written by Rev. Joel Van Dyke
(Used by permission to Friends Forever Missions, please use integrity
and do not reproduce this document, if you do that - that is the 11th reason
not to go on a missions trip )
Having served as a pastor of a church in the inner city that has hosted
many youth groups on their annual missions trips, Joel Van Dyke shares a few
thoughts from the receiving end.
1. DON'T DO A MISSIONS TRIP IF YOUR STUDENTS BELIEVE THAT THEY ARE
TAKING JESUS WITH THEM.
The worst experiences we have are with groups who naively think that they are
on a great mission to take Jesus to a place and to a people that He has
forgotten or abandoned. God doesn't need us to take Him anywhere; He takes us
to other places to see Him at work. Go expecting God in action
"around you" as opposed to "through you".
2. DON'T DO A MISSIONS TRIP AS A GROUP BUILDING EXPERIENCE.
If your group is not already "built", please don't come to our neighborhood.
Engage in a mission only after your group has been mobilized to do so.
Groups who come to our neighborhood to "build a group identity" are not
contributing to a mission in our community - they are distracting from it.
3. DON'T DO A MISSION TRIP TO MAKE DISINTERESTED KIDS EXCITED ABOUT
Perhaps one of the biggest problems we have seen in groups over the years is
that they take the wrong kids with them. I am not talking here about lukewarm
kids who have expressed an interest in serving God, but have not quite caught
the picture - some of those kids are fine as long as they are not the
majority. I am talking about kids who are more interested in an "adventure"
than in "serving Jesus". Groups who have brought to our neighborhood
kids who came looking for "adventure" got plenty of it in all the wrong ways.
Don't get me started telling stories here!
4. DON'T DO A MISSIONS TRIP IF ALL YOU WANT TO DO IS MANUAL LABOR AS A
If all you want your group to do is swing hammers and hang drywall, save your
traveling expenses and stay home. You can do that anywhere. What really
impacts lives during cross-cultural mission trips are relationships with the
folks they serve. Those groups willing to invest relational capital with the
people in our community and ministry, especially when it is uncomfortable to
do so, are a great blessing to us. Those who come only to work, thereby
choosing to hide their hearts behind hammers and saws, are simply seen as
contractors who make us feel guilty that we can't afford to pay them when they
5. DON'T DO A MISSIONS TRIP IF YOU WANT YOUR STUDENTS TO BE EXPOSED ONLY
DOWN-AND-OUT AFRICAN-AMERICANS, LATINOS, ANGLOS, ASIANS, ETC.
Shallow and superificial groups leave here with the same stereotypes that they
came with about those of other cultures and races. Make sure your group hears
from real people who are passionately loving Jesus and building His Kingdom
right where God has planted them. Pray and plan so that the negative
stereotypes that your kids have brought with them can be shattered and
6. DON'T DO A MISSIONS TRIP IF MISSIONS IS SEEN BY YOUR KIDS AS
SOMETHING TO DO "SOMEWHERE ELSE" OTHER THAN HOME.
"Mission" is to be a lifestyle for all Christians, not something to do once a
year on a trip. Groups convinced that mission "trips" grow out of consistent
mission "living" at home come to the field with the right spirit and the right
heart. Otherwise, your mission trip actually does more harm than good in
their discipleship process because they are subversively taught to separate
"mission" from "everyday life".
7. DON'T DO A MISSIONS TRIP IF YOU HAVEN'T DONE AT HOME WHAT YOU ARE
LEAVING HOME TO DO.
This flows as a direct result of the immediately proceeding statement. If you
are running a Bible camp in an inner-city community, practice running one in
your hometown first. Don't go to the "field to practice", but "practice at
home" before going to the field. I can't emphasize strongly enough the
arrogance of groups who have come to serve in our neighborhood with this
internalized attitude, "These are just poor inner-city kids. They'll love
anything we do. All we need to do is show up." Even if true, this doesn't
excuse us from giving those whom we are going to serve the absolute "first
fruits" of our time, talent and love.
8. DON'T DO A MISSIONS TRIP IF YOUR INTENT IS TO "PATRONIZE" THE
CULTURE, PEOPLE OR PLACE YOU ARE CALLED TO SERVE.
Feeding off the pain or misfortune of others is disgraceful to the One who
became pain and misfortune on our behalf. I have had groups who broke my
heart because they seemed to be the most excited about taking home with them
the drug bust they witnessed, the fight in the street that they came across,
or the prostitutes they saw working the corners. As your group sees the pain
of vagrant sin around them, emphasize these words, "There, but for the grace
of God go I."
9. DON'T DO A MISSIONS TRIP IF YOU DON'T HAVE A FOLLOW-UP STRATEGY.
Missions trips are not meant to be one-time, stand-alone experiences, but
life-changing events that redirect and refocus our time and our values into
Kingdom centered life-styles. The real payoff comes when you have prayerfully
and thoughtfully devised a strategy to maximize the benefit of the mission
trip once you get back home.
10. DON'T DO A MISSIONS TRIP IF YOU DON'T HAVE THE NECESSARY PRAYER
SUPPORT AND EFFORT.
Many youth leaders think that good planning and good fund-raising are all they
need for an effective mission trip. They then add in a little prayer that God
will give them success in their work. They don't realize that prayer is
the work. Understand and live the reality of that truth and you can come to
my neighborhood on a mission trip any time because the hearts of our people
will be united and covered in the spiritual world. Consider the profound
words and wisdom of 2 Chronicles 20:12, "We know not what to do but our eyes
are upon you." Realize that you truly know not what to do and therefore put
your eyes, through prayer, on the One who does.
After all, the battle doesn't belong to you but to God (2 Chronicles 20:15).