Youth mission trips can impact entire church, speaker says
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--When youth minister Tim Parsons takes a group of teenagers on a mission trip, he does so with one chief goal:
To spread the gospel.
However, Parsons has discovered other reasons for taking a youth group out of the country. For starters, his youth come back with a deeper commitment to their faith. Also, some in the youth group return sensing a call to fulltime ministry.
Parsons, of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., spoke at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Sept. 21 as part of "Vision Conference 2002." The conference, held annually on the Louisville, Ky., campus and hosted by the seminary-based Center for Youth Ministry, is a day-long event focusing on youth outreach.
"I believe we ought to do missions trips because it gives our students exposure to the world and to the ministry," he said. "... I believe it brings life and energy to students and workers. I believe it affects your whole church."
Parsons told how a group of some 85 students at Idlewild is already preparing for a summer 2003 trip to the country of Guyana. The trip, he said, serves as an attention-grabber for some students who would not otherwise be teachable and open to being discipled.
"It brings purpose to discipleship and learning," he said. "... It creates for me an opportunity to spend a whole year making kids accountable that would normally not want to be accountable."
Parsons has much experience with mission trips, having traveled to such places as Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Russia, Italy and South America. He said his first trip overseas changed him.
"I think I cried the whole three or four days -- when I understood about a world that needed Jesus so much [and] ... the privilege that I had of watching people come to know him," he said.
"Many other religions are committed to [overseas ministry by youth]," he said. "Many of them require their students to take a year or two years to go to other places and serve. ... We're held hostage sometimes by churches and parents who say, 'Don't encourage my kid to go overseas.' We're not always encouraged when we come back from a camp and a kid surrenders to missions.
"We can't let that happen. We've got to be concerned about places overseas."
Some things in life, he noted, can be understood and appreciated only in person. He told how he once visited Montana and was amazed by the beauty of the state. He took plenty of pictures and had many stories, but friends back home had trouble sharing his excitement.
"Words just don't seem to do it," he said.
Youth ministers, Parsons said, have a responsibility to help raise up the next generation of Christian leaders.
"I believe we've got to be committed, as youth leaders, to raising up worldview Christians. ... I find that students are much more apt to be called to ministry and do what it is you're doing as a result of the exposure to that trip."
The trip to Guyana, he said, will give him much-needed time alone with his youth.
"It gives me an opportunity to experience ministry with my kids," he said. "We've got kids on our team that have never led anyone to Christ. It's going to be exciting to be there."
The trip will also serve as a time for the youth group to bond and serve Christ together.
"Sometimes the kids that are most neglected are the ones that are growing," he said. "The squeaky wheel gets the attention, and you have a tendency to focus on those that have the needs and ignore the others. You know what happens? A mission trip gives you an opportunity to unite, to bring together, to unify growing students."
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: TAKE TEENS ABROAD.