Helping Short-Term Missions Have a Long Term Impact, Part 1


Shawn Kiger

shawn-shade-teaching-1000One of my favorite things in youth ministry is short-term mission trips. I love planning them, getting students excited about going, and leading them. I really like going somewhere new each year to experience new things and see God at work in new places. I love the Christian community we create within our group while we are on the trip: serving together, cooking and eating together, playing together, and basically doing life together has a huge impact on us as a group.

But I don’t want the impact on the students to just last that week or weekend. I want it to help change who they are and how they view the world. If I can do that, we’re not only making a difference in a community for that week, but my students have the ability to make a difference for the rest of their lives.

I haven’t perfected how to do this, and I’m still learning and changing my approach. But I thought I would share a few things I do during short-term mission trips in the hope we can all get better at this together.

I begin the process by being very intentional about where we choose to go, and what we choose to do. Whether I choose to join a mission organization that plans everything for me, or to plan my own trip (which is what I’m doing this summer), I think it’s important to think about both the long term impact on the students as well as the impact on the community where we’ll be working. I want to choose a place that has a great impact in the community, but also provides ways for our students to learn the reason we do missions, through worship and other educational opportunities.

Once I choose a location for our trip, I begin the process with the youth themselves. I try to not just advertise the trip, but talk with them about why we’re going. I educate them about where we’re going (even to those who are not going to be able to go) and the people we are going to be working with. I lead Bible studies on loving others and how to do that in their everyday lives. To help the trip have the biggest impact on students, I have to begin preparing students’ hearts and minds long before we load up all the sleeping bags in the church vans.

On Thursday, we’ll post part 2 of this article: Making the Most of the Trip Itself.