Mission Trip Planning 101 (Part 1)
One of my favorite things to do in student ministry is to take students on short-term mission trips. For several years we’ve taken students on LeaderTreks Trips. I love seeing students leave their comfort zone to go serve others in another part of the country or even world. It’s always one of the highlights of my summer. However, mission trip planning for these summer trips starts way before the summer months come around. Six to eight months out is when the process begins for us and it doesn’t slow down much from that point forward.
I want to share with you the major things we do over that time span to prepare for summer mission trips.
1. Parent Info Meeting
Parents want to know about your upcoming summer mission trip. Many times the key to getting your students on the trip is to make sure their parents have all the information they need. I’ve learned that with mission trip planning the more context and vision you can give parents for your trip early on, the better off you’ll be. This is why we have a parent info meeting regarding our upcoming summer mission trip in December. At this meeting we share the vision behind our mission trips as well as all the known details like dates, cost, and location. We make sure this is also put into a packet that parents can take home with them after the meeting.
We want students to take these trips seriously and realize that it’s not like signing up for a one night event or a weekend retreat. They need to be serious in their commitment to go on our mission trip. This is why we use the language of “fill out an application online” as opposed to “sign up online.” The word “application” carries a more serious tone that we want students to catch on to. This application includes all their basic info as well as questions like: How did you come to faith in Christ?, How are you growing in your relationship with Christ?, and Why do you want to go on this trip? We also put a deadline on these applications so that students have about a month to apply once the applications go live.
After students apply for our mission trip they must participate in a 15 minute interview with myself or another one of the adult leaders going on our mission trip. This is an opportunity for us to get to know the students better as well as have the chance to ask them any questions that have come up as we reviewed their applications. We usually ask the students to share their faith story and tell us how they are growing in their relationship with Christ during this interview. We also ask questions regarding how they will handle conflict between themselves and their peers on the trip and what aspects of the trip they are most excited/nervous about. The moment we use the words “application” and “interview” many students and parents will start asking, “So will you turn students away?” The answer is “Yes, but not likely.” I’ve never turned a student away from a mission trip, but I would if I saw read flags in their application and confirmed those red flags as I talked to them in person during their interview. (The LeaderTreks Mission Trip Student Profile is a great resource for understanding your students and knowing how to encourage and challenge them best).
4. Pre-Trip Meetings
Once everything listed above is completed it’s time to begin our pre-trip meetings. These meetings are a crucial part of our mission trip planning process and will span for across the 4 months leading up to the trip. We usually meet once a month starting in March. At these meetings we do a few things: team building activities, a Bible study focused on missions, ministry work prep, and discussion of important details in regards to fundraising and paperwork required for the trip. These are not optional meetings for the students going on the trip. Students must be at these mission trip planning meetings as they are vital to the overall success of the trip. (Looking for a mission trip planning guide to help you decide when to meet and what to talk about? Check out the LeaderTreks Mission Trip Planning Guide).
These are the main things we do to prep for our mission trips. The nice thing about all the things I listed above is that they can easily be done in whatever context you find yourself in. I’d encourage you to take and adapt what we do as you prep for your mission trips.
Check back next week for part 2!
Still need help with your mission trip planning process?
Check out our Mission Trip Prep Kit!
About the Author
Austin McCann is an associate pastor at Redemption Chapel in Stow, OH. Austin has a passion to see things done well within local churches and enjoys creating and maintaining effective programs and systems within the context of the local church. He loves everything basketball (die hard Cleveland Cavaliers and Duke Blue Devils fan), reading, spending time with… Read More