Do you have students who seem apathetic, unchallenged or bored no matter what you plan? Do you have other students ready to change the world but aren’t exactly sure how?
If so, have they been out of the country on a mission trip?
One of the values my wife Michelle and I embraced for our children’s spiritual growth involved helping them to get out of the country. We wanted our children to have a global, Great Commission focus of Matthew 28:19-20 where Jesus says to "make disciples of all nations."
Because of this, our daughter Hannah has seen God at work on four continents. Her trip to Thailand occurred immediately after her dear friend and his mom died in a car wreck. In Thailand, she met Alisa. The next day, Alisa's boyfriend beat her and she moved in with Hannah. Hannah says, "I will never forget how God moved in Alisa's life," after watching this young believer's hunger for the Lord despite the beating she received. Josh has been in many countries on three continents. God used these mission trips to give him a great love for U.S. cities like Manhattan and Chicago – international mission fields themselves. My son now desires to live in a major urban center, reaching out to foreign students.
I recently went to Kiev, Ukraine with a mission team. It was Caleb and Matthew’s first trip overseas and they can’t wait to go back. Their parents have seen how their time in the former USSR has pushed them forward in their walk. They will never forget sharing Christ there or singing with believers the same song in English and Russian, knowing God heard our worship with each tongue.
If at all possible, do not let the teens in your church finish high school without getting out of the country on a mission trip.
You might wonder if overseas missions are worth the money, time or risk. If so, consider:
• Many students have learned the routine of life better than how to take risks for Christ. I meet too many students who don't own their faith because so little of their lives requires faith. Helping students focus on the whole process of mission trips — from the fundraising to the preparation to the actual travel — can give them tangible goals that challenge their faith.
• The very process of preparing for the trip strengthens the resolve of students for Jesus. Students see the contradiction when we say the Gospel matters above all yet we never expect them to sacrifice for it.
• The Internet and mass media have made students more aware of global issues than previous generations. Taking them places to see God at work shows them God is bigger than their world.
When I meet a student who loves Jesus but wants to be stretched, I tell them to get out of the country. The Millennial generation wants a challenge, a cause worth living for. Few things compare to taking the Gospel to the nations. So the next time that hyper teenage boy gets on your last nerve or that high school girl turns into a drama queen, help them to GET OUT — of the country. It might be the best thing you could do.
Dr. Alvin L. Reid is Professor of Evangelism & Student Ministry/Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Young Professionals Director at Richland Creek Community Church. He blogs at alvinreid.com.