Each summer youth groups from all over the United States load up on vans, buses, airplanes, or other modes of transportation as they travel to another place in the world to do mission work. This has become an important part of the summer planning for many youth ministers. However, there are some Youth Ministers who are still getting their feet wet or parents and youth deacons who are trying to put a mission trip together. It's that time of year again as people begin to look to next summer's mission trip.
Over the next several weeks, I would like to outline several important steps to consider as you plan your next mission trip. These articles will mainly be geared toward youth mission trips, but these tips can be very helpful when planning any mission trip.
Youth Mission Trips: Coordinated by the Youth Minister, Youth Deacon, Parents or others with the intent of creating a desire in young people to serve and do mission work, as we have been called to do. Jesus didn’t place age limits on those who are called – He said GO! and that includes all believers. Youth Mission Trips are a great time to get other adults (besides parents) involved. It helps our students to begin forming relationships with adults in your congregation. During our last mission trip, we had one parent go, the rest were just interested adults because they all wanted to go to get to know our kids better and to serve alongside of them during our mission trip.
Over the years I have been a part of several mission trips including inner city missions (Pensacola and Chattanooga), foreign missions (Panama and Zimbabwe), and recently did mission work in Orlando, FL. I don't have all the answers, but I have seen a lot and have learned a lot through each experience. I pray that what I share will be beneficial to you and your ministry.
When planning an effective youth mission trip there are 3 key area that you need to focus on: preparation, execution, and follow-up.
Preparation: Everything that happens before you leave on the trip. This is when you decide what kind of mission work you are going to be involved in, the location of that work, and all the logistics.
At times the prep work is the hardest part in the planning. What are some challenges a mission team faces during the preparation stage? In regards to Youth Missions?
Commitment: Students and adults live very busy schedules. So, getting them to be committed to the process can be very difficult. I would recommend having a contract or a pre-requisite requirement to attend the mission trip. Our students are required to do 25 service hours to attend our mission trip. Adults and students are required to sign a contract that outlines expectations of the mission team.
Chaperones/Adults: Due to busy summer schedules, it is sometimes hard to find chaperones and adults who are willing to use a week of their summer to be a part of the mission team. At the same time, you don't just want any adult or parent attending, be intentional on who you approach individually as you ask certain adults to be involved.
Coordination with other end: Coordinating with the one on the other end of the mission trip is key. However, sometimes it is difficult because that person may not like e-mail, but that is how you communicate. It is up to you to communicate effectively with the person who is helping you on the other end of the mission trip. They are helping YOU to provide the best mission opportunity possible, so make sure you communicate with them in the way that they want to communicate.
Transportation: Figuring out how you are going to get to your destination can be problematic. How many buses/vans do I need? Will I need drivers? How will we transport luggage? It can be a challenge but planning ahead will help.
Some things you need to consider very early on in the prep stage are:
Do you know anyone who has traveled to the areas you are considering? If so, speak with them. After our mission work in Orlando, I wrote a blog about it. Another minister read the blog and contacted me about taking a group to Orlando for a mission trip. It's important that you do some background research about the area where you desire to do mission work.
What experience does your mission team have? This question will help determine if you should go domestic or foreign and what type of work would be suitable. Are they young? Have they been on mission trips before? If your group is young and relatively new to mission work, a domestic mission trip is probably better. If your group is older and has several years of experience in mission work, then a foreign trip may be right for them. It is different from group to group.
Have you personally worked in considered areas? or does you congregation work with a missionary in considered areas? A foreign mission trip is not the time to take a group of inexperienced kids and explore new territory. – That should be the work of a missionary.
Training is key during preparation.
Mission Labs: We have mission labs with each mission trip where we go over different aspects of our upcoming mission trips. If you will be door knocking, maybe you want to set up a door knocking scenario for your group. If you will be doing a VBS, then you will need to practice and prepare for each day.
You will want to talk about the area where you will be working. Inform the mission team of any cultural differences that you may experience.
Most importantly, stress to your group that flexibility is key. All the planning in the world can not prepare you for some of the situations that you will face on a mission trip. This is why training is key, to be as prepared as possible and to not be caught off guard when something doesn't go as scripted.
Other Prep work items:
Coordination w/ local minister or contact person: This is the time where you decide what the mission team will be involved in. Will housing be provided? What meals will be provided? This will help you prepare better and determine costs.
Also, you will want a free day after the work that you have done. It will be a very emotional week for some on your mission team and they will need a day to relax before heading home. As you prepare for the trip, you will need to determine what your team will be doing, does this place offer group rates, possible lunch and dining options.
Determine the cost of everything. I would suggest lumping all the costs into one total amount (lodging, transportation, food, free day, etc.), so that your mission team only has to keep up with extra money for souvenirs, snacks, etc. When you are dealing with youth, I have found it to be easier to have everything in a lump sum instead of asking students to keep up with money for the whole week that will pay for meals. Inevitably, they will overspend and not have enough money for food towards the end of the week.
Decide partners. It is a good idea, especially if you know ahead of time, to pair each team member with a partner, especially with someone they would not normally partner with. These partners would be together for door knocking and for prayer time each morning. Our prayer partners met each morning to talk about the day, important things to pray for, read important/encouraging verses, and to pray together. I would highly recommend having prayer partners. Relationships that were built that week through their prayer time together are still going strong today!
Put together a mission book. This would contain your schedule for the week, certain responsibilites (such as devotional speaker), prayer partner list, pages to journal, etc. This will help your mission team stay on the task at hand. It will, also, help things to be a little more organized.
Next week will address the execution part of a mission trip. If you have any questions about planning a mission trip, please comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Andrew Thompson is the Youth and Family Minister at Rose Hill Church of Christ. He is married to the beautiful, Joy Thompson (who is way out of his league!). They enjoy sharing life together, ministering to teens and families, football in Tuscaloosa (Roll Tide!), and musical theatre. Andrew is a proud supporter of sarcasm and dry sense of humors. Thank you for reading!