5 Ways to Ruin a Mission Trip

It’s coming soon: your summer mission trip. You’ve been looking forward to it for months. You’ve seen the pictures, heard the stories, and everyone says the same thing: going on a mission trip will change your life.

But wait! This is not vacation. This is a Ministry Trip for Serious People. Isn’t it true that the more you suffer for Jesus, the better a Christian you are?

Well, we don’t think that’s necessarily true. But if that’s really the kind of experience you’re going for, check out these tried-and-true tips for ruining your mission trip.

 1. Remember: It’s All About You

Let’s be honest: Jesus endured real “culture shock” when he came from heaven to earth. A mission trip isn’t about what’s comfortable, it’s about the privilege of carrying the name of Jesus to people who don’t know him yet. But if you want to create the perfect set-up for a terrible mission trip, trick yourself into thinking that you are superior to the people you’re going to serve. It will keep you from enjoying getting to know them, and you definitely won’t have to learn anything from their culture.

2. Complain About Everything

Different clothes. Exotic food. Extreme weather. Foreign language. Diverse teammates. The leaders, the schedule, the ministry – all are fodder for some really great whining. Sure, this could be a chance to learn, make wonderful memories with new friends, experience a new culture, and have crazy stories to tell of God working through you. But you won’t be there forever, so it’s best to capitalize on the opportunity to let everyone know all that you’re giving up to serve the Lord. So while there may be several things to be thankful for, do everything you can to ignore them; instead, complain as often as possible. Our words are powerful. Make sure you remind your team how many challenges they’re facing.

3. Compare Yourself

Everyone has different personalities, strengths, and gifts. The best way to be miserable on your mission trip is to constantly compare yourself with others. So while you are the only person who can offer your unique talents, it’s better to let fear, jealousy, or insecurities keep you from doing something amazing that the Lord uses. It’s not worth the risk of feeling a little foolish.

4. Assume That You Know Best

If you want to ruin this mission trip not only for yourself, but also for the whole team, this “I Know Best” attitude is sure to do the trick. People are people and no one’s perfect. Your team leaders and ministry contacts need you to point out everything you think they could be doing better – even if you don’t have the full picture yet. And what are you there for if not to teach local Christians how we do church in America? After all, there’s only one right way of doing things, and you’re probably the only person with enough sense to keep the whole mission trip from falling apart.

5. Recognize That Your Impact Is Fleeting and Insignificant

Unless you’ve tirelessly executed the first four tips, you’ve probably experienced more of the Lord, developed close friendships, and made wonderful memories on your mission trip. You’ve seen God work through you in ways you never thought were possible. But don’t worry: there’s still time to trash this mission trip. The best way is to remind yourself that you’re just on a spiritual “high” – as soon as you get home, it’s over. Rather than get your hopes up that this trip will “change your life” and “make a lasting impact” on the place where you’re ministering, it’s best to put God in a box and recognize that the time is too short for any real transformation to take place.

*Bonus Tip

While these five items are a foolproof plan for a miserable time and minimal impact, they become all the more effective if they play out over social media as well as in real life. Be sure to Instagram miserable conditions and tweet about counting down the days until you get home. This has the added benefit of keeping you glued to your phone or computer, rather than interacting with people who need Jesus.

Just so we’re abundantly clear: we think your mission trip WILL have a lasting impact, on you and on those you’re serving. Your attitude is a huge part of that. No one sets out to ruin their mission trip, but these pitfalls are common and sneaky. Ask God to help you be on guard against them.