So, you’ve decided to take your students on a mission trip this summer. That’s awesome! I think that this is one of the best ways to challenge students to live out their faith. They have to learn to trust God when they find themselves outside of their comfort zones. Even more so, your students get to go out and be hand the hands and feet of Jesus to a world that needs His love.
By this point in the year, hopefully your plans for next summer have started to solidify (assuming you are taking your mission trip in the summer). If not, that’s ok! Here are a few things to ask yourself as you begin to plan your trip.
1. What kind of trip do you want to take?
The fun part about mission trips are how many different ways you can do them! You can stay local and serve your community. You can travel regionally and experience other parts of this country. Or there are bigger, international trips that can really open up your students’ eyes to other cultures and people groups. You can arrange all the details yourself, or you can partner with an organization whose ministry is leading mission trips for students.
For my students, I alternate between urban inner-city trips with the Center for Student Missions and trips to Puerto Rico with Praying Pelican Missions. There are many other great mission agencies that specialize in leading mission trips to different areas of the world. You have to find one that fits the mission and purpose you are looking for.
2. Who are you taking on the trip?
If you are going on a mission trip, you are going to need to take some people with you. This involves recruiting! Spend some time with your students casting the vision for what you have prayerfully chosen to do and how they can be a part of it. Students love to see how they can have an impact on others, and mission trips can do just that. I’ve found that recruiting students to go on the trips is one of the easier parts of planning.
You are also going to want to bring some adults with you who can help lead the trip. Who you choose for this can make or break the trip. Be looking for people who are passionate about serving God, not afraid to get a little dirty, and who won’t mind spending A LOT of time surrounded by teenagers. You will also want to think through what roles these adults will be playing. If you will be building a house in Guatemala, having an adult leader who understands construction and is skilled in it will be of great help!
3. How are you paying for the trip?
Mission trips can be relatively cheap to super expensive depending on what you are doing and where you are going. By this point in the process, hopefully you will have your budget figured out (how much it’s going to cost to accomplish the goals of the trip). Most mission trips require fundraising of some sort – from the good ol’ reliable car wash or yard sale to writing support letters. Getting whatever fundraising events you are going to do on the calendar is important. The sooner the better. Also putting out deadlines for when payments for the trip are due as soon as you know them is huge. This gives the parents and students time to plan finances.
Need help coming up with fundraising ideas? The internet is filled with them, Google it and you’ll find tons of great inspiration. Some mission organizations even offer ideas and ways to track finances as part of their ministry. I have found our Sunday morning, youth-run coffee shop is one of the most successful on-going mission trip fundraisers we have done.
4. How are you prepping your team members for the trip?
This is the important part of the preparation process that will help ensure the trip goes as smoothly as possible. This goal can be accomplished by having your people attend mission trip prep meetings on a schedule that you decide (only meet as often as needed to be prepared for the trip).
Whatever you are doing for your mission trip, the people you are taking need to function as a team. There is no room for high school drama when you are serving others! Team building exercises and small group activities can help your team learn to function together in unity before the trip.
Everybody needs to understand what their role on the trip will be. For example, if your trip is going to involve a VBS of some sort, you will want to use these meetings to prep the lessons you will be teaching and the materials you will need.
This is also the time to get the team spiritually ready. Working through some ideas such as team unity (Phil 2:1-11) and why mission trips really matter (James 1:26-28) are just some of the important concepts that the team will need to grasp.
Finally, devote a serious part of these meetings to prayer. Be in prayer for the people you’ll be ministering to and be in prayer for your team to be used by God.
Happy mission trip planning! What an honor it is to lead these groups of world-changers!
Scott Nichols serves as the Pastor of Student Ministries at Canyon Del Oro Baptist Church. He received his B.S. from Portland State, and both his Grad Certificate in Bible and M.Div from Multnomah Seminary. Scott is married to Sarah and enjoys spending his free time with her and their three children–Nathan, Asher and Emsley.