5 Pitfalls to Returning Home from a Mission Trip

by Todd Gehrmann, Spiritual Director

Every year we see it. Students go on a life-changing mission trip and come back home excited and ready to live out their faith. However, upon arriving home MTE quickly sets in. MTE, also know as Mission Trip Effect, can be brought on by falling into one or more of several tough transitional pitfalls. Below are the top 5 pitfalls to be aware of, as well as a possible remedy for each.  


Pitfall #1:  Community Transition

During a mission trip your whole team of students and leaders are sleeping, eating, worshiping and working together on a daily basis. They are in a new community; meeting new, wonderful people; and serving alongside of them daily. When they get home, this is all quickly replaced with feelings of loss.

Possible Remedy: Find new and exciting ways for students to continue to partner with their mission trip community. For example, sending letters, keeping up on social media, making phone calls to community members, planning a return trip to the community again next summer, etc. Another idea is to have engaging conversations with your team, within a week or so of returning home, about how to serve and care for people right in your own home community.


Pitfall #2:  Social Group Changes

You’ve heard the old adage, “you become what you surround yourself with.” Upon getting home from a mission trip, students quickly move back into their old social environments and, more often than not, those environments can be a hindrance to their new commitments to Christ.

Possible Remedy:  Create social environments at your church or school that allow the students to surround themselves with people that reflect who they want to be and how they want to feel. Fostering an environment that lends to continued relationships with like-minded Christians is key to their continued growth in their relationship with Christ.


Pitfall #3:  Busyness of Life Back Home

Let’s face it, life just gets busy between work, sports, school, clubs, and keeping up your social profile. It’s easy to quickly let your relationship with God take a back seat.  

Possible Remedy: Encourage and lead your students when they get home to learn how to best manage their time so that God can stay the center of all they do.


Pitfall #4:  Idolizing the Mission Trip

The mission trip can be such an amazing experience that upon returning home students begin to idolize the mission trip experience. Students often look to the mission trip as the only way to get that same experience; as a result, they wait till the next trip to begin again to live out the mission God has called them to live out back in their communities.

Possible Remedy: Create a meeting with your youth group or school to go over how their mission trip hasn’t really ended; rather, it’s just beginning. Get families involved to brainstorm unique ways to serve along community members, seek ways to worship together, and keep that mission trip experience alive!

Pitfall #5: Programmed Daily Worship

It’s pretty much a fact that when you get home you aren’t going to be able to come home every night and have a full worship band and team of leaders excited to guide you and challenge you in your faith.

Possible Remedy: Create weekly events, if you don’t have them already with your youth group, that create a safe environment for students to continue to explore their faith, experience God and extend service to others, with music, speakers, service and good times. Just one word of warning, don’t wait until the fall to begin. When the students get back from their trip, they are pumped up and ready to go. You need to take advantage of the moment.

Next Step Ministries