The Vital Role of Students in International Missions

In 1 Timothy 4:12, Paul encourages Timothy to continue steadfastly in ministry: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers” (NIV). But just as in Paul’s day, many forget the value of youth serving in ministry today. However, the participation of students between the ages of eighteen to twenty-five, especially on mission trips, is invaluable to ministry.

In ways others can’t, students often bring life, energy, and enthusiasm to the mission field, fostering a boldness for the gospel among the teams they support. They bring a fresh perspective, as well as specific skills and knowledge from their studies, refreshing long-term missionaries who may have grown weary and stagnant in their everyday work.

IMB’s Caleb Crider talked with Brenda Sanders, collegiate missions consultant for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and Jason Duesing, provost and associate professor of historical theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, about how the church can wisely prepare, encourage, and utilize their students for missions. They agreed that for this task, proper biblical training is essential. The church must equip students for evangelizing, engaging, and sharing their faith. However, training must go deeper than that. Because many students go overseas with grandiose expectations of ministry, they must also be prepared for the reality of selfless service, both to the long-term missionaries with whom they work and to the people to whom they minister.

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A major aspect of the student’s experience abroad will be heart cultivation. Serving and working alongside long-term missionaries on the field will produce a new perspective of missions in the heart of students. Mission trips cultivate this servanthood as students grow in their role on the field simply by coming alongside and being a part of other missionaries’ lives.

For any believer, going on mission can be transformative. However, because of their unique season of life, students often have a heightened missional experience. Life for an eighteen- to twenty-five-year-old is incredibly moldable. It is a time of learning and deciding how to spend their adulthood. Therefore, missions can often change the whole trajectory of a student’s life. The church is called to come alongside students and encourage them in this task.

Gardner Davis is a student in the US and currently works as a content editor and social media associate with the IMB.