Finding a Mission Trip That Fits
By Marti Wade
Finding a Fit for Yourself
The short-term mission movement has exploded!
What began in the 1960s and grew dramatically through the 1980s and 1990s today draws more than a million participants each year from America alone. More than a thousand mission organizations and ministries in the U.S. send people on short-term mission trips of one kind of another. Tens of thousands of churches, and more than a thousand Christian colleges, seminaries, and high schools also sponsor trips.
What short-term missions are “like” now defies description.
Teams may be sent to every corner of the earth or serve close to home. Activities may vary from construction and soccer tournaments to teaching in churches or caring for orphans. Some mission trips have a strong focus on the personal development of those who go, while others are all about serving those they meet. While many short-termers go out in groups, some of the richest opportunities place individuals, pairs, or small teams in ministries where they work alongside long-term missionaries or locals.
Find the diversity of options daunting?
Consider another way to look at it. With so many types of mission trips, it’s all the more likely that there’s one that’s just what you’re looking for. Maybe you can’t go in the summer like your friends do, but you could get away for a few weeks or months in the winter. Perhaps you’re afraid of public speaking or squeamish about the slums, but you have just what it takes to care for missionary children or fix computer systems.
Where do you fit?
Pray and ask God to lead you. Reflect on the skills and passions you have been given. Talk to those who know you well. Consider going with people you know, following in the footsteps of friends from your church or school, or working with an organization you already understand and respect. Or, if God is leading you into the unknown, trust him and step out!
We can help.
Services like ShortTermMissions.com allow you to discover options and narrow your search to those that best match your hopes and limitations. Search for opportunities by location, length, type of ministry, team size, age range, sponsoring group (and yes, cost). Read trip descriptions closely and ask for more information, especially about the values, practices, and priorities of the sending organization. Pray about and discuss what you learn with others.
Knowing yourself and what things are important to you can make a big difference.
Take the time to reflect on what you are looking for and how God is leading you. And with that in mind, don’t expect your mission trip to go exactly as designed and described; God seldom works that way, does he? You can rest in the knowledge that he is in control of the twists and turns and can provide grace and patience just as he has provided the time and resources for you to be there.
Our prayer for you is this: that as you step out in mission, God will bless you and make you a blessing to those who send you, those who receive you, and those who serve alongside you.
Finding a Fit for Your Team
Many of the people looking for mission trips are seeking a team to join – but what if you already have one?
Good news! Dozens of short-term mission agencies love to work with church and school groups, and quite a few of them post their opportunities on ShortTermMissions.com. When you do a search on the site, use the menu on the left-hand side to refine your search to trips that take groups.
Consider partnering with an agency.
You may be wondering, though, if you have a ready-made team, do you need to go through an agency? Can you just design a project on your own? Of course you can! But be sure you have the time and experience to design a recruitment, application, and selection process, figure out training and logistics, set appropriate expectations and contingency plans, and build relationships with the people who will receive you on the field. If that sounds like too much, you’ll appreciate the benefits of working with a good mission agency.
Before you make plans to work with a ministry you know nothing about, though, do some research. Talk to mission leaders at your church or school. Ask them if they already have partnerships with agencies, missionaries, or ministries that you can serve. They may also have suggestions for locations or types of ministry that fit in with the larger picture of your church or school’s global outreach.