I’m so proud of the crowd gathered this morning as we sent off our student ministries mission trip to Rwanda. It was a big deal – there were 3-4 people there for every student going on the trip, and then some! It was awesome to see, and I was thankful to be a part of the moment, even if it was bittersweet since I wasn’t headed back to Africa with our students for the first time in years. Here’s why this morning was such a win:

Big sendoffs are good for everyone going on the trip: there’s nothing better than lots of hugs, tears goodbyes and cheers as the van pulls away. Getting the trip off on the right foot is such a win for the whole trip, because in a few moments the airport mayhem will begin. Drama over passports that didn’t expire but are flight ineligible are just around the corner. Friendships will be strained. The first few moments are crucial.

Big sendoffs are good for siblings: Siblings understand how big of a deal this is. They know their sister/brother before the trip and can easily identify major changes when they return. They also get the bug to go early and it creates momentum for future trips!

Big sendoffs are good for parents: Talk about emotion today! Parents were all over the place, some balling, some stalwart, some close to tears, others cheering like madmen. A trip like this is such a moment to take in, a rite of passage for both teenager and parent. A big goodbye gives parents a chance to cement their trust in their child and the trip’s leadership. Not to mention the memory to hold on to while they miss their kid for 12 days!

Big sendoffs are good for youth pastors: it was so awesome to sit back and see the parents love their teenagers. It was fun to feel the palpable energy of expectant parents, volunteers and teenagers as they began this adventure together. Nothing fills your heart like seeing what God is doing, and today I got a front row seat.

So in short, plan a big sendoff. Circle up everyone for last minute reassurance. Have the parents lay a hand of blessing on their child. Pray big. And send them off!