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10 Keys to Leading a Great Mission Trip (Part 1)

By Doug Franklin May 14, 2014


For the past few months, I have been making presentations to adult volunteers who will be going on summer mission trips with LeaderTreks. I do this every year, but this year I wanted to focus on helping adult volunteers dig deep into the purpose of student missions. So I did some brainstorming and came up with these ten keys to leading a great mission trip. Ten things may seem like a lot, but all of these things are important. Today, I’ll introduce you to the first five. Tomorrow I’ll post the rest.

Without further delay, here are the first five keys to leading a great mission trip:

1. Going is not enough.
If we want to see transformational change happen, we must be intentional with a student’s mission experience. Our expectations are usually low. We get excited that kids are doing a service project at all. But this is shortsighted. We don’t just want them to go; we want them to grow. By being intentional with the mission trip, we could see students return with a desire for a daily quiet time. They may even acquire a craving to spend their whole lives in service to the needy. God can do so much through our students. Let’s not sell him short.

2. Be a trip mentor.
A trip is a great place to develop a long-term, life-changing relationship with a student. We must be more than chaperones. Most adults go on trips with students to keep them out of trouble. They believe their most important role is to drive the van. If adults used the trip to develop deep relationships leading to mentoring, then the trip could be more than a mountain top experience for students. Challenge and train adults to look for opportunities to become mentors while on the trip.

3. Give the trip a purpose.
What do you want your students to look like when they return? How do you want them to be different? Once you have answered those questions, work backwards from that goal to where you are now. What kind of experiences should your students have to get where you want them to go? Share your plan with the other adults going on the trip. Cast the vision for your plan to parents and get them on board. Inspire the students by describing how their world will be different after the change. All of these activities will positively reinforce the purpose of the trip.

4. Inspire spiritual growth.
A mission trip is a great place for a student to encounter God. Students will feel a need for God while on the trip, and that’s a great opportunity for you to introduce them to spiritual disciplines. Set aside time on the trip for devotions and prayer. Provide a tool like a Bible study guide or prayer journal students can use. Encourage students to continue spending time with God even after they return home. Don’t miss this golden opportunity to inspire spiritual growth.

5. Find teachable moments.
Teachable moments happen when you mix a student’s experience with the truth of the Bible. On mission trips, students will encounter many different experiences, and they will be challenged to think in new ways. Look for moments to help them find applications to change their lives back home. Help them connect the dots between real life and Scripture.


Give your students an intensive daily devotional experience on the mission trip. “James” is an on-trip student devotional guide on the book of James for a one-week mission trip. Click here to learn more.

Check back tomorrow for the second five keys to a great mission trip.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More