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.