Make Your Mission More Than A Trip

How to Prepare for a Mission Trip Intentionally  

Are mission trips worth it?

If you’ve ever been on or organized a mission trip, you know that it can be a lot of work. It’s also possible that if they’re done in an improper or disrespectful way, they can cause harm in the community that you’re seeking to serve.

There are several ways that you may view the “ROI” of a mission trip –

Mission trips are worth it if…

               …people come to faith in Jesus.

               …we assist in healthy community development.

               …students continue serving after the trip in their hometown.

               …our ministry grows. 

               …students develop a new and revitalized faith.

               …students discover their passions and gifts.


There is validity to each of these as result of a mission trip. However, I’d argue that the greatest fruit of a mission trip is what it may produce in the life of a student years down the road. Maybe we should view our mission trips less like an end goal, singular event, or highlight to your ministry year, and more like a seed with the potential of yielding 30, 60, or 100-fold.

The mission is more than a trip if it is used to cultivate a lifestyle of service in the Kingdom of God.

My hope is that mission trips are seen as a piece of a larger discipleship puzzle designed to form students into the type of people that serve as Jesus serves. If our trips are viewed more as cultivation process than singular event, it also means that many of us likely need to be far more intentional with what happens before and after our trips, not just during.

In this post, let’s look more at how to be intentional in the months before a mission trip occurs.

  1. Prayer as Spiritual Preparation
    I know…it’s such a “Sunday School answer”, but it’s true. If you want to begin cultivating a lifestyle of service before your mission trip, pray. Intentional prayer in the months or weeks leading up to your mission trip will help your students frame the experience as a spiritual endeavor rather than primarily a logistical or entertaining one.  

    Increased time spent praying for the community members your group will be serving, local partners, opportunities, and your own hearts is in itself a way to begin loving people as Jesus does. As Richard Foster says, “If we truly love people, we will desire for them far more than it is within our power to give them, and this will lead us to prayer. Intercession is a way of loving others…”

    Idea: Create a pre-trip prayer strategy. Require or incentivize students to participate in prayer meetings or efforts.
  2. Posture of Respectful Service
    It’s best if students begin developing an understanding of what it means to serve respectfully before a mission trip occurs. If your group shows up to a new community with a posture that communicates “We’re here to save you from all of your problems”, there’s a danger that you’ll harm the community, diminish the work of ministries and organizations that are in that community year-round, and mar the witness of Jesus.

    Schedule a few talks or discussions with your group to frame respectful service as –

    – Seeing people NOT issues
    – Following the community’s agenda NOT our agenda
    – Valuing presence NOT productivity
    – Seeing Jesus as the Savior NOT us as the Savior
    – Understanding poverty as lack of relationships NOT simply material possessions.·  Joining Jesus in the community NOT bringing Jesus to the community.

    Idea: Use this Beads Needs activity
  3. Understand the People & Place
    To use fancy seminary words, this means providing some base level training on missiology & contextualization. When traveling to a new community or culture, we need to speak the language and interact with people in ways that they best understand. Why? Because Jesus came and lived among us. He understands us. So we model the love of Jesus when we seek to understand the people and place we’re ministering in.

    Before your trip, help your students find answers to question like:

    – What is the community like that you’re traveling to – their language, customs, culture, local heroes?
    – How has the community come to be like it is today? How has God already been moving here?
    – Who will we be working with and how are we plugging into their long-term efforts?

    At YouthWorks, we provide Community Info sheets to assist in some of these conversations before groups go on their trips. You might also ask someone from the community to speak to your group or have a video interview. Ultimately, the best understanding of people and places will come from diligent listening.

    Idea: Create team projects for small groups of trip participants to learn about an aspect of the community you’re traveling to and then present that aspect to the larger group.

By intentionally preparing students before a mission trip, you’re softening their hearts and minds to receive what God has for them on the trip and strengthening them to participate in what God is already doing in that community. You’re preparing the soil and beginning the process of cultivating a lifestyle of service – not just going on another trip.

For more resources to help make your mission more than a trip, check out

Your Next Weekend Retreat: How To Serve Students, Volunteers, and Parents Well

Why Better Isn’t Always Best in Next Gen Ministry


Kickstart & Simplify Volunteer Onboarding

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