My wife and I have been part of a small group for the last 20 years. We started out as five couples but the size of the group has grown to 22 as kids have entered our lives. As a result, I’ve been asked by several of them for support as they’ve gone on mission trips.
On some level, it’s an easy task: write a check and a young person has an experience that will impact their life. However, I began to ask what role I should play beyond simply providing funds. So, when the next kid from our group asked for support for her high school trip I agreed, but only if she agreed to meet with me when she got back. She agreed, and we met for coffee when she returned.
When we met I asked her two questions: what was her favorite part of the trip and what was she surprised by? Then I sat and listened. When she was done speaking, I told her what I had heard: that she loved the Christian community that developed on her trip and she loved working with kids. I confessed that I didn’t know what that might mean for her as she discerns what God is calling her to, but I hoped she’d consider her responses in that process.
I’m a big believer in mission trips and I do think they have the potential to change a young person’s life. That being said, if an adult’s involvement ends with writing a check, it seems to me the potential power of that experience in a young person’s life might be lost. After all, if I’m a young person and I’m told that a mission trip is important, wouldn’t it be important enough for an adult to ask me about it when it’s over?