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My preteen just got back from a mission trip with our church. She had the opportunity to lead songs at a VBS in low income apartments, sing in a homeless shelter and nursing homes, and share her story about how she became a follower of Jesus for the first time to a small group of children. I’m so glad she had this opportunity. I grew up in a small church that made youth mission trips a high priority. I too, remember the impact a week of serving others can make in a young life.

Short-term mission trips allow teens to:

1. Follow Jesus’ example– Jesus never intended for believers to merely meet together in a holy huddle in a church building on Sundays and (maybe Wednesdays if you are super holy). By example, he found others where they lived. Zaccheus is a great example of this.

2. Focus on others–how countercultural! Putting others’ needs and desires above ours? Yes! And teens love serving others. They would rather “do” missions than hear about missions.

3. Foster a heart of compassion– When parents shelter teens in nice homes and self-serving lifestyles, they forget about others in need. But when teens see great needs with their own eyes, like Jesus, they want to meet needs. And what joy to meet physical and spiritual needs of others! Compassion that leads to action pleases God.

4. Find out they can make a difference. God doesn’t put an age requirement on Him using us as his instruments. The Bible speaks of young Timothy making a difference. They can learn that making a difference doesn’t’ have to be “huge” (preaching or going to Africa for a lifetime), but can simply be speaking love to a homeless person or a neglected elderly person in a nursing home.

5. Forget about what they “need” and remember how much they already have. Many times teens battle contentment with “stuff,” needing the latest and greatest. When they see others struggling just to find food, they may be more satisfied with eternal concerns than fleeting worldly wants. Hopefully.

6. Face new fears to grow their faith. New experiences challenge teens to get out of their “comfort zone.” It forces them to rely on Jesus.

7. Funnel future decisions on a broadened worldview. One week of serving can transfer into a lifetime of serving others, sometimes even in full-time missionary service. More importantly, teens impacted by serving are challenged daily to follow Jesus and focus on fulfilling the Great Commission.

And imagine what a difference for the Kingdom this creates. It doesn’t get much better than that!