I believe very strongly in student missions. At the same time, I understand why some are skeptical about it. Some are skeptical if students are spiritually and emotionally able to serve in this capacity. Some see it as a too high a financial expense. Some do not see the justification of the need to travel so far when there are a mission opportunities available to us in so many cities and other communities close to our area and throughout our country. Among many other questions one classic one is wouldn’t the money be better used by giving to real missionaries?
My intention is not to answer each question point by point but to point the bigger picture of student missions. So here it goes. It’s been demonstrated, written about, discussed, etc., that the American Church is shrinking. Many local churches are as well. It’s not just that the Veterans Generation are dying nor is it due to the Boomer Generation giving up on the church. It’s that many of the X’ers (born between 1968-79) and older Millennials (born after 1980) have given up on church and the fear is the younger Millennials will as well.
There are a lot of reasons. Pick one, breakdown of the home, a more individualized society, a church no longer relevant, the failure of youth ministry, a combination of many factors.
Regarding the failure of youth ministry, maybe that sounds a little dramatic but I say that being a youth pastor, I think I have a small handle on it. For too long of a time, the state of student ministry has been in a state of damage control. “Get these kids saved and make Christianity fun so they stay in the church”. The problem is that mentality will not demonstrate the power, understand the purpose, or create a passion for the Gospel.
Now back to student missions. I am not implying that this is the answer that Barna is looking for. But I do believe that experiences like these are more significant then some may realize. The success of mission trips are due to stepping outside your comfort zone in a completely different culture and system that forces an individual to confront what they actually believe and what is actually essential in life. Many issues are confronted on these types of trips. Pick one – taking Christ and His message for granted, a new appreciation for church, a deeper understanding of meaning in life and about ten thousand other things.
Cross-cultural student missions has its place in a healthy scope of ministry where we are serving our own church, our community, and our world. Year round, we as youth workers should create an attitude of service that says as Christ taught us, we need to care and show love to the Father and those outside of our inner circle.
So much more to say, maybe I’ll update this post in time but I feel very strongly about this.
Grace and peace to you.