Volunteering for short-term missions is one of the most effective ways believers can mobilize with far-reaching results. It also can be a life-changing experience, altering the way you view the world and your purpose in it.
Volunteers with a heart that is open to the spiritual need across North America can turn to the North American Mission Board to find opportunities to make a difference. Right now is a great time to plan your next, or first, trip to the mission field. Missionaries and pastors are ready to welcome short-term volunteers to the task of reaching the three-out-of-four people in North America who don’t know Christ.
When is the need the greatest? All the time. Where is the need the greatest? Everywhere on the continent.
Missions are about living out your faith, stepping out of your comfort zone, mobilizing in obedience to what God has called you to do, and helping meet the needs of others. The result is their introduction to Jesus. Being on a mission means you will be doing this in a deliberate, intentional way.
Could a mission trip be in your future? Fair warning: They aren’t for the faint of heart. Living conditions can be uncomfortable: consider the volunteers who helped after Hurricane Katrina. Even Vacation Bible School can be unpredictable, requiring both flexibility and an attitude of servanthood.
But, if you love adventure, and you want to be a part of something only God can accomplish, it’s time for the ultimate road trip. Whether you’re a family, church group or individual, God has prepared a place for you to serve.
Opportunities to serve God exist nearly everywhere you go, beginning in your own community. They exist across your state, all over North America, and throughout the world. Here are nine basic steps for individuals, families or mission teams who want to be on mission:
1. Pray. Ask God to lead you through the process of finding a place to serve.
2. Be realistic. What do you feel called to do? Where do you feel called to serve? How much time can you commit? When is the best time of year for you, your family or your team to go on a mission trip? What financial flexibility do you have?
3. Check with your church, local association or Baptist state convention for mission opportunities of interest near you. To learn more about opportunities throughout North America, visit NAMB’s volunteer mobilization Web site at www.TheBridge.namb.net. Register and complete a user profile, then search for projects based on project type, region, key word or date. Opportunities for students include World Changers (www.world-changers.net) and PowerPlant (www.power-plant.net) projects. Families on Mission (www.namb.net/fom), meanwhile, offers mission opportunities for parents with children who have completed kindergarten or higher.
4. Choose your project based on location, type of work and skills needed. Projects appropriate for families include Vacation Bible School and backyard Bible clubs, resort and campground ministries, and possibly even a construction project, if older children are participating. Be realistic: Choose a project that has value and that will allow you to accomplish the task, not one that will end in frustration.
5. Contact a local pastor or missionary. All projects listed on The Bridge (see the Web site mentioned previously) have a project manager who will serve as the leader when you arrive. The project manager will help with logistics, such as lodging, as well as provide cultural information to help you prepare your team in advance. Determine your project date as early as possible. For a summer trip, it is suggested that you begin planning the previous fall, and set a date by January 1.
6. Nail down logistics. Decide travel plans early, so if plane tickets are needed, you can buy them in advance, maybe using Web sites offering specials. Book hotel rooms three months ahead (resort towns require more lead-time). Search for family or group discounts, or consider options, such as camping or staying at a church. Your project manager can help with housing, but you may need to provide meals.
7. Define your task and expectations in detail, by phone and e-mail, with your project manager. Practice what you’ll be doing at home, so you’re ready for what will take place on-site.
8. Research the culture of the people you’ll be serving. People in Iowa will respond differently from people in Texas. Your project manager will be your best source.
9. Go. Serving through missions can become a life-changing experience.
John Bailey is the North American Mission Board’s team leader for student volunteer mobilization. Carol Pipes is editor of NAMB’s magazine, On Mission.