(My friend Danny who is in church youth ministry (Baton Rouge, La) now and has served with Young Life for most of his life has a worthwhile rebuttal. My response to this can of worms follows his post. The plot thickens. What do you think now?
My perspective is from nearly 2 decades of para-church ministry (YL – both as full-time staff and as college volunteer). Our “mission” was to bring Christ into the world of lost and dis-interested teenagers. But it was in this “mission” mode where I learned to love Christ more deeply and walk with Him more intimately. It was while I was in this “mission” mode that all my years of Bible study, accountability, and church actually began to make sense. So yes!! I believe that God is equally as interested in working in us (discipleship) as He is in working through us (mission)…particularly while in “mission” mode. The problem is that I was never shown how to love and walk with Christ prior to being in mission mode and as a result I had to figure it out on my own. I believe this point is vital as we continue to discuss this issue.
So by raising the following questions, I am not making the case that mission trips should be abandoned.
My concerns for us as the Church are: Do we have the wrong view of discipleship while at home? Is it only a meeting where we spout off all the knowledge we have of Scripture (I am not discounting Scriptural knowledge as vital here!) or is it much more…like the full process of our lives being intermingled with our youth (“doing our lives together”)?
As a result of having the wrong view of discipleship, could it be possible that our kids are not understanding fully what is to know and walk with Christ at home…and even more to engage in a life of “mission”? As a result of this, are we taking a lazy shortcut and using a mission trip to try and cover the absence of true discipleship?
That was a needed can of worms.
Yes. Mission trips can be a “cop out” or the easy button in terms of discipleship. They are easier when compared to the long haul of transfortive discipleship.
Counter Point: the spiritual journey is spurred on by catalytic events. Young Life uses their incredible camps and approachable, Christ centered philosophy, schools use field trips (: , and churches use retreats and missions trips. All of these models invite students to step away from the mundane and to look back and forward at their lives through the lens of Christ.
The word “missions” trip is a little misleading and I love the difference you make in “THE MISSION” and a MISSIONS event or trip.
Final Thought: Danny, you ended your post by talking about walking with Christ at home and I found that helpful. What makes a “mission trip” life changing is our ability to help students plug that experience into their everyday walk with Jesus. If we aren’t going to process and apply, then why have the experience at all?