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What to Expect

Beginning the Application Process

Starting your application is the first tangible step towards serving as a student missionary.We have students that already know where they would like to serve and that’s great! However, what is important to understand is you can begin this journey before you are certain of where God would have you go. What matters is starting!

The first parts of your application require you to provide information about yourself, why you would like to be a student missionary, and where you are interested in serving.

Sign up for NON-099 which is a 0-credit training offered in the winter semester. Class meets one evening a week after spring break, and includes a 4-day Exit retreat. You'll have the opportunity to meet other prospective SMs, hear from previous SMs, and learn tips for when you are in the field.

Once you've finished your fundraising (we will help you), you're ready to go! While you may be the only student missionary at a location you are never truly alone. You'll have a group of people just like you all over the world and the SM Office with you along the way!

Yap, Micronesia
Hawai'i, USA
Hong Kong

Frequent Questions

We're so glad you're choosing to serve! Your first step is fill out the application form online. Here's the link. Simply follow the instructions there and complete the forms on Step 1.

Yes. All student missionaries and task force workers are required to complete the orientation class (NOND-099) before going to serve. The course after Spring Break - meeting for 90 minutes weekly and then going on a 4-day Exit Retreat near the end of the winter semester. Students planning to serve in January will need to contact the SM Office for alternative training methods.

We would want our students to follow the the call they feel that God has placed on them- this applies to both where they should serve and the length of their service. We have found that student missionaries that go during their time at Southern have a more defined idea of what they would like to do in their career based on their experience serving. Many have come back and either changed their major or felt more certain they are on the right path. However, the option of when to serve is available both during your time at Southern and upon graduating.

Nothing! Previously, the title of a task force worker was used to identify student missionaries serving domestically. However, we do not believe that students who serve on a domestic call are any less of a student missionary than those that serve internationally. When necessary, we will clarify the difference by calling students a "domestic SM" or an "international SM." 

Southern students and alumni that have attended for at least two full-time semesters with a minimum GPA of 2.0 are eligible to serve as student missionaries. Transfer students may serve after one semester on-campus. While all students that meet this criteria are eligible, they must go through the application process to receive final approval. 

If you felt completely qualified, we'd be worried. In 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, the Bible makes it clear that God can use anyone and anything to fulfill his purpose. What matters most is a willing heart and spirit. Just stay flexible to the leading of God's Spirit, and He'll take care of the rest.

Yes! After applying, Southern will usually approve your application to go anywhere in the world. Sometimes restrictions such as "should not serve alone" or "should not serve in an area without nearby medical facilities" will prevent you from serving in a few locations, but usually you may apply for all calls where you meet the criteria for applications. Once you're approved, we will pass your application information on to the host organization and wait two weeks for their response before moving you to your secondary preference. While we already have locations and calls that have been pre-approved and vetted, our office is willing to work with you to place you in a call that you have found. We do, however, have specific criteria for the organizations that we partner with and do not approve locations less than four months prior to a student's anticipated launching date.

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If you still can't find the perfect opportunity - come talk to us and we'll discuss a few more available options not listed on our website.

Begin an application! All students wanting to serve through Southern must go through the application process. Initially there is quite a bit of information we need to approve you, but once you finish the "Interview" step we start to finalize a place for you to go. After that, we train you and buy your ticket!

We have a wide array of service calls available. Our Dream page allows for you to filter by position type as well as area of the world you would like to serve. Your interest may be unique - however we make it a priority to find a call that caters to your unique skills and abilities. 

  • All international student missionaries who are going outside of the United States will need a passport even if they are serving on Guam or another island in the Pacific. Please make sure the passport is still valid for at least six months beyond the end of their mission service. If an extension (i.e. staying a second year) is possible, students should ensure their passport is valid 18 or more months beyond their estimated return date. Domestic SMs do not need to carry a passport. In terms of visas, it will depend on the location. Every country has different requirements and the requirements change frequently. We will assist all students with the visa application if it is needed, and the expenses directly related to acquiring the visa. We also encourage students to take the initiative to research the requirements personally.

Once you have reached step 3 of your online application you will fill out a travel request detailing passport information, dates of travel, and airports of choice. From there our office will find ticket options and communicate those with you before a final purchase is made. Domestic SMs are responsible for purchasing their own tickets.

Some locations do allow student missionaries to travel home for Christmas, but we strongly discourage it. During this time of the year those in service are generally just beginning to adapt to the location they are in and when they go home, even if for a short time, it will backtrack their adaption process. We strongly encourage parents to visit their children instead of arranging for their child to return home.

We strongly encourage parents to visit their students in their place of service as long as the local administration is supportive of the visit and the timing. Parents should work with the organization to determine lodging and food options, and compensation for both. When parents visit their kids it is both a great experience for the student to share with their parents and also just as amazing for the parents to see the work that their child is participating in. Please confirm arrangements independently with your child before finalizing travel plans. If you have questions about the travel logistics, a team member from our office may have visited the location before and would be happy to assist in any way that we can.

Most locations are able to receive packages however there are a few that do not. The Student Missions Office sends out packages on a regular basis (we usually ship packages in September, November, January, and March). For those locations that do not receive packages, the Student Missions Office will try to find a missionary visiting that location to send packages with them. 

Every applicant must pay an application fee of $200, though there is up to a 50% discount if it is paid earlier in the school year. Students are later assigned a fundraising goal based on the region where they plan to serve. Students do not raise money for their own personal expenses; they raise money for Student Missions, which in turns pays for their expenses. Fundraising goals generally range from $2,850 - $5,000, though students serving domestically are only requested to fundraise $500 due to their travel not being covered. Amongst other things, these monies help to fund things such as tickets, insurance, living stipends, and training.

Upon your return to Southern. you will receive a $1,500 SM scholarship if you meet the following criteria:

  • Before Serving:
    • Complete all steps of the application process
    • Attend all sessions of the NOND-099 Student Missions Orientation Class and fulfill all requirements
    • Attend the Student Missions Exit Retreat in its entirety
    • Attend and participate in the SM Dedication Vespers Program
  • While Serving
    • Spend at least 200 days in the mission field
    • Honor your commitment to the “Dating Agreement”
    • Complete the work assigned to you by your immediate supervisors
    • Uphold a distinctly Seventh-day Adventist lifestyle
    • Do not come under legitimate complaint or disciplinary action from sending organization, calling organization, or other relevant stakeholders
  • After Serving
    • Attend the Student Missions Re-entry Retreat in its entirety
    • Complete a Re-Entry Interview
Transfer students and students who complete one semester of service (100 days of service required) are eligible to receive half of the SM scholarship ($750) if the above conditions are met where possible. Students who attend and then leave Southern for gap year experiences but do not go through the official SM Program are not eligible for a scholarship upon return. 

A student who is still an undergraduate can enroll for 6 hours per semester of general elective credit (Christian Service 1 in the Fall Semester and Christian Service 2 in the Winter Semester), which will automatically defer any loans and scholarships. These credits are discounted by 90% for student missionaries. The majority of the grade for these courses depends on the successful completion of service, though there is also a reflective assignment about once a month. 

Once a student has graduated with a bachelor's degree the 6-credit courses are no longer available to them. If requested, we will provide a letter to the student that they can give to their loan company. This letter will explain that the student is going to serve and ask the loan company to provide whatever assistance is requested by that student. We cannot guarantee the loan company will be gracious and defer the loan repayments, but most graduates have had good success with their requests.

It is important to accept that safety can never be guaranteed for student missionaries. Though our hometown of Chattanooga has inherent risks, traveling (especially internationally) generally involves additional risks. We attempt to give every student missionary as many tools as possible to do his or her job safely, and we vet our partner organizations to ensure students have the greatest chance of success possible. There is a required training for all outgoing SMs where safety, travel medicine, cultural issues, conflict management, mental health in the mission field, and other key topics are addressed. Though everyone is likely to encounter certain uncomfortable situations, we encourage students "when you have the choice, choose safely."

The Student Missions Office has a prepared emergency plan ready for when unexpected situations arise. For privacy reasons we cannot share every detail (e.g. certain contact information), but please contact us by email to receive an outline of the plan.

All student missionaries will be insured through Adventist Risk Management or a comparable plan that meets or exceeds ARM standards. ARM provides us with an insurance package that includes:

  • Accident and illness insurance (this policy does not cover pre-existing conditions or routine medical care)
  • Personal loss insurance (e.g. stolen laptop)
  • A small life insurance policy
Domestic SMs are encouraged to keep their general health insurance due to our coverage's lack of routine medical care options. Student missionaries can purchase this through Southern just as if they were on-campus students, but that may not be necessary if the partner organization or student's parents are able to provide access to routine medical care. 

Due to COVID-19. student missionaries will be required to sign additional documentation before departure. These documents outline the inherent risks associated with serving during a pandemic, as well as procedures for testing, precautions while traveling, and instructions about quarantining upon arrival. We seek not only to prioritize the safety of our students but also those whom they serve around the world. As always, travel insurance will be purchased for each international student missionary.


Start your application or schedule an appointment to learn more