Post by Derry Prenkert
Many of us do missions trips. In our ministry we do them, but we have label them discipleship-based trips. The end goal is greater than just the week, but instead walking students through a process to understand the value of serving Jesus and sharing His love every day. There are two types we do with our High School students.
GO Trips: We consider this an “entry level” missions experience. The name has dual meaning… GO as in the key word to the Great Commission, and also an acronym for “Gospel Outreach”. The trip is centered on Evangelism Training and application. It has normally run stateside (but also in Canada). Experience is marked with evangelism training (Conversation style), service projects, and getting on the streets to strike up spiritual conversations with people, and always include a strategy to come home and initiate spiritual conversation with 2-4 non-Christian friends or family members. Students are required to attend a GO Trip before being a part of an IMPACT team.
IMPACT trips: Again, dual meaning. IMPACT as in what we are seeking to do in the World for the sake of Christ. Also it’s an acronym for Individuals Making People Aware of Christ’s Teaching. The trip is always to another country (primarily, we’ve stuck to the Central and South America, but have taken trips across the ocean). The focus is on coming alongside local churches and ministries in order to partner in whatever way possible.
In both situations, here are the key elements we see necessary:
- Application Process: Students need to go through a process where they understand the commitment they are making. We do not turn down any student willing to make the commitment to a GO Trip. For IMPACT, however, students are required to go through an interview process where their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual readiness is taken into account. The application process for a GO trip is set up to have a student consider the commitment and maybe say “no” for themselves. However, with IMPACT, there are times we say “no” to the student.
- Pre-trip training: This is where the discipleship really comes in. We do not see these as simply trips, but as opportunities for discipleship. GO trips include 3 months pre-trip training with an Overnighter, and IMPACT trips have 6 months training with a 3 day retreat. Training includes pre-trip readings, scripture memory, testimony preparation, ministry assignments, and heavy accountability (much heavier for IMPACT than GO).
- Leadership: This is most often the difference between a good and great experience. The right adults need to be there. They need to be individuals with a high level of trust in the primary leader. They also need to be at a spot where they understand that they are primarily there to invest in the students, yet they must also be able to dive into the trip for their own experience and growth.
- Debrief: I call it the there/here principle. We head “there” to serve and advance God’s Kingdom, but we feel like we fail if students are not able to bring some element of “there” back “here”, meaning that this experience brings a transformative element to their everyday life. Ample time is spent nightly on the trips to allow students to process through what God is doing in them and through them. At the close of the trip, we block out a length of time for students to summarize their experience as well as walk through next steps.
- Partnerships: Those we partner with need to be aware of what our purpose and goals are, and we theirs. If we aren’t on the same page, someone is going to be disappointed. When someone is disappointed in these situations, usually both sides end up disappointed. We haven’t batted a thousand on this one. God has always done great things on these trips, but poor partnerships have caused for major frustration and confusion, as well put a ceiling on the opportunity for major breakthrough and growth.
- Support: These experiences are expensive (GO trips average $600, IMPACT $1300). These trips are incredibly intense physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As a part of the “Missions Experience”, students raise financial and prayer support to make the trip happen. The financial support is an awesome faith lesson, as well as an opportunity for the ownership of the experience to be broadened.
I would say that these trips pay ENORMOUS Spiritual Dividends. Here’s just a few.
- Discipleship: It is incredibly hard to accomplish strategic discipleship in students. Many who are available aren’t ready, and some who are ready have trouble being available. The commitment to go on the trip allows for accountability for students to be committed to those elements connected to the trip. There are elements in the training that may have very little to do with the upcoming trip, but much to do in the spiritual maturing of a student.
- Blown Up Boxes: It happens nearly every time. Our students in the cornfield are exposed to poverty, a worldview, or a move of God in a way they will not experience at home. They come to grips with how holy and huge the Almighty God we serve is.
- Long-term Change: As I look through the lists of those who have been on a GO trip, I’m encouraged to see where the majority of those students are at in life. As I look through the IMPACT students from years past, the amount of spiritual crash and burns are very small. Not only that, as I look at those students who are aggressively serving the Lord in the marketplace and the church, the shining examples are IMPACT alumni.
- Ministry Fire: I can’t tell you how many times we have seen our ministry set ablaze over what God has done through our IMPACT and GO trips. I will often make it a point to get together with leadership from both trips in order to see what “megathemes” are present as we head into our Summer Camp.