Note: I wrote this a few years ago as part of a proposal to take a group of young adults to Africa. These thoughts represent the “rationale” for the trip.
The spirituality of teens and young adults is largely built on experiences. In other words if they can feel it, see it, or touch it for themselves then there’s a greater likelihood that they will actually believe it to be true. It isn’t uncommon to hear of a young person being turned off by a visit to a local church because people weren’t “nice” to them. While we may question their juvenile screening methods it still affirms the notion that young people care more about the way a church makes them feel than the propositional truth it adheres to. They will likely walk away from a church that has accurate doctrinal positions yet the experience is cold, distant, and unconcerned.
Thus to engage the American Seventh-day Adventist suburbanite young person in an immersion experience abroad through a short-term mission trip can be, and most often is an effective way to deepen their spiritual commitment.
It is also true spiritually of young people that their decisions are largely influenced by their relationships both with their peers and adults in their lives. Youth expert and modern day apologist Josh McDowell provides this insight about young people, “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.” This is a very telling commentary on the nature of most local church subcultures. It goes without saying then that relationships are often strengthened in the context of shared experience. While the Sabbath morning worship gathering contributes to this to some extent I believe it is insufficient in dramatically moving young people on to full devotion to Jesus Christ.