By Doug Franklin August 17, 2020

Organized youth pastors plan months ahead, but how do you plan ahead for a mission trip next summer when you don’t know what’s happening with the pandemic?

The answer is to still make a plan. Because this is going to end, and you want to make sure that you’re ready for next summer. Your families will want a mission trip experience for their students.

You have to assume that the world is going to move forward and that there is going to be a vaccination and we are going to return to some sort of new normal.

Keep in mind that even if there is a vaccination, not everybody will take the vaccination. We will still need to be vigilant and make sure that students stay safe wherever they serve.

So, this year picking a mission trip is going to be a little trickier.

I’ve put together seven questions you should be asking to make sure that you have the right partner to guide you to an effective mission trip.

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7 Questions to ask before you book

1. Do you have experience leading low-contact mission trips?

This is an essential question because you want to make sure that your partner has some experience running trips where social distancing and masks and other preventative activities have already been tested and ready to go.

This past summer at LeaderTreks, we ran over 30 mission trips using low contact procedures, and we learned a lot. We didn’t do everything perfectly, but we learned what to do and what not to do. Thankfully we didn’t have any cases of Covid, but we learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work.

You need a partner with experience to guide you through how to keep your students safe.

2. Do the ministries that you are partnering with (to do work projects and relational ministry) have low-contact safety procedures in place?

You want your students to be able to do meaningful service projects, but you need them to be safe. There are lots of ministries out there that would love your group to come and help. You will need to ask questions about who is on site and what are their procedures for low-contact and keeping people safe.

There are some really good strategies out there on how to do this, and if you would like to know more information, call Dan in the LeaderTreks office and he would love to share with you how he is working with ministry partners to make sure that students stay safe while serving.

3. Who are your staff and how much training do they receive?

Most youth mission organizations love to talk about price and location, but those really have nothing to do with spiritual impact on your students. Who their staff are and how they perform make all the difference when it comes to impact.

So how old are they, what is their experience, and how much training did they receive before leading your trip? These questions have a lot to do with the success of your mission trip and the kind of role and experience your adult volunteers will have.

4. How much money per student do you spend on work projects?

This question will tell you a ton about the quality of the organization’s trip. The answer will also give you insight into what additional costs might be coming your way. Many youth workers tell of trips where work project money runs out after day 2, and you have to put more money in if you want to continue to have work projects. 

Just to give you an idea: at LeaderTreks we spend about $75 a week on each student on mission trip sites.

5. What is your return rate?

Every organization knows their return rate—the percentage of youth groups that return each year. This number will give you an idea of the satisfaction of previous teams.

6. What is your intentional spiritual development plan to grow my students through your program?

Many youth mission programs are focused on just going. If you take your students on a mission trip, that may be enough in and of itself, but if you’re honest, you want more, and your parents want more. Look for an organization that has a plan to see your students grow spiritually.

Every organization offers the speaker and a band at night, but you know that’s more hype than growth. Move past location and price toward impact.

Consider a mission trip journal with Bible study, prayer journal, and growth journal. At LeaderTreks we make these types of journals that teach students how to use Bible study methods, how to use a prayer journal, and how to evaluate each day so that your team will grow during the mission trip. You can check them out here on the LeaderTreks website.

7. What pre-trip and post-trip training do you offer?

I am not talking about logistic training with this question. I am talking about spiritual training that will lead to growth and application of the experience. 

I find that most organizations focus on getting you there with the proper forms. I think it’s more important that your students understand the biblical mandate for missions and that they can live the mission lifestyle months after they return.

This pre- and post-trip material is worth its weight in gold if it helps your students understand the life God has for them.

Download the PDF Version

There are many good organizations out there. You need to ask questions to find the best one for you and your church. In this Covid world, we need to know more than ever before about the kind of experiences that our students are going to have on the trip.

Ask hard questions and don’t settle for good enough.

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