sign up sheet for mission trip

6 Tips to Get Your Students to Sign Up for a Mission Trip

By Doug Franklin March 11, 2020

Students believe they are empathetic and that they care about everyone. In fact, they are fighting many social justice battles right now with multiple hashtags. Awareness is the new activism. We know that awareness is not the end goal of service; being a reflection of Christ is the goal because it brings glory to him and draws people to his love. 

Students don’t just sign up for a mission trip because we offer. Gone are the days when every student signed up for the summer mission trip. Back in the day, students that you had never heard of would sign up, but today, students are more sophisticated and have more options. 

Today, we need a strategy to get students motivated to serve. You can no longer make three announcements and set a sign-up date. You must think of new ways to reach students. Also, you will need three or four innovative ways to get them to sign up because students are so different today. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking.

1. Vision of a changed world 

When we announce the summer mission trip, we tend to emphasize the location. Students consider the trip based on whether or not they have been there or want to go there. If students make their decision on these biases, you are in trouble. 

Instead start with who you are going to serve and what trouble they are in. Paint the picture of how their world could be different if someone showed up and cared for them. 

Next, highlight the relationships that will be formed—relationships with your team, as well as the new people you will encounter, learn from, and serve. 

Finally, help students understand how it will benefit them. This is a new world, and students will be considering what is best for them this summer. A mission trip needs to be “sold” as a resume-building and personal development experience. I know I can’t believe I am saying this, but this is how students are making decisions these days. 

2. Personal ask 

Go to each student and share with them how you see God working in their lives and how this trip will allow God to continue to grow them. Share with them what you think their greatest need is and how the trip will meet that need. Students will have a hard time walking away from an experience that can help them with their greatest need. Also, they will see you as someone who wants the best for them. Students know the real thing when they see it, so if you are honest and authentic with your ask, they will respond. 

3. Offer a leadership role 

Offer students a real role in leading part of the experience. From food to VBS to a work project, mission trips are full of leadership roles. A leadership role makes you an owner—someone who will recruit others to the experience. Also, a leadership role will be something new. Mission trips can feel old or like “been there, done that” experiences, so leadership roles can give trips a new shot in the arm.

4. Show the video from last year’s trip

If you have a video from last year’s mission trip, show it to the whole youth ministry including parents. Check out this awesome mission trip video. Follow the video with students’ testimonials about how the trip changed them and what they learned about God. Show the whole youth ministry why we do missions and how it will impact them.

5. Meet with parents

Have a special meeting just for parents. You need parent support to get students to sign up for a mission trip. Again, share the vision and how the trip will help their students. Don’t spend much time on location, but do cover where students will sleep, shower, and eat meals. Then move the conversation to what their students will learn. Talk about spiritual growth, character development, and teamwork. Focus on how the trip will help students grow.

Still not sure what to do for the meeting? Read this article we specifically wrote on how to lead a mission trip parents meeting.

6. Greatest adventure of your life

Cast the vision that mission trips are the adventure of a lifetime. I think students think of mission trips like another summer option. But mission trips are different. A mission trip is about stepping out of your comfort zone to take risks and see God show up to meet our needs and the needs of the people we serve. Every student should experience God’s power while taking risks for the glory of God. 

Getting students to sign up for mission trips requires personal connection, clear communication about the benefits for students, and painting a picture of how God meets us when we take risks in his name.

Check out our FREE resources to help you prepare to lead a transformational trip for your students:

find the right trip assessment

 If you’re just beginning the trip planning process, you know that choosing mission trips for teens can be a daunting task. With so many great and unique organizations to research and choose from, finding the right trip can easily become an overwhelming, high-pressure experience. It’s not enough to pick mission trips for teens based on the price tag or the destination; you’ve got to assess potential ministry partners based on what they value and how well they avoid causing harm to the local community. Use the Find the Right Trip Assessment to help you find the right trip for your group.

If you plan to create your mission trip from scratch rather than go with an outside organization, check out the Mission Trip Builder. The Mission Trip Builder is a How-To Guide for Mission Trips designed specifically for youth workers. You have an opportunity to craft a short-term mission trip experience to be a greenhouse for student development, but you need to be intentional in the building process. This tool will help you build an intentional mission trip experience for your students, one that will give them the best chance for growing into strong and healthy Christ-followers.

Before he returned to his Father in heaven, Jesus gave his followers one last command: to spread the good news of his death and resurrection to the whole world. If we truly understand the joy of following Jesus, we are quick to set aside our own desires in favor of our mission to care for the least. This Pre-Trip Devotional is a great resource for pre-trip training for your mission team. The goal of this lesson is to help students understand the difference between living out their own preferences and living out of God’s purposes.

If you’re heading out on your trip and you’re looking for ways to keep parents connected, try using Helping Parents Connect. This resource is designed to enrich the journey that parents experience while their student is part of a mission trip. Helping Parents Connect asks questions to get parents thinking about how they can best connect with their student before the trip, during the trip, and after the trip. It is designed to get them involved from the beginning and to help them grow with their kids through this experience. Download Helping Parents Connect.

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