God’s global church is larger than it has ever been, and it’s growing at an unprecedented rate. Throughout China, India, Africa, and Cuba, the church is growing exponentially. Despite this encouraging news, the need for missionaries has never been greater. The world population is skyrocketing, and the number of people with no access to the gospel is actually growing.
These paradoxical trends highlight the need to be bold, passionate, and creative to get the gospel to all peoples and places on earth. To do this we need to enlist, train, and send all kinds of people to make disciples—not only adults but also younger people—serving by way of their various passions and skills. Students have a unique, unquestionable place among unreached people and in unreached places.
Here are six reasons students must go and, therefore, we must send them:
Students’ Passion is Needed on Missionary Teams
The current generations of students (Gen Y and Gen Z) have a passion to change the world. It’s not perfect, but it is authentic. They truly desire to make a difference and do something significant. Missionary teams need a deep passion to serve Christ and reach the lost. Although career missionaries must have a marathon mentality, students acting as sprinters can add energy to evangelism and church planting efforts. Students give teams a short-term boost of energy and encouragement. Missionaries consistently report two things about students who serve with them: the students helped them expand their ministry, and they provided energy and encouragement to the entire missionary team.
Students are Needed to Do Things Career Missionaries Can’t Do
Lifelong, full-time missionaries are one of the cornerstones of global mission. They learn language and culture at a deep level. Their longevity earns them respect and access to the community. But, lifelong missionaries have limits and obligations. They cannot do everything and be everywhere. Students help fill in the gaps in missionary teams. They can commit weeks, months and even years to working in places where families cannot easily go.
Students are Needed to Go to Places Career Missionaries Can’t Go
Fifty-two percent of the people of the world is now younger than 30. Many of the countries in the world with the youngest populations are the countries where the gospel is most desperately needed. To reach these young people with the gospel, we need to send young people. Students have a natural presence in dorm rooms, classrooms, karaoke clubs, university campuses, soccer fields, and youth events. Career missionaries can be teachers and leaders in universities while students can have unfettered access to the life of universities and schools and can be salt and light in and out of the classroom.
Living and Serving on Mission is Good for Students
Sending students helps them grow in faith, perseverance, patience, and other fruits of the Spirit. If we are committed to their spiritual growth and welfare, we must challenge them to great acts of faith and obedience. I have seen this principle play out over and over. After serving, students often return home more focused on God, prepared and willing to share the gospel, and seek God for his direction.
Students Need to be Sent for the Sake of Their Own Future
Generally speaking, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-six, people make major life choices that effectively determine the trajectory of their lives. They choose a career, develop adult survival skills (known as “adulting” by students), and find a spouse. As a mobilizer of students, one of the worst statements I hear is, “I never knew about that. I didn’t know that I could have served on mission.”
Since we know that these major life decisions are made during this critical decade, we should do everything possible to influence students toward total obedience to God. We should focus our efforts on helping them understand the vast possibilities for living on God’s mission.
Students Who are Sent Inspire Others to Help the Church to Fulfill Its Mission
The mission of God is not age selective. Strong, obedient churches find ways to reach, disciple, and send their members of every age. Churches who send students find that they return with passion and commitment that infects the overall church. They create an excitement and momentum that attracts other followers of Jesus of all ages.
Students are uniquely gifted and desperately needed to serve in mission around the world. Serving not only helps them grow, but it also helps their churches grow. We must do everything necessary to make our students have a well-defined place within our missions efforts.
Chad Stillwell rallies students and their leaders to be actively involved in God’s global mission. He currently serves as IMB’s student mobilization leader.
Are you a student looking for help engaging in mission or a student leader looking to encourage your students on mission? Check out this information on the upcoming Cross Conference.