I have been on 4 short-term mission trips in my life, and by far the most memorable, and most impactful, was with my youth group. There’s many features that it takes to do a student mission trip, and as I found out from being a leader on one, a ton of work. I also know that as a pastor or youth leader, you want this trip to be one of the highlights of your teen’s christian experience. So you want to do all that you can to streamline your efforts and make this a great trip. But how do you run an effective mission trip? Where do you even start?
To help with that, I’ve listed 5 key features that, from my own experience, will make your student mission trip life-changing.
What would be some key actions I would do if I was running a student missions trip?
- Choose a missionary you support, and partner with them. Obviously, one of the first things to do is choose a destination. Will you travel overseas? Will you stay local? Will you go to a major city a couple hours away? Whatever your decision, you should do it based on the missionaries your church supports. Most missionaries bring the mission field experience to churches when support-raising. But very seldom do they have their churches get involved by sending a team over.
There’s several benefits to this. 1) It will be a comfort for you to work with someone you are already familiar with 2) The teens will become better acquainted with a ministry that their church supports. 3) It will be a huge encouragement to the missionary to know that you are fully involved in their ministry.
- Book flights through an agency. There are not-for-profit travel agencies that can purchase your flights for you at an incredible discount, because they are an established and reputable travel agency. Their status with airlines allows them to work with airlines and find deals you never could. It’s great. You tell them your dates, your destination, and they do the rest. There are, of course, a few more steps than that, but the time, energy, and stress this is going to save you is well worth it.
- Try-outs. Auditions. Interview the students that want to go on this trip. Why do they want to go? What do they hope to get out of it? Make this serious, because it is indeed serious. You don’t want someone that is going for the wrong reasons. Those aren’t the people you send to a foreign country. Out of all the people in the church of Antioch, only Saul and Barnabas were chosen. It says they were actively involved in the church.
- Team-building activities. In the movie Miracle coach Herb Brooks has been training young college hockey players to be the US Olympic team that will finally beat the Russians. After several months of training, sweating, bleeding together, he brings in a new kid. This shakes things up so badly for the players that some of them talk to Coach Brooks about sending him back. When asked why they finally gave their true answer: “Because we’re a family!”
That’s the unity that you’re striving for from your students. Have a pizza party together with group games. Do work projects for people in the church. There’s all sorts of neat ideas you can do as a team to build unity. Because of training like this, I felt much closer with the teens on that trip than I did with anyone else. I still have fond memories of them all.
- Lessons: There’s so many fantastic tricks and visuals that can be used to grab people’s attention long enough to share the gospel with them. Commit time and energy into training sessions that will teach them how to use these. Good tools to start with are things like the Rope Trick or the popular Evangecube.