Young Adults: Are Short-Term Mission Trips Right For You?
For most people, there comes a time in your life when you ask yourself big questions. You look around at the world and try to make sense of it all: Why am I here? What is God’s plan for me? Is there more to life than this? How can I make a difference? How can I walk closer with Christ?
It’s natural to seek answers to the important life questions that God has placed on your path. Younger people (18-30 years old) are often especially driven to find answers, so you do everything in your power to discover them: you read the Bible, you pray to hear God’s voice, and you connect with others who are also seeking the truth and hoping to share Christ’s love.
It’s okay to ask tough questions. But in addition to asking the hard questions, people in this age group are especially great at taking action. If you’ve been reading the Bible and praying, you might have heard God’s voice urging you to do something important. But then the question becomes “What should I do?”
Short-term mission trips could be one answer.
An emerging generation of believers are finding United World Mission’s Avance program as a great way to do something meaningful without committing to a permanent role. For many people, short-term missions work is so fulfilling that it becomes a gateway to future cross-cultural ministry, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
Short-term mission trips are important in and of themselves. They can help you find new meaning in loving Christ. They can help you find answers. Not only do short-term trips make a lasting impact on you personally, they also make a lasting difference to the people you reach. You will make connections that stay in your heart (and in the hearts of those you serve) forever.
Avance’s short-term cultural immersion internships demonstrate how compassion for people was the heartbeat of Jesus. Even in today’s world, when so much can be accomplished through technology, the Lord still needs the talents of human beings to do His work. It’s people who serve and make connections. It’s people who do the work in real communities. People are the hands and feet of Jesus, showing God’s love to others through both prayer and action.
What is a short-term cultural immersion?
Short-term cross-cultural internships are exciting and important. They range in length from 6 weeks to 24 months and will involve a myriad of activities. Our programs take place in Mexico City, Mexico and Granada, Spain. Stay tuned for more locations opening up in late 2022!
If you have a preconceived idea of what a missions trip looks like, put it away. Avance participants do work that is vibrant and ever-changing. The work is unique and diverse, just like Jesus’ ever-expanding compassion and love. A short-term missions trip is a way to make a valuable contribution. You can make a difference no matter where or how you choose to serve.
Avance’s cross-cultural program needs your faith, your love, and your skills. You have talents relevant to today’s world, and Avance can use them. A short-term missions trip isn’t a cookie-cutter experience. It doesn’t look like just one thing. Jesus sends us out to share all our gifts, including skills that might not traditionally be thought of as missionary work. If you have a degree and aren’t sure what to do with it, Avance is ready to use it for the good of God.
A short-term internship can help you figure things out. If you feel lost and need some time (or even if you know exactly what you want to do with your life but don’t want to start just yet), Avance offers cultural immersion stays of varying lengths and demands.
As part of a global organization that’s been equipping spiritual leaders for over 75 years, Avance is trustworthy. Participants live and work near the people they serve, or in some cases with the people they serve. You’ll connect to existing churches and programs so that the good work you do lands on a strong foundation and lasts into the future. The work you do and the people you meet are things you’ll never forget.
Cultural immersion and cultivating relationships are concepts at the heart of Avance’s success. When you work with Avance as a short-term missionary, you’ll develop lasting relationships and cultural understanding that can shape you into the very best version of yourself.
How do you know if a short-term missions internship is right for you? Take a look at some of the statements below, then reach out to talk to a guide. We’re ready to listen. We’re here to help process your questions and we’re eager to see which of these statements resonate in your heart.
Five ways to know you’re ready for a short-term missions experience
1. You’re dissatisfied
It’s not always easy when you feel God pulling you to do something more with your life. You might wonder why you can’t just be happy with an ordinary every day routine like everybody else. Do you feel like there’s something missing? What are you not getting?
It’s uncomfortable when you wake up feeling there has got to be something more to existence than a corporate job whose biggest perk is a gift card for free coffee. Or that it doesn’t interest you to take a lazy beach vacation like everyone else on social media. It can feel like you were singled out when you find the things in life that everyone else takes for granted to be just “meh.”
But when you’re dissatisfied, you’re actually trusting God. You are trusting that God’s plan for your life is unique. He wants you to know you’re important. And if you are praying and hearing His voice (it might be whispering or it might be yelling), is telling you that something needs to change.
If you listen to that voice and immerse yourself as a cross-cultural minister, God works through you to transform communities. You can improve people’s lives. You can make an impact on the future. You’ll see how small changes add up to a life that’s not ordinary. When you’re guided by local leaders and mentored by staff, you can reach others to spread the gospel and inspire them in faith. You disciple and educate. You learn there’s more to life than big chain coffee.
Your future matters to you. You’re looking at ways to live your life to the fullest and get meaning out of it. You want to walk with Jesus and find real evidence of God’s love in the world. Realizing that time is short and there’s more to life than the ordinary… that’s okay.
Being dissatisfied is fine. It just means that in order to live your life in Christ, it might be necessary to accept that something needs to change. Let yourself hang out in that space. Stay in that uncomfortable spot. The dissatisfaction that you feel is just a greater calling to growth. Stay dissatisfied. Then do something about it.
2. You want to share the gifts God has given you
God gives everyone gifts– you already know this. And yet you don’t take the easy way out and turn away from that urge to share the blessings in your life. You want to use your gifts to help others. You pray and listen how to put your talents to use.
The Bible says we are called to “use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10, NIV. You trust that God will work with your talents, whatever they are. Even if you aren’t sure if you possess important skills, God will help you find the road to take so that you can help others along the way.
In a cultural immersion missions program like Avance, there are a variety of ministries that can use your skills. Have you taken any classes? Do you have a college degree? Are you good with your hands? Are you skilled in talking to others and learning about them? Or maybe you don’t have polished and perfected skills… that’s okay too! God will work with you and show you tools for learning. Learning itself is one of the greatest gifts He gives us. Ask how you might offer your talents to people who need them.
When you go with a short-term missions internship like Avance, you’ll be welcomed and encouraged to share your talents even if you’re not sure what they are. You don’t need to speak a foreign language. God has given you the tools and gifts to learn.
God doesn’t waste what He’s given you. Whenever He calls you to a short-term mission trip you can have faith that your skills will be effective. A willingness to serve God and love others are the greatest skills of all.
3. You’re curious
Are you ready for new sights, new smells, new sounds and unfamiliar experiences? The most effective short-term missions ministers are open to new things. They are teachable. They are excited to experience the unknown surprises God has in store for them. They’re curious.
Are you willing to learn new skills and be uncomfortable? Are you ready to walk beside Christ? Are you praying to submit to God’s teachings, to being a ‘fish out of water,’ to experiencing a completely different culture? Your teachable attitude will make you an effective shepherd. You’ll learn that God works across the globe through different cultures, different customs, different habits. God’s reach extends far beyond the borders of the United States.
When you’re a cross-cultural minister, you submit to the love of people on a daily basis. You share your ministry and gifts in different contexts, to help others experience Christ’s love and find sustainable solutions for their communities. It’s not always easy-- but to the people you serve, you can make all the difference.
Your heart is huge and rooted in the Spirit. His people are sent to go preach the love of Jesus Christ in ways that might be surprising. Just as Jesus walked with the disciples, you will live immersed in the new culture. You gain knowledge and empathy. How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel!
You’ll get to know the different cultures not as a tourist, but as a resident. It’s like the difference between getting to know a place from flying over it in an airplane versus walking… you’ll get to slow down and see the small things; you’ll have a close-up view.
During your time with Avance, you aren’t just an observer, you become part of the local culture. And you’ll have mentors who will guide you through bumps and snares. God calls the imperfect and broken people. You’ll serve in partnership and learn what it means to be a steward of the Lord in ways you couldn’t imagine. Your walk in faith requires being open to new experiences, which is a challenge… but the rewards of big challenges are even greater.
4) You do your research
A short-term missions immersion can be the experience of a lifetime– or it can be poorly organized and leave you feeling like you wasted your time. Partnering with an established, credible, faith-based missions sending organization is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. Nothing is more discouraging than planning and praying, only to travel to your destination and find out that everything is disorganized and you have no support system.
If you’re called to do missions work, it might be speediest to work through your own church and go by yourself. But young adult missionaries who feel supported by a professional sending organization are more likely to plant seeds that will grow. Finding a solid foundation with a reputable sending organization is like a house built on rock. It’s a foundation for lasting impact.
You know how important it is to research missionary sending groups. Organizations like Avance assist individuals in their journey. They do the prep work. They do the research. They support you at all stages of your mission. They train and equip you. And the most successful sending organizations have the skills and resources needed to make sure the work you do is multiplied because of partnerships with already-established local agencies.
Imagine you have a new job: the initial training gives you confidence and boosts your performance: Missions work is no different. A reputable, experienced sending agency will help set expectations, then do everything possible to prepare and equip you.
Cross-cultural work is a challenge in itself, so why start from scratch? Building on an established foundation with a trusted program frees you to focus on the faith instead of the footwork. No matter the length of your trip, being prepared helps your work be more productive. When you know you’ve got backup, you can put your energy toward helping others instead of merely surviving in a new place.
Avance helps short-term missionaries understand cultural differences, too. You’ll benefit from the research, preparation, and training you’ll receive. The established connections that Avance has already built can only magnify your mission's efforts.
Organizational leadership is critical when you’re evaluating missions sending groups. Do your research to see if you align with the group’s hierarchy, statement of faith, and mission and vision. Does the group you’re researching mention what their intentions are?
Check out the Avance mission and vision: 1) Immersion: Jesus walked with his disciples. Live immersed within the culture. 2) Incarnation: Christ came to give life. Share the Gospel of Christ’s transformation in proclamation and action, alongside the local church. 3) Innovation: God is dynamic. Join local ministries in seeking the Spirit’s innovation to engage society.
As an established organization, we also do work that supports our community values: love, humility, discernment and wisdom, intimacy with God, servanthood, mentorship, and proclamation.
The initial research may take some time, but it can also be the basis of a fruitful and continued relationship between you and the organization, especially if missions work is something you’d like to pursue in the future.
Talk to people at the organizations you’re researching. Do you “click” with them? Do you have a good feeling about what they’re doing? Do they listen? Choosing the right short-term mission immersion takes some research but it makes all the difference in your experience.
5) You seek connection
If you’re still reading this, it’s obvious you’ve got a spark and a desire to learn. You’re looking at how to connect the dots and bring the love of Christ full circle. You are a voyager who is questioning how to take spirituality into the real world. And the answer is: through personal connections.
When you serve and work with local populations, you experience God’s love and compassion on a level you didn’t know before. You get to know individuals and their families through God’s eyes, by ministering to them as a servant. If you live with a host family, they will certainly make an imprint on your heart that will last forever. You’ll experience first-hand the passion and love of the gospel because you’re sharing it.
God works powerfully in our lives and this is often easiest to see through personal connections. When you serve on a short-term missions immersion, God cuts through your weaknesses and fear to show you His love through others. There are ups and downs, but by being fully immersed in the culture and learning to depend on God for your needs, your love and devotion are magnified.
And by connection with other Avance participants, you also see Christ’s compassion. You’ll laugh together, pray together, eat together, study together, grow together. The love of God is magnified when there are people gathered in His name. As young adults who have chosen the same short-term missions program, it’s easy to find things in common. But you’ll also learn by being with others who have different points of view. You can find lessons in observing how others think and feel differently than you.
Because Avance participants are immersed in the local culture, there’s a “youth encouraging youth” atmosphere. Participants live in a way that inspires their cross-cultural peers to follow Christ. And it’s reciprocal. Local communities are empowered to encourage our apprentices in their faith too. There’s a legacy of youth inspiring youth that grows and impacts everyone positively.
Connections help you feel God’s presence throughout the journey, both when it’s easy and when it’s challenging. The connections you make with local populations and with other participants will impact you far beyond a short-term mission. It’s a truly amazing and lasting wonder to see the love of God reflected in the faces of the people you’ll never forget.
Getting started with a short-term mission
If any of the above statements resonate with you, please know that you can do something extraordinary. When you choose to minister through Avance, not only are you doing something different, you make a difference.
When you’re motivated by a love for God and a teachable spirit, nothing is impossible. Short-term missions result in long-term impact– both to you and to the people you reach through ministry. The challenges are not easy, but they give the Holy Spirit some room to work in you. You get the opportunity to build a deeper relationship with God and to others.
For many younger people who want to make a difference and serve Christ, it can be too overwhelming to jump into a permanent cross-cultural ministry. So serving with Avance is the perfect way to know if a longer-term assignment might be something you’d like to work toward in the future. Or not. Either way, you’ll be supported.
Cross-cultural ministry leaders aren’t called to be comfortable. But by working through Avance, you can serve more people because you’re supported by a professional and faithful organization. As a short-term missionary with Avance, your impact can be seen in months, not years. Avance’s deep experience becomes your advantage so that you can hit the ground running.
You deserve to live the life God has intended for you. If you see yourself in anything we’ve mentioned in this article, please reach out to us and talk to a coach. There’s no pressure, no sales pitch. Just a conversation. We’re here to listen and to help you find a place where you are valued and we’re glad that you’re interested in living your life to the fullest.