Reposted with permission from TEAM’s blog. Read the original article here.
By As a missions coach, I regularly meet high school students who are exploring what role missions could play in their life after graduation. Though the likelihood of serving overseas long-term might be years away, preparing for ministry doesn’t have to wait. Here are four things high school students can do right now to get ready for a future in missions.
1. Form a close-knit Christian community
In his book “Life Together,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds believers that community with Christ, each other and the world around us is vital to making decisions and pursuing goals.
Living life in deep community will influence your short-term decisions, like the college you choose to attend or how you interact with your neighbor. It will also affect your long-term vision for ministry and missions.
Start now by asking others to speak into your life as you speak into theirs. You don’t necessarily have to do this with a small group or Bible study, but you should form deep relationships with a few people who will journey with you in all seasons of your life.
When it’s time to make decisions about missions, your community will be there to help you move forward by validating and encouraging your calling. They will also be your accountability when ministry is tough and the mundane rhythms of life cloud your vision.
2. Engage with your local church as it engages the world
Engaging deeply with your local church won’t just benefit you now as you disciple, serve and learn. It will also pay off as you develop your vision for cross-cultural ministry down the road. Ask your church about its cross-cultural ministries in North America and abroad. Start serving now, and ask if you can explore more through an internship or volunteer position with your church’s missions leadership.
Also, look for wisdom beyond your youth group. Seek out current and former missionaries and global professionals in your congregation who can share their experiences. Ask them how they prepared to live cross-culturally and what tips they have for you as a high school student. They might also offer recommendations for books, podcasts or courses that can help you grow.
3. Get cross-cultural experience now
While in high school, take advantage of any opportunity you have to gain exposure to other cultures. If your church offers short-term mission trips, talk to your church leaders about whether one of them is right for you. If you’re interested in a certain ministry opportunity, like camp ministries, medical missions or teaching English, ask your church to help connect you with a trusted organization.
Studying abroad and international internships are also great opportunities to learn more about cultural differences and discover how your passions align with the needs of the world.
Once you return from a cross-cultural experience, ask someone to help debrief you and assess how you will move forward. (These questions might help.)
4. Practice patience
If you want to serve cross-culturally for a longer term, you might be eager to jump on a plane and get started. But more often than not, there will be a period of waiting — especially if you partner with an organization and raise adequate prayer and financial support.
Ask a mentor to help you navigate the waters of pursuing big dreams while remaining patient and receptive to the lessons you need to learn while you prepare. Never underestimate the value of being the follower while you prepare to be a leader.
In his book “The In-Between,” Jeff Goins helps students and young adults consider the “in-between lessons” we experience while we work toward milestone moments such as graduating high school, finishing college, landing an epic job and even serving overseas. As exciting as those moments are, it’s often the conversations, the lessons learned and the moments of “being” rather than “doing” that make the milestones meaningful.
And in these in-between moments, don’t forget to often stop and listen. Pay attention to how God is molding you, shaping you, changing you and refining you. While you wait, he is actively preparing you for the work he has planned ahead.
More on becoming a missionary
5 myths of the missionary call — Rethinking when and how God draws people into cross-cultural service.
5 more missionary myths — Don’t let these common misconceptions stand in your way of growing God’s family.
Just don’t do it — Eight pitfalls to avoid now if you suspect long-term missions might be part of your future.
How to grow missionaries from your congregation(s) — Practical ways to create a safe space where potential cross-cultural workers can explore their call.
As many missionary calls as there are missionaries — God’s call is very personal. He knows how best to use our dreams, passions and experiences.
Developing church missions — A set of resources to help any church, big or small, engage the congregation with missions and develop new missionaries.
Considering missions — Questions to ask as your discern God’s leading.
Why go with SEND — Some of the benefits your family will receive if you become missionaries with us.