International Missions: The Secret Sauce for Your Local Ministry

Launching a student ministry and helping it grow in healthy ways are challenging tasks. It seems that the demands are endless, the obstacles are many, and fruit can often be slow to develop. Well, what if I told you that there was a “secret sauce” that could accelerate the growth of your movement, help develop student leaders, and advance the work of the gospel across the globe? Would you be interested? Who wouldn’t?! Engaging your students in short-term international missions could just be that secret sauce.

Now, let me be completely honest. Sending students on international missions comes with a cost. Students will have to spend time on training, preparation, and raising support. They may have to miss some of their typical sports, work, or school activities. For their families, there will be missed time together, perhaps delayed vacations, and the fear of the unknown. Adult leaders will spend time recruiting, training, and perhaps even going on mission themselves, but from my personal experience, it is well worth it.

Grows Your Movement

One of the key reasons that sending students on international missions is worth the cost, is that it can strengthen and accelerate your local movement. The health and vitality of your local ministry is greatly impacted by the quality and quantity of key student leaders. Every movement wants them, and few have as many as they would like. We spend a ton of energy seeking, challenging, and developing student leaders, often with mixed results. In my 15 years of ministry experience, I have not found anything as effective and efficient in developing student leaders as having them participate in international missions.

Missions invite students into the greater narrative of God’s redemptive work around the world. Participation involves steps of faith above and beyond their “typical” involvement in the local ministry, and they are trained in powerful, yet simple, tools and techniques that they can use for a lifetime to share the Good News of Jesus with their friends, coworkers, family, and community.

“My involvement on a Cru International Missions trip was super impactful to me, because it opened my eyes even more to how much the whole world needs Jesus, including those immediately around us, and also those across the globe.” ~Addi

Often, students who take part in an international mission return to their campus with a bolder vision and greater passion for evangelism and are willing to take steps of faith to share the gospel, lead a Bible study, or invite their friends to a Cru event. Students who never shared their faith before going on mission often come home ready and eager to share their faith with their friends.

“One way the mission impacted me as a leader is that it taught me how to share Christ in a very simple way using four symbols. I wear a bracelet every day with the four symbols on it, so that I can share Christ wherever, whenever!” ~Seth

For more thoughts on how international missions can impact the lives of your students, consider reading 8 Reasons You Should Go on an International Mission Trip.

In my 15 years of ministry experience, I have not found anything as effective and efficient in developing student leaders as having them participate in international missions.

Develops Student Leaders

Obviously, students growing in their faith and catching a larger vision for evangelism is a win, but the benefits to your local movement have only just begun. Think of your student leaders as Mentos, and your ministry like Diet Coke. When they come together, there is power and energy spewing all over the campus. Student leaders can expand your reach, as they begin to own parts of the movement that they’ve never owned before.

They can launch new outreach initiatives among their natural relationships on campus (teams, band, peer groups, etc.) or give leadership to small group Bible studies. They can share about the impact an international mission has had on their own life and invite other students to participate the following year. In short, student leaders can provide major lift and sustained momentum among the other students that you serve, and those you hope to reach!

As you consider the many benefits of sending your students on an international mission, don’t overlook the value of adults participating in missions alongside students. I have found that spending time serving and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus in another country has had an incredibly positive impact in my own walk with the Lord.

In many ways, the challenges and benefits our students experience have been mirrored in my own life. Serving internationally has challenged me to depend on the Lord in new and faith-stretching ways. It has necessitated growth in my own life as a disciple of Jesus and a discipler of the students that I lead. I have learned so much serving alongside Christian leaders in other countries, and have been inspired and encouraged by their example of faithfulness and the love they have shown me and our team as brothers and sisters in Christ. I have been encouraged to see how the Lord is working all over the world, and I have been blessed to see obvious and undeniable signs of growth in the lives of the students who have gone with me.

A tremendous amount of sacrifice and effort goes into this type of mission, but the benefit I receive far outweighs the cost, and my faith is always strengthened in profound ways.

When we serve with an attitude of humility and partner well with the local ministry, we can provide significant lift to their ongoing efforts (and learn much from them along the way)!

Advances the Gospel Globally

I hope that I have begun to make a compelling case for sending students, and participating yourself, in international missions, and I haven’t yet even mentioned the impact these missions have on the global movements that we serve. A word of caution here: it is important that we don’t fall into the trap of believing that we, as American Christians, are somehow the great hope of the global church, as though we have all of the resources, wisdom, and experience to help “save” struggling ministries around the world. This type of attitude dishonors the Lord and will become a major barrier to your international mission experience. But, it is often the case that the locations that we serve are understaffed, under resourced, and may face unique cultural barriers to the gospel. When we serve with an attitude of humility and partner well with the local ministry, we can provide significant lift to their ongoing efforts (and learn much from them along the way)!

After a recent mission to Ecuador, I interacted with a key local leader with whom we had partnered. He shared how our team brought renewed energy and vision to him and his team, comprised mostly of volunteers. He also shared that his students were deeply encouraged by watching our teens lead in the classroom and community outreaches. He was grateful for the opportunity for his students to see young Christian leaders in action.

During another mission, several international volunteers from neighboring nations joined our team for the week, and as a result, high school movements were launched in multiple cities in three additional countries in that region within just a few years!

Without question, international missions can have an extremely positive impact on a number of fronts, including the growth of your local movement, the development of student leaders, personal growth in your own life, and immeasurable impact for movements around the globe.

If you would like to explore current opportunities, please visit to learn more about upcoming missions this spring or summer.

Next Step

Cru has stateside and international missions waiting for you and your students to join! Check out this year's missions, and consider which student leaders God might have you invite.



Cru Promo Videos

It was once said that “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Well, if that’s true, a video is worth a million. As we talk about Cru with students, administration, donors, volunteers, parents, and others, having a video can sometimes help them get the feel of what we do.

Below you’ll find a few videos that do just that. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for, check our YouTube channels at Cru High School and Gotothecampus. If we’ve got it, it’ll be there.

Cru Promo Video – 3 Minute Version

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Cru Promo Video – 1 Minute Version

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Cru Promo Video – 1 Minute Version (vertical)

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