How to Choose Your Student Mission Trip

by Beth Crocker, Mission Trip Coordinator

You are ready to start planning for a summer mission trip, but how in the world do you decide where to go? There are so many factors that will influence your mission trip selection, but where should you begin? Here are four key areas to focus your attention while beginning the process:

  1. Trip Location
  2. Trip Dates
  3. Group Size
  4. Responsible Missions

TRIP LOCATION:

You don’t have to travel across the world for a meaningful trip experience! There are hundreds of different mission opportunities and locations that you can choose from. Take some time to consider how far you’d like to travel and if there is a particular type of experience you have in mind for your students. Here are some helpful questions you can ask yourself:

Determine how far you are willing to travel.The best way to get started is to narrow down your search by identifying what kind of distance is reasonable for your group. Do you need to keep travel within a one-day drive? Are you interested in traveling across the country? With a simple google maps search you can pinpoint which locations would fit your preference for a one-day drive or more depending on how far you’d like to go.

Discover what kind of trip experience you would like for your students. There are dozens of different types of trips that will provide your kids with meaningful opportunities to serve. Would you like them to participate in construction projects like drywall, roofing, building wheelchair ramps, etc.? Are you interested in challenging your students with relational opportunities like evangelism, leading Vacation Bible School, and volunteering in soup kitchens? Maybe it’s important to you for your kids to visit a community that is radically different from home so you’d like to travel somewhere that will really open their eyes. Perhaps you would like to give your kids a chance to learn about another culture and so visiting a reservation would be exciting to you. Take some time to reflect and consider what type of serving you would like for your kids to experience. This will help you discover a trip that’s right for you!

 

TRIP DATES:

What could be trickier than coordinating with a bunch of teenageers to pick dates for a mission trip?! Between sports, camps, and family vacations (let alone your own family schedule!) it can be intimidating to pick a week that works for everyone. Reality is, the week you choose probably won’t work out for absolutely everyone. Here are a couple things to consider:

Start with your schedule. Believe it or not, you are the most important person on this trip! You are coordinating all the details, getting everyone together, and the spiritual leader for your team. As leader of the pack, make sure the timing works for you and your family so you can be fully available and invested in the trip.

Look to your leaders and see what works for them. You will need about 1 leader for every 6 students in your group. Your adult leaders will be a vital part of making this a meaningful trip experience! Not only can they help with driving, assist in facilitating trip details, and help keep you sane, but most importantly they will be role models and mentors for all of the students in your group. Figure out some dates that work best for these special adults that will play a significant role on this trip.

Consider any big events that might cause a scheduling conflict for many of your students. For example, do a lot of your families go on vacation for the 4th of July? Are a lot of your students football players that have practice beginning in August? Do you have a lot of kiddos in band that go to the same camp? You won’t be able to accommodate everyone’s schedule, but if there is an obvious scheduling conflict that impacts a large number of your students, take it into consideration!

 

GROUP SIZE:

Okay, so there is something more challenging than coordinating with teenager schedules! Trying to anticipate group size can feel like such a shot in the dark. This is where it’s helpful to contact the mission organization you are serving with as they will be able to walk you through this process. At Next Step, our team is available to help with this process and make it as easy as possible! We love to learn about youth groups, hear about your hopes for the trip, and talk through some of your fears too. When it comes to reserving spots we will help make sure you feel comfortable and confident every step of the way. Bottom line, let us help you navigate the details! Here are a couple tips:

Start with the number of spots you hope to fill. Think you could fill 20 spots, but you’re not totally sure? We recommend beginning your reservation with the total number of spots you’d like to fill. This is the best place to start and then you can drop spots later as you get a better feel for how many people will really be in your group.

Get the word out and start sign ups. When you register for your trip with Next Step you will have 30 days before the deposit is due! This will give you some time to present the mission trip details to your group and get people to sign up. If you need to cancel some spots before sending in your deposit, no problem, it’s risk free! You can always add more spots later, as long as space is available. Still sound scary? We get it. Give us a call and we can figure it out together!

 

RESPONSIBLE MISSIONS

Not coming with Next Step? Well, of course we love more than anything to serve with your group, but we understand you might be looking at other options too and there are some truly great ministries out there. If you are looking for a mission organization to partner with, our best advice is to link up with a group that is committed to sustainable missions. This way you can be sure you are coming on a trip where you are serving with a community, and not just for a community. There are a ton of great resources about what it means to serve responsibly. We highly recommend you dig into some of these books while considering a short term mission trip:

  • When Helping Hurts
  • Serving with Eyes Wide Open
  • Toxic Charity

We know selecting and planning a mission trip can be intimidating, but it’s so worth it when we keep in view the tremendous impact a week long experience can have on a students’s life. The trip you plan could be the difference in a student’s life and change everything. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started.

Ready to get started?! 3, 2, 1… Let’s do this!

 

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