Kids on Mission Trips

Should children (gradeschool and below) be taken on serious, even dangerous, mission trips?  Are children capable of sustained ministry over a period of 7 to 10 days?  Do they help the overall ministry efforts or impeded them?  Are parents distracted in ministry if they need to care for their children as well?

More and more churches are allowing, better yet sending, children out on mission trips.  30 years ago, the youth group mission trip became a mainstay in youth ministry competing for summer dates right along with youth camp.  Will kids on mission find its way to the ranks of VBS?

There are several issues here to consider such as the general safety and stamina of children on mission.  The Christian maturity level of gradeschool age children is another hot topic.  Team leaders must evaluate what the ministry objective is (i.e., what are you going to do) and determine if children could be helpful to that overall mission.  Leaders will additionally have to deal with homesickness and parental oversight. (Interestingly enough, I have heard these exact same issues applied to middle and high school students on mission trips.)

Each of these issues must be considered before taking children on mission.  But I think you must go back to the story of the boy with the loaves and fish (John 6).  He offered what he had and Jesus multiplied it to feed thousands.  A child’s heart is so very tender.  If they seek to serve God kingdom at a young age, how can we restrain that desire.  Admittedly different accommodation will have to be made to bring young ones on the trip, but is the blessing not so much more.

How amazed and energized would your mission team be if an 8 year old led someone to Christ?  What if a 6 year old worked alongside her father for a week building a house for the poor, would that not form a memorable bond?  Children give freely of what they have and I know Jesus multiplies their gift every time.

My boys are still preschool age, but as they get older we will look for more and more opportunities to TEACH them about missions and TAKE them on missions.

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About shanegarrison
I am a married, 30-something living in central KY. I serve as an assistant professor of Educational Ministies at Campbellsville University.

3 Responses to Kids on Mission Trips

  1. 5kidswdisabilities says:

    I would be all for sending older kids on mission trips. Better yet, have the child accompany the parent on a mission trip. (We’ve done several trips to Guatemala in this fashion.) However, like you pointed out about your preschool children, it is important to instill a feeling of compassion and an eagerness to help others from an early age. My children regularly volunteer at organizations around the state where assistance is needed. Little “mission trips near home”. They do things like visit nursing homes regularly and make sandwiches to dispense to the homeless before the shelters are open. When my 2 older kids became young adults, both sought out opportunities to volunteer on their own, 1 with Habitat for Humanity and another assisted with the opening of a soup kitchen in Guatemala.
    Lindsey Petersen
    http://5kidswdisabilities.wordpress.com

  2. Jonathan Clark says:

    Hey Shane,

    I have a 2.5 year old and he went on his first mission trip this past November to Mission Arlington with my wife and me and about 70 college students with the BCM at Louisiana Tech. Just this past week, he and my wife joined about 22 students on a mission trip to Mobile, Alabama to work Habitat for Humanity.

    I love it that we get to do missions as a family and that he is being exposed to service projects. I have found that he is also good to have around when it comes to connecting with other folks. For example: we went to the International Ministry Center in Mobile to play basketball with the Filipinos and there was a kid his age there. Those two simply playing opened up a door for me and the boy’s dad as well as my wife and the boy’s mom.

    Now, I am going to Mexico in the summer to do some various village ministry. They are NOT going with me there. That might be a bit too much.

    For my context as a college minister, I have found it good to bring my family along.

    JClark

  3. AnneC says:

    Our church has a family mission trip each summer. We work with a missionary in Guatemala that welcomes families to partner with him in his ministry. The difference about our family trip from other mission trips is that it is designed as a trip for kids with their parents (rather than a trip for adults that kids can go on.) It is a great application of Deuteronomy 6 . . . impress these things on your children . . . Kids serve along side their parents and participate fully in devotions, building relationships, leading services, and sharing the Gospel. It is incredible to see them playing with kids they’ve never met and speaking different languages.

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