I am in my late teens. Should I do some missionary training now before I go to university?

“No. Do university studies now and take mission trips during breaks.”

If by going to missionary training you lose motivation to go to college, then go directly to college. College is foundational. Although it’s sometimes hard to spend four or more years in school when you’d rather be on the field, persevere.

Take advantage of ministry opportunities both now and throughout any training you receive. I taught English to an Indonesian student a few hours a week while I was in university. Our college offered short-term mission trips during spring and summer breaks. 

Learn a variety of things you’re interested in. One friend used cosmetology to pay for college and will probably use it overseas. I taught piano to help pay for college and now find that teaching opens opportunities for ministry.

Christian campus groups at secular universities are a great place to pick up evangelism training and practice.

Also, if you’re narrowing down what agency you want to work with, check their education preferences. Don’t lose time just because you failed to ask their requirements. 

Answer from Bethany, who served in the Middle East with the Assemblies of God.

“Yes, you can take a year or two for missions before university.”

My friends and relatives were pretty jumpy at the thought of me doing a year or two of mission work before getting into college. Maybe more than anyone else, I was afraid of taking a road less traveled. Was it really the right choice? I was worried that I would eventually go back home to start university and be a “missionary misfit.”

I would be a few years older than my classmates with a different worldview, experiences, and morals that would set me apart in an awkward way. But at the same time, I knew that my foundation as a Christian had been strengthened and that I would be more prepared to face the world with a better understanding of myself. 

Now that I have finished my two years of missionary service and have been in university, I have found that I am not a misfit after all. I actually feel better prepared to disciple and encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ because of my experiences, and I find myself recruiting my friends into missions.

Everyone, whether Christian or not, enjoys hearing my missionary stories. The fact that I am a few years older than my classmates has actually turned out to be a blessing. 

There is a place and a time for university, but a year or two off will undoubtedly teach you more about who you are, who God is, and how you can actively serve in God’s kingdom.

Answer from Hannah, who trained and served for two years with Operation Mobilization.

Excerpted from the book Scaling the Wall: Overcoming Obstacles to Missions Involvement, by Kathy Hicks.

“You could attend a training school and then go to university.”

I loved this training and I wish I had done it right out of high school. Sometimes the best training you can get before going on the field is not found in books but in an encouraging environment where you can focus on your relationship with God, which is exactly what we did for three months.

Then we went around the U.S. performing a drama and sharing about what we do, while raising support for our month long missions trip overseas. I would definitely encourage you to get your feet wet in a program like this before getting stuck in the books for four years! 

However, after my experience overseas I realized I was really unprepared to go overseas long-term. I could have stayed with my YWAM base and get prepared that way, but instead I decided to come home, finish my four-year degree, and work overseas through a career.

That way I can have a profession that is contributing to society and reach out to people by living and working with them and building relationships over time.

Answer from Sharon in North Carolina, who just finished a five-month Discipleship Training School (DTS) with Youth With a Mission.

“In the middle of your university education, consider taking a year off for missions.”

My first mission trip was a summer in Asia while still in high school. Then, after my first year at university, I spent ten weeks in East Africa. I received first-hand experience in missions, and now I know it’s where I want to be. 

This year I’m taking a one-year hiatus from university studies to serve aboard a Mercy Ship in West Africa. I think taking missionary training before going to school is important, if you already know you want to be a missionary. If you can, take some mission trips to a few different places to make sure God has led you into missions and to get an idea of where you would want to be in the world. 

Answer from Mark in Tulsa, who took a year off for missions after his first year of university.

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