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top 5 team building game for youth

Unity: A Mission Trip’s Super Power

By Doug Franklin May 4, 2020

Mission trips unify a youth group in a way unlike any other. The power of the trip is fully realized in the fall during kick off when you find that the mission trip has developed a committed group of students who love Jesus and each other.

This produces an environment where students feel they belong, will be heard and are accepted by others. Youth ministry tends to flourish and grow when students feel this way.

So how do we create mission trips where students build unity?

This is a very important question because not all student mission trips end in unity. It’s not an automatic outcome; it’s an outcome that we plan for.

We need to take practical steps in the planning process to make sure the elements exist on our trips to produce unity.   

Element #1: Learning about self

Mission trips are designed to be practical experiences where students learn to serve. Included in this learning are lessons about themselves. They learn about how they are wired to lead other people. They learn how they are gifted to serve, and they learn about how they work on a team.

The element of learning about self-releases a belief in students that each person on the team is unique and special. If they learn that they are unique it just makes sense and everyone else is too. For unity to take root students need to see each person on the team as valuable. It’s the foundational building block for unity.

Try this idea: Invite your students to take a personality assessment, a leadership assessment, or a spiritual gifts test during your mission trip.


Element #2: Experiencing something bigger than themselves 

Students must experience something on their trip that they believe to be impossible. Something that takes them far outside of their comfort zones.

They might see God do something they thought impossible. They might complete a project they never thought they could accomplish. They might even build a relationship with someone who challenges their beliefs about racism, poverty or even how church works.

This experience should shake them. It’s the shaking process that binds them together.

Try this idea: The LeaderTreks “Find the Right Trip Assessment” includes a tool to help you identify the right level of challenge for your students. Finding a trip that will reach your goals has a lot to do with the level of challenge. The right trip will avoid students’ comfort zones and panic zones and challenge students in their growth zone. Fill out the form below to download.

find the right trip assessment


Element #3: See Jesus through new eyes

When I was a student, I went on a mission trip to Chicago and lived in a rescue mission for a week. We slept, showered and ate with the men at the mission (things we don’t do anymore).

The men at the mission really knew Jesus, they had experienced a life with him I could never have imagined. They loved him not for what he would do for them someday but for what he was doing for them today. They changed my view of Jesus and they changed my life with Christ.

For a mission trip to build unity, the group must have a center to build out from, like bees building a honeycomb. Jesus must be the center, otherwise selfishness, pride and jealousy will rule and unity will die.

Try this idea: The best way to keep God at the center of a mission trip is to spend time every day deepening our faith in him through devotions. Explore LeaderTreks Mission Trip Devotionals or learn how to create your own.

If your student mission trip has these elements you students will have unity and you can build on that for the fall. Mission trips can be a great summer activity, but they can be so much more when we are intentional about the activities and challenge students share their experiences with every students in the youth ministry.

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