Sending Your Teen on a Mission Trip
By Sylvia Cochran – Christian Parenting
Call it a mission team, the one-suitcase-challenge or a missionary journey; plenty of Christian teens consider whether to spend some time on the mission field. Volunteering in poverty-stricken areas of the world, helping to strengthen weakened church families and assisting with the founding of new congregations, these are viable opportunities. They let still-idealistic Christian teenagers stretch personal faith and see life outside the protected bubble that is the home and familiarity of the church family. What holds back a good many teens from actually heading on a mission trip is a set of parents worrying about financial risks, problems, persecution and danger.
Should you let your teen go on a mission trip?
Being a Christian parent has its perks; a teen under the age of 18 still owes you obedience. If you put down your foot and refuse to grant permission to join a weeklong, month-long or even yearlong trip to another city, state or country, your Christian teen must obey. If the youngster is over 18 but still lives in your home, you hold the purse strings. While you may not overtly deny permission, your unwillingness to fund the mission trip makes the decision. Yet before you categorically choose to withhold permission, consider the following:
- Is the mission trip an established church procedure? Church families frequently develop contacts in areas that need teens ready to serve in a variety of capacities. If your church has an established mission field, research the safety of the mission.
- Has your child expressed interest in going? Keep the dialog open and allow your child to persuade you with rational arguments.
- What does the Department of State say? The American government highlights dangerous areas American travelers should avoid. Discuss with the minister the wisdom of sending youngsters into the area.
What the Bible says: Job 32:17-22 recalls the words of Elihu, who speaks up and defends his youthful right to be heard just as his elders had their say. If your Christian teen were indeed called to the mission field, you could be wrong to deny this opportunity.
You want to send your child on a mission trip; what should you do?
- Encourage your Christian teen to talk to other teens who have already gone on one or more mission trips. Let the youngster get firsthand accounts of what happened, what did not happen and how to prepare for the trips.
- Ensure the teen has daily quiet times. Staying close to God can be tough in the best of times; make sure the youngster develops this habit when you and a youth pastor closely monitor spiritual growth and development. Once on the mission field, the Christian teen must have this conviction in place; the odds are good that nobody will ask about missed quiet times.
- Assist with logistics. Does your teen have a valid passport, is current on all needed shots and has emergency access to cash? Whom does the youngster report to when arriving? What is the itinerary? What should mission field travelers bring? Conversely, what is best left at home?
- Study up on the locale. The teen must understand the culture of the area to where the mission trip is headed. Failure to know in detail what is permissible and what would constitute a faux pas is crucial when ministering to others. Even if it is just a trip to another state, consider carefully that a California surfer attitude may not go very far in rural Wyoming; in fact, if might just rub folks the wrong way.
- Keep the conversations going. If your teen suddenly wants to withdraw from the mission trip, make sure it is done for the right reasons. Conversely, if the teen is chomping at the bit to go, make sure that this, too, is done for the right reasons.
What the Bible says: Ezra 10:4 counsels that one rising up to a challenge needs to have support from those at home.
In the final analysis, it is up to you whether you want to support your Christian teen’s desire to go on a mission trip or stifle it. No, there is no guarantee that your child will not get hurt – physically or emotionally – and some mission field experiences may turn into trials and tests of faith. Then again, the opposite is just as true and the mission trip may be the best thing to ever happen to your “typical American teen.”
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