Students want to go on mission trips for many reasons. Parents want their kids to go on mission trips for many reasons too. But the nature of your mission trip needs to determine which students are right for which trips. It is important for you as a youth leader to clearly define and articulate the purpose of your mission trip, your goals for the trip, and your expectations for the team participants. My challenge to you is to do your homework and know what kind of trip you are going on, what you will be doing, and which students should go on the trip. Do the pre-trip work of preparing your team to go and serve.
It is important to have a process students go through before they apply or commit to going on a mission trip. As Jesus said in Luke 14:28, “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?“ Know what you are asking trip participants to commit to, then clearly communicate a process through which they have to count the cost before signing up.
Here are the steps I have asked people to take if they want to participate in one of our mission trips. Our thinking might be different than yours. That’s OK. You can use this if you’d like, tweak it a bit, or create your own, but no matter what, implement a process for students to walk through so they understand what they are getting into.
- Pray – Ask God if He wants you to go and serve Him on a mission trip this summer.
- Reflect – Consider your motives for going on the trip. Going because your friends are going, or because you think it’s a cool location, or because you want to complete community service hours for your school are not necessarily good reasons to go on a mission trip. You need to be able to articulate your motives for wanting to go on the trip, and we want to make sure that your reasoning is consistent with the purpose of the trip.
- Discuss – Share your desire to go on a mission trip with your parents and other important people in your life. Ask them for their prayers and counsel.
- Pick Up – Stop by our website and download the Application Packet. Be sure to read the information carefully and follow all instructions.
- Apply – If you feel you can commit to the trip requirements, complete the Short-Term Mission Application and hand it in along with your non-refundable deposit. An interview might be arranged with you and your parents to ensure that everyone understands the commitment being made.
- Live Right – We are meant to live on mission for Jesus every day! Serving Jesus doesn’t start the day the trip begins; it starts now. Spend time daily connecting with God, growing in your faith, and being a missionary right where you are. Respect your parents, do your best in school, be a good friend and witness, etc. Missions trips should just be an extension of who you are every day at home.
- Get Your Passport & Shots – Once you receive a letter of acceptance onto the team, (if you’re going on an international trip) getting your passport and any required shots are the first priority. Don’t hesitate! These things can take time. If you have a passport, be sure it does not expire within 6 months from the end of the trip. (Example: If the trip is June 17-24th, your passport needs to be valid through December 24h.)
- Raise Support – Write your support letter and send it to your friends and family, inviting them to participate in your faith adventure! Do this sooner rather than later.
- Work Hard – Mission trips don’t just happen during the week you’re gone. They take a lot of work, commitment, and sacrifice in the months leading up to them.
- Journal – As soon as you’re accepted onto the team, begin documenting your experience – how God is providing, your prayers, etc.
- Participate in group fundraisers, team meetings and practices, and attend youth group weekly.
- Go – You’ve prayed. You’ve taken a step of faith. You’ve prepared. God has provided. Now it’s time to go!
- Serve – You will be asked to do all kinds of things on a missions trip. Remember, nothing is below you as a follower of Jesus. Serve the Lord in humility and with gladness, because you are serving Jesus himself when you serve people. And be flexible. Things will not go as you planned. Just keep smiling and roll with it.
- Reflect – When you return from your trip, be sure to take some time to reflect on your trip.
- What did you learn? About God? About yourself? About your team? About the culture? About God’s heart?
- How can you continue to build on your learnings now that you’re home? What are the transferable principles?
- Share – Be sure to share what God did through you and in you during your mission experience with your family, friends, classmates, teachers, and others!
- Thank – Send your prayer team and people who helped you financially a Thank You letter for their support. Include a report and some pictures of your trip so they can see how their prayers and money made a difference.
- Keep Living on Mission – Mission trips are not the end-all. They are a step on our journey of faith. Allow the experiences you had and the lessons you learned to shape you and motivate you to serve God each and every day with more passion than the day before.
Questions for Discussion:
- How have you seen mission trips positively affect communities?
- How have you seen mission trips negatively affect communities?
- How have mission trips impacted team members who you’ve taken on trips?
- What do you think about the idea that not all trips are for everyone?
- How do you decide who should go on which trip?
- What does your trip preparation process look like?
- How did this article challenge you and make you think differently?
- What do you agree or disagree with? Explain your reasoning.
Kevin Mahaffy Jr. is husband to Adriana, and father of two daughters — Claudia who is a college student, and Natalia who is in high school. He has served in youth ministry for over 20 years as a teaching pastor and a popular camp and retreat speaker. Kevin has written two books and co-authored several others. He is a big Yankees fan, bookaholic, Starbucks junkie, Krispy Kreme addict, and blogger. He exercises a lot, but he also eats a lot, so you can’t tell he exercises a lot.