I knew it was more than just face paint. Northern Illinois July heat beaming down on my T-shirt-clad back, I painted another butterfly on the cheek of an elementary schooler. I smiled, and we talked about how the pink she chose reminded her of her and her friend’s favorite matching bracelets.
It felt like a pretty small moment. To be honest, it was a small moment. However, I believe significance might not be measured in size but in posture: Was I acting from a love of Christ to love other people?
That’s precisely what all of us aimed to do on a local mission trip. We strove to love as my “small” moments were joined by moments of many others to serve our community. This face-painting community picnic event culminated in a Mega Sports camp where we both shared the gospel with kids and strove to meet the parents’ physical needs.
What was even better? I was serving alongside those I sat with during small group every week.
Too often, we can view “going on mission” both domestically and abroad as something we do as isolated individuals. However, when we serve alongside those we already are in regular fellowship with, life-changing moments happen.
For those in our small groups, mission trips can play critical roles in three ways.
- Mission trips point.
Taking time out of our all too busy schedules to serve others often opens up our eyes in unexpected ways. When our small group members are all experiencing the same things—completing common tasks, seeking to help others know Christ more, and being the hands and feet of Jesus—we can easily process our thoughts and questions with them because we’ve already developed habits of sharing and listening. Ultimately, these musings can point us to a deeper relationship with Christ. In the process, we residually grow closer to each other and are directed to deepened, loving relationships that, developed during the intentional time of a mission trip, can grow in ways that our hourly meetings on weekdays cannot.
- Mission trips prepare.
When you and those in your small group are intentionally serving through a mission trip, often your group spends more intentional time in prayer. You might face different challenges while serving or in conversations that drive you to prayer. Whatever the cause, habits of prayer are often produced through such trips. This heightened awareness of our ever-constant need for prayer can carry into our daily rhythms, and such habits prepare you to approach anything that comes in life. When we aren’t on mission trips on our own but with others in our small groups, this shared experience is built-in accountability to continue such prayer habits as others in your group likely see the need in their own lives. Together, you can renew your commitment to this dependent posture.
- Mission trips propel.
When you participate in intense service alongside others who know you, fellowship is propelled. Seeing others in your small group in this new context can show you new facets of who God has made them to be that you can celebrate. You can bond over shared and sometimes unusual experiences. You are motivated to love and serve each other. Often, during these intense times of service, the Lord reveals Himself to you or others in your small group to propel them with a new sense of direction. That might be a renewed focus on spending more time in devotional literature. It might mean a commitment to regular service at your church or a call to serve elsewhere. Either way, you are there to experience change with them. Once back into “regular life,” you can continue to cheer them forward to wherever else the Lord may propel.
Mission trips can give us space to grow closer to the Lord and deeper in fellowship with one another. They point us back to Him; they prepare us for deeper acts of prayer, and they propel us in our walks with one another and with the Lord.
Let’s not serve alone. As we head into the summer and fall, consider ways that you and your small groups can engage with missions for the glory of God and the good of others. We haven’t (and won’t) regret it.
Deborah Spooner is a Minnesota-born analytical creative serving as a Marketing Strategist for Lifeway’s Groups Ministry. As a pastor’s daughter with an educational background in Biblical & Theological Studies and Digital Communications & Media, you can find her at her local church, in deep conversation, or with a book or pen in hand as she seeks to know Christ more and make Him known.