leadertreks youth ministry spring break mission trips

When a Global Pandemic Interrupts your Mission Trip Pre-Trip Training

By Dan Colwin April 14, 2020

I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone the last few weeks talking with youth pastors about mission trips this summer. As we continue to pray and plan for trips to take place, many youth pastors are asking me simple questions like: how do I fundraise? How do I talk to parents about the trip? And how do I train students for the mission trip?

While I’ve written about fundraising and parents, I want to specifically address the topic of students training and preparation.

the importance of pre-trip training

Pre-trip training is where you can begin preparing your students for what’s ahead. Preparing for a mission trip can be stressful — registrations, deposits, parent meetings, travel forms, and so much more. The last thing youth workers want to do is add on more stress when planning the trip!

However, training your students can make or break the impact of the trip both in their lives and in the community you’re serving. I would go as far as to say training sessions should be a requirement for all your students before they are even allowed on the team. Their level of commitment to the trip is clearly displayed if they cannot commit to the scheduled trainings. If your short-term mission trip is going to be truly effective, then pre-trip, on-trip, and post-trip training should take place.

pre-trip training during quarantine

But that’s normal and nothing is normal these days as we are ministering to students during a global pandemic.

So can you still do pre-trip training during quarantine? The answer is yes!

Pre-trip training should include the following components: poverty training, team building training, and spiritual training.

Poverty Training

For many students, this mission trip will be their first time encountering real poverty. Teach them about the causes and effects of poverty, and about God’s heart for the poor. Speak honestly and openly about how to effectively interact with poverty so your students do not walk into their mission trip donning a savior complex.

We are called to help others in need, but we will be taught many valuable lessons in the process. Students must understand the value of building relationships with people they are serving, and how these relationships show God’s love more than the material assistance offered.

Here are a few examples you can use for doing this remotely:

  1. Have students research where you are going and present their findings to the group. Have them include information about the city or neighborhood you are visiting, the ministries you are working with, and what life might be like for residents you’ll meet on your trip.
  2. Let students experience remotely what poverty is like by having them go through the online poverty experience Spent. Spent is an interactive poverty simulation put together by Urban Ministries of Durham.  

Team Building Training

Every team will experience interpersonal conflict on mission trips. It’s unavoidable. But having team building training beforehand will help them deal with this conflict in a mature way.

Teach your students about the power a team can have when they are unified, focused, and caring for each other. Using team building initiatives and games are a great way to build these values. Plus, it’s a ton of fun. 

Here are a few examples you can use for doing this remotely:

  1. Photo of Your Life: Have students submit a photo of something that is important to them ahead of time and then build a powerpoint presentation to use over Zoom. Share your screen and have students explain why they chose the photo they did and its importance in their lives. 
  2. Personal Assessments: Personality assessments are always a great way to help students get to know each other. Whether you have everyone take a personality assessment or a spiritual gifts assessment, they can help students go deep pretty quickly. Check out Student Leaders Start Here for a great resource packed with three student leadership assessments in each book. 
  3. Team Trivia Game: Having fun is one of the best ways you can build your team. Consider hosting an online game night! Play Trivia or any other game on Zoom that will bring laughter to your students. Use Zoom’s Meeting Room feature to put your students into groups so they can compete as teams. You can find more virtual game ideas here.

Spiritual Training

Take time in pre-trip training to teach your students about the spiritual value of missions and the ways in which their personal spiritual growth connects with God’s plan for the world. The Kingdom of God is huge, and while your students’ mission trip is just a small part of the Kingdom, it is significant for their future work.

We often focus on logistics during our training time and miss the opportunity to train our students spiritually. What a shame if their trip program is prepared, but their hearts aren’t ready.

Here are a few examples you can use for doing this remotely:

  1. Go through a devotional plan together on the YouVersion Bible App
  2. Do online team training using our Imprint curriculum

While training for this year’s trip may look different because you can’t meet in person, doing pre-trip training remotely will stay have an effect on your students as it prepares their hearts for a life changing trip experience this summer. 

About the Author

Dan Colwin

Dan Colwin is director of trips at LeaderTreks. He and his wife, Clare, live in West Chicago with their sons, Everett and Oliver, and little puggle, Roxy. They love their church family at Life Church in Wheaton, where they volunteer together in the youth group. He enjoys spending time outdoors, taking walks, having fires, reading, building Legos, working in the garden, and…  Read More