For a lot of believers, the call to mission doesn’t involve a lifetime commitment to moving overseas. It doesn’t mean packing up one’s family and possessions. And it doesn’t mean quitting a job or ministry at home.
For them, it means mission trips. Many Christians fulfill their commitment to the Great Commission through short-term experiences. While it might not include extensive language or cultural training, if God has called you to short-term missions, you still need to know what to expect. You need an answer to the question, “What is a mission trip?”
Even though short-term mission trips are different from career opportunities, it’s still important to do some homework ahead of time. That’s the best way to find answers to “What is a mission trip?” As you prepare, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
But even if medical missions aren’t your sweet spot, you can still dig into opportunities like construction, sports ministry, disaster relief, marketplace missions, or education. And, of course, you can see what’s available for more traditional trips that focus on activities like evangelism and church planting.
You also can talk to friends and mentors, asking them how they see God at work in your life. Once you have done some research and finished some self-evaluation, you’ll be ready to take the next step in finding your answer to “What is a mission trip?”
One of the best ways to figure out what a mission trip is—or, at least, what it could be for you—is to understand what missionaries do. Aside from the distinctions we see in location, duration, and methodology, Christian missionaries share some common characteristics. As a result, mission trips also have some basic things in common.
We’ve listed five distinguishing characteristics of a mission trip. This list isn’t exhaustive. God may show you other things to consider as you prepare for His work in your life. But these will provide some great filters to help you move forward and discover an answer to “What is a mission trip?”
1. A mission trip fulfills the Great Commission. Regardless of what else you get from this article, you need to understand that a mission trip is only a mission trip if it fulfills the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Jesus gave His disciples a command to share the gospel around the world, and missionaries play a major role in making that happen. So, if you’re wondering, “What is a mission trip,” start with the gospel.
2. A mission trip requires you to depend on God. All Christians are called to lean into God for every experience in their lives. Mission trips challenge you to trust God in ways that can only happen outside your comfort zone. Both as you prepare and as you do the work on the field, you will need to hear from Him and follow His direction. You will certainly face unfamiliar circumstances. But it’s all part of His design for teaching you to depend on Him more fully.
3. A mission trip allows you to partner with other believers on the field. The best mission trips give you the chance to work side by side with career missionaries or local Christians in their context. You get to see what they do every day, and you get a better understanding of their joys and struggles. Again, that’s something that really can’t happen unless you’re there to see it with your own eyes.
4. A mission trip gives you a chance to experience a new culture. Admittedly, this may be one of the more exciting aspects of a short-term mission trip. Getting a chance to leave home—even for a few days—and see things you’ve never seen can be incredible. But most believers who seek an answer to “What is a mission trip?” walk away understanding that experiencing new cultures involves more than eating different foods and seeing famous landmarks. Being exposed to another part of God’s creation—and how faith is practiced away from home—can help you become less arrogant and egocentric. You make a connection with another realm of God’s kingdom, and that’s important.
5. A mission trip teaches you to see the world differently. When we talk about the “church,” we’re often speaking of the brick-and-mortar building where we meet with other believers regularly. But when God sees the church, He’s thinking of something much larger. He’s looking at the “big picture,” the universal church spread out across both geography and time. Knowing what a mission trip is and participating in such an adventure develops that “big picture” mentality in your life. What’s more, you recognize that while you hope that God has used you to make a difference in the lives of others, they have made a difference in your life at the same time.
Since you’re reading this blog, it’s reasonable to believe that you have an interest in finding out how God wants you to respond to the question, “What is a mission trip?” You believe He is working in your heart and life, and you want to follow Him in whatever direction He leads.
That’s great! Again, keep praying about it and keep seeking His plan. Mission trips are not always easy. They require a lot of commitment and a lot of flexibility. But they can also transform your life in powerful ways. Take the chance as God leads you. Let Him teach you what a mission is all about by participating firsthand.