For the past several months I’ve been writing posts about the struggles youth leaders are facing getting students to commit to the mission trip. So far the focus has been on things like the business of students and the failure of parents to understand. We received another take on this issue last week.
The quote below is from a student to their youth leader about their friend who signed up for the mission trip:
“I was talking to my friend about the mission trip this summer, and as he was talking about it with his parents, they brought up the point of how he would miss some baseball practices and a tournament. If I was him, I would skip the baseball stuff and go to work camp in a heartbeat! But, he’s not as committed to this as I am, and this is also a baseball team that him and his parents pay some amount of money for. I was really hoping he could come and experience what I have had the chance to go through twice, because its more than words to try and explain how connected it makes me to God. I really hope someday he will get the chance to feel as close to God as I do. I’m really sorry that you had to go through all that trouble and he won’t be able to go. I really appreciate what you did for me and for him! I’m really looking forward to another great summer on our mission trip!”
For this student, the frustration is very real. He wants his friend to attend the mission trip because he knows how much of an impact it can have on his friends life. Going on a mission trip brought the student closer to God than he ever was before. This student wants his friend to have the same opportunity to experience that closeness – just like he did. But baseball wins out. The money his friend and his friend’s parents have “invested” in the baseball is something they just can’t give up.
Here’s the thing… We know that nothing impacts a students like a mission trip. The mission trip experience changes teenagers in so many ways. Realizing there is need outside of themselves. The opportunity to serve someone else. Leadership experience in the context of service and devotion. Real life skills like construction and leading VBS. Transformational spiritual growth. And those were just the ones I could think of quickly!
The only way I know to overcome this issue is to engage parents in conversation and tell them how their child will benefit directly from the experience. We’re fearful of approaching mission trips from a “what we get out of it” perspective but that’s the perspective of any parent. What will my kid “get” from this experience? My advice – tell them. Tell the what amazing experiences their child will have. Don’t be afraid to “sell” the mission trip experience to parents.