The nations are in desperate need of the gospel. People of various ethnicities are looking for Jesus, but in the wrong places. The least of these are hurting, hungry, thirsty, unclothed, and homeless.
The solution? Not my teen!
As a student pastor, that’s the annual excuse I hear from parents. It breaks my heart, as you can imagine.
The following list of reasons contains more than a little sarcasm. If you hear your voice in any of it, I encourage you to simply bring it before the Lord. Slowly walk with Him through Scripture. Relearn the urgency of missions and the capabilities of our teenagers!
1. Spiritual growth is overrated
A teenager participating on a short-term mission trip will most assuredly grow closer to Jesus. They will learn dependence on God. Their heart will break for what breaks His heart. Their minds will gain perspective.
Bah. It’s all overrated. I’ll keep mine home. Entertained. And safe. Which reminds me …
2. Safety is king
Even though there’s no such thing as safety here on earth. And even though the command to stay safe is nowhere in the Bible (in fact, quite the opposite: See Matthew 10:16; 16:24-26; 28:19), it’s actually best to ignore God on this one.
I want my children to see safety as the number one goal of life. It’s what God chiefly desires for us (probably?). Doing mission stuff is for those super Christians. My family … well, we’re fine here, in this community. Thank you very much.
3. Stagnant, predictable friendships are preferred
They say the most vibrant, lasting friendships are those made in the trenches. That a common heart, a unified vision, a quest that puts you shield-to-shield with a beloved ally is what makes friendship shine brightest. They say mission trips are game-changing for teenage friendships.
Well, they’re wrong. Psh, my children are making friendships on Fortnite—even as we speak! They made this Squad-thing together, it’s really cool. They even have headsets to communicate.
4. Change is bad
Mission trips are, naturally, away from this zip code. Which means my teen will need to go to a different zip code. Or to a place that doesn’t even have zip codes!
They will be forced to adapt, learn, flex into a new way of life. This might change them. They might come back liking new foods, intrigued by new hobbies, interested in a new language.
Or perhaps more weighty changes will take place, deep down in their hearts. I like my precious teen just the way they are. I fear any kind of change!
5. Self-focus is great self-care
Mission trips designed to increase worship of Jesus where there is none require my teen to think about others, to think about Jesus. Yeah, yeah, it all sounds good. But it’s not like my teen won’t be doing anything that week here at home.
I have activities planned that will strategically build the college resume—which is top priority, after all. Plus, my kid just needs some extra special “me time” right now.
The nations can wait til after graduation. College graduation, that is. Well, maybe until marriage. Married with four kids sounds right. Yeah, a family trip.
Actually, no, that won’t work—that’ll risk my future grandkids. The nations can wait. The perfect time will present itself.
Stewarding by releasing
As Christian families, we must always steward the children God gives us wisely. We are never to cast them into reckless danger. Certain countries at certain times are simply off-limits.
But faithful stewardship of our children requires releasing them, too. Our white-hot love for them can easily blind our view of the King’s commission to go, to serve, to evangelize. We want to encourage their obedience to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …” (Matthew 28:19).
It’s not easy. I don’t even like my 4-year-old climbing on the sofa for fear of falling, let alone the idea of him ministering in an impoverished nation. But such is the beauty of releasing these soldiers of the Kingdom to their sovereign King, and His sovereign will over their lives.
With God’s help and His strength we can do this. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
Copyright © 2019 Justin Talbert. All rights reserved.