherit a lukewarm Christianity.

  • Materialism will never be challenged.

  • Students will live their lives as takers, not givers.

By the time your students reach their junior year of high school, you’ve made your mark as parents. A short-term mission trip can be a life-changing experience. Encouraging them to go may be your last, best shot at helping them to understand and identify with the Great Commission.

2. When should my child go?

Is junior high too young an age for your children to go to the mission field? Some of the best projects involve junior high participants. A group from Christ Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska, is a good example. During the nightly meetings, they’d pray fervently, one after another. During the day, they worked hard building homes for the poorest of the poor in the slums around Reynosa, Mexico. By the end of the week, the group of 50 built four homes in the hot summer sun. They led around 250 people to Jesus. Many led vacation Bible school, and all of them shared the Gospel door-to-door and prayed with the sick and needy.

We're talking about middle schoolers—kids fresh out of elementary—naïve about many things, awkward, and vulnerable. Kids hungry for ministry. If we're to build up the generation of radical disciples that this world needs, then we need to start with kids in junior high. 

When should students not go on a mission trip? A mission organization is wise to screen out students who are:

It is impossible to be a servant when selfishness is present. As Christ's ambassadors, we are called to be selfless. Granted, dying to self is a life-long process. But the best thing a parent can do if a son or daughter has questionable motives is to find another way to serve.

Even with the right attitude, your child may still have a hard time making support raising a priority. Or your student loves the adventure of going overseas, but lacks the courage to share Jesus with a lab partner.

Picture a student on his first mission trip to Central America. As a young Christian, his main interest is centered on the construction project. When the group fails to finish the roof on the church because of rain, he views the project as a failure. His awareness of mission issues could have been sharpened on a smaller scale first. By helping with a few local projects before asking supporters to invest in his trip to Central America, he might have grown at a steady pace. 

Your student may need to drop some other commitments to make the mission experience worthwhile. Students should take a hard look at their schedules before signing up, and then make the sacrifices necessary. 

Sending your child home
There are some unfortunate and unplanned circumstances whereby your student may need to return home.

  • Behavior – The behavioral policies are clearly explained in AIM’s training materials. Failure to follow these policies may lead to a student being asked to leave the program. We use a progressive discipline approach, and most often we are able to negotiate understanding and compliance. In extreme cases, a student may be sent home for flagrant abuse of the policies.

  • Health – Concerns including physical, emotional, and spiritual health may lead to a student being sent home. But first, we bring in an appropriate professional to help diagnose the extent of the problem and to develop an intermediate treatment plan. The priority is to keep the student safe until more permanent care is available at home.

  • Home Issues – Sometimes circumstances require a student to return home. Family relationship or health emergencies may be best dealt with in person.

We’ll do everything we can to facilitate the flight logistics and needed care for your child.  Any expense related to medical care, changed flight plans, or other logistical arrangements are the responsibility of the student.  We’re usually able to front the expenses, but we’ll expect to be reimbursed.

3. How do we choose the best trip?

Given the recent surge of interest and involvement in short-term missions, you'd think that it was a new phenomenon. Actually, it is a tradition as old as Christendom. In the sixth chapter of Mark, Jesus sent not a select few, but all of His disciples out as missionaries for a short period. The disciples tasted what life would be like once they eventually became fulltime missionaries. This experience became foundational to their growth as they traveled from village to village with only God's power to guide them.

Wouldn't it be great if the process was still so simple? Advances in transportation and other technologies have brought the world to our doorstep. Not all short-term mission experiences are alike; the choices can be bewildering. The first decision is whether to go with a church youth group or as an individual on an Ambassador, Real Life, or First Year Missionary team. If your student applies as an individual, by far the most important factor is the experience and maturity of the trip leader. Check that out before signing up. Beyond that, projects will differ in location, cost, duration, type of ministry, skills required, and date of departure.  Finding the perfect short-term mission opportunity takes work, but a little effort up front can pay off in an experience which God uses to change lives forever.

What precautions can the beginner take to help ensure the best experience possible? 

The following three-step process offers those considering short-term missions the best plan for making a good match.

Questions for your child to consider:

  • Why do you want to go on a short-term mission?

  • What is your experience with missions?

  • What are your skills?

  • What is your level of spiritual maturity?

  • How much are you willing to put into preparation?

Research the Opportunities
Although thousands of opportunities exist, a youth mission trip is the best way for participants to get their feet wet. It is best to seek accountability with a youth pastor when possible. Youth groups often begin with week-long projects in the inner city or in a Mexican shantytown along the border. If your child already has a heart for missions, you may want to contact a missionary to get specific suggestions. Or perhaps another youth group in town is planning a more advanced mission. Assemble a list of options. Then you are ready for the final step.

Make the Match
Look at the self-assessment and compare it to the opportunities, including a cost comparison. If you notice that an organization’s costs are significantly higher than others, it may be passing along a large percentage of its overhead costs. Fundraising can be hard work, so decide if any of the prices seem out of line.

Throughout this process, there is no substitute for prayer. It's possible to gather so much information that you become paralyzed by it, or you don't give the Spirit room to guide you. To have a successful mission, the Holy Spirit must guide all decisions.

4. How should my child get ready?

Although all youth groups are given the same preparation materials, the time invested varies markedly.

Inadequate preparation causes a youth group to drift. Students have inconsistent attitudes and mixed motivations. They function as individuals rather than as a team. When it’s time to minister, they hang back—unsure of themselves, their faith, and their skills.

In striking contrast are students whose leaders invested themselves in preparation for the mission field. They lead people to the Lord. Between ministry times, they pray with intensity. An hour and a half of team sharing time is "too short." While praying as a group, a girl who has been holding out on God breaks down in tears, asking the Lord to take her back.

Same students, different results. It is the investment made in a deliberate and thorough preparation process that produces desired results. These students will never be the same. They'll impact their world for Jesus.

Good mission preparation begins with recruiting a strong prayer base. It involves learning about the poor overseas and then seeking out the poor in your own community. Good preparation marks the cost in advance and produces faith as a result.

A good sending organization will ask participants to commit to daily quiet times of at least 30 minutes. Students should look for opportunities to minister at least once a month in their communities, putting evangelism and service principles into action.

5. How can I help?

  • You can encourage – The leaders work very hard to be available and to lead with excellence. Encouraging the staff can be one of the most productive ways for you to contribute to the well being of your student.
  • You can give – Frequently, you may hear about needs on the field related to your student’s ministry. When coordinated with the base director and home office, gifts to meet these needs are ordinarily welcomed.
  • You can go – We have an open door. You are welcome to schedule a visit and see for yourself the ministry with which your child is involved.
  • You can pray – Prayer is a constant and a given. Stay in touch through the trip updates and with your student to know how to pray.

The Best Things a Parent Can Do
Seth Barnes, Executive Director
Adventures In Missions

I remember when I was a shy high school junior in 1975. My mother, bless her, knew that I needed to get out of my self-absorbed cocoon. Perhaps she had an inkling about my future career in missions. She suggested that I go to Guatemala to work with some missionaries that summer. I wanted to lie around and watch TV. She won. The experience turned out to be the highlight of my life to that point. But it took a mother’s foresight and push to get me going. It wouldn’t have happened if she was overprotective. And I’m sure it was her prayers that got me through it.

Your child is going to have his or her own particular struggles. An over-eager child may need your help to better understand the commitment that will be required. Or perhaps raising $3500 to go on a mission to Africa would not be as productive as raising $300 to minister in a nearby inner-city location. 

The best things my mother ever did for me was to love and pray for me. The next best thing was to encourage me to go on a summer mission project. It changed my life. It has the potential to turn your sullen, uncommunicative teenager into someone who washes the dishes from time to time, smiles at you in the morning, and may one day change the world.

Information: Call AIM toll-free at 1-800-881-2461 (In GA call 770-983-1060)
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