This year my youth ministry is offering two summer mission trips: A domestic trip to a nearby town (that we offer every other year) and an international trip to Haiti.

Some of our families do both trips but others choose only one. We know this. In fact, we say outright that the international trip might not be the right fit for every student in our ministry for a variety of reasons. Whenever a parent asks me whether or not I think their student should participate in our international trip, I ask them these 10 questions:

  1. Has your teen been on a mission trip before? I sometimes require this for international trips. Why? Because previous mission trip experiences enable teens to have an understanding of what to expect; they also give them a framework for the experience they’re about to have.

  2. Does your teen take their faith seriously? It’s okay for mission trip participants to be in different places in their faith. However, they have to take it seriously. They have to know that everything you do will be tied to faith. They have to be willing to grow in their faith and to share it with others.

  3. Are you and your teen willing to make the commitment necessary to prepare for this trip? International mission trips require preparation – spiritual, cultural, financial, and team-building. If you’re not willing to commit to being all-in, then an international mission trip may not be the right fit for you.

  4. Does your teenager enjoy traveling? To go on an international mission trip, a teenager need not have extensive travel experience. However, to flourish on an international mission trip, they should enjoy traveling.

  5. How well does your teen do away from home? Some teens suffer from a great deal of anxiety whenever they’re away from their parents or home for an extended period of time. Teens who thrive on an international mission trip will be able to get by with limited (if any) contact from their parents (or family).

  6. How flexible is your teen? Things WILL go wrong on an international mission trip. Schedules will change. Things will NOT go as planned. If your teen needs to have a carefully controlled schedule in order to function, an international mission trip might not be in their best interest.

  7. Is your teen a picky eater? When teens go abroad, they should expect to eat different foods than they normally do. Teens who are exceptionally picky may find this difficult (and stressful), so much so that it might be difficult for them to stay healthy during the mission experience.

  8. How does your teen handle high-stress environments? Being in a foreign culture where you don’t speak the language and are with a team of people 24/7 is STRESSFUL. To thrive on an international mission trip, teens need to be able to adapt quickly and handle stress in healthy, constructive ways.

  9. Is your teen curious about the world around them? Our God is a God of wonder. Teens who are curious about the world around them want to learn. They listen. They treat people, customs, and places respectfully even if they don’t understand them. Such teens do remarkably well on international mission trips.

  10. How positive is your teen? During the course of an international mission trip, your teen will inevitably get upset. That’s okay. It’s even good. Mission trips evoke emotions. However, teens who thrive on international mission trips don’t stay negative. They choose joy. Doing so buoys not only them, but their team.

Asking parents these questions may be difficult. However, helping families decide whether or not to participate in an international trip is important. In fact, it’s critically important – to both them and the health of your team. An honest conversation now can save everyone a lot of heartache later. By working with families to help them choose the best trip for their student, you will set both them – and your team – up for an incredible encounter with God.