Some of my favorite memories come from the mission
trips I went on as a teen. Every summer, my youth group would
go out-of-state and meet up with complete strangers to show them
God's love. Looking back, I remember going to some so-called
"low-end" neighborhoods and meeting people who had next to nothing.
The people of these neighborhoods would come out, spend time with
us, and show us hospitality. On the flip side, when we went to
neighborhoods that looked better off, we found it was harder to get
the people living there to come join us.
In college, I was blessed with the opportunity to go on an
international mission trip to Romania. We stayed in a beautiful
downtown area, but during the day, we would travel to the gypsy
villages to play with the families who live there. I remember
blowing up balloons for the kids on the last day we were there. I
would blow one up, hand it off, and tell them how much Jesus loved
them. I was light-headed blowing up balloon after balloon,
but I didn't want to stop. I knew I might not ever see these kids
again, and I wanted to leave them with a reminder of God. I still
have pictures of those kids; I keep them at my desk to remind me of
what we are working for.
Most recently, I returned to my home state of Alabama to help
out at a Group Workcamp. This time, I was on the other
side as an "adult leader," making sure the team of teens had
everything they needed to go out and accomplish their mission. It
made me look back with a greater appreciation on all the adult
chaperones who took me on trips.
I believe mission trips are a great way to get kids growing
spiritually. Research shows that kids who have a strong sense of
mission outperform those who don't. I know I wish I had had more
missions opportunities when I was a kid. Now that I work with kids,
I try to provide them with as much missions experience as I can,
and I try to encourage them to develop servants' hearts as they
show God's love to others.
If you are looking for some ways to start forming mission-minded
kids, here are some quick tips to get you started!
1. Go international.Your kids may not be able to take a trip
across the world, but they can still make a difference to kids in
need. Find a service project, like Group's Operation Kid-to-Kid, to get your kids
excited about missions. Then, take your kids on a "trip" to that
country by sharing food and music unique to that area. They
will begin to realize that no matter how different our cultures
are, God loves everyone the same.
2.Think small.Teach your kids that no service project is too
small by having your group perform simple acts of kindness. Have
younger kids make cards for seniors in assisted living. Have older
kids put on a free carwash; no donations needed. Simple, one-day
service projects are a great way to make a difference in your
3.Make it personal. Ask kids how they think they can make a
difference. Find out what your kids have a heart for, and help them
come up with projects they can do that follow their interests.
Let them take ownership of their missions.
4.Go the extra mile.Whenever you ask kids to collect items like
school supplies for needy children- have them come with you when
you deliver the items. Let kids see the local mission center, and
if possible, let them volunteer to stock shelves or do some basic
5.Meet missionaries.If you know someone who has served or is
serving in the mission field, introduce them to your kids. If they
can stop by, great- if not, ask them to write letters to your
group. Kids will be encouraged by hearing from people who give of
their time to serve others. Plus, they'll have a name and face they
can pray for, making them part of the missions team.
What have you done to help your kids learn the importance of
missions? We want to hear your stories! Leave us a note below about
what your ministry has done.