Planning a Mission Trip may seem like a daunting task but it really doesn’t have to be. With the right heart and a great team, Mission Trip planning can actually be…dare I say…fun?
A Short-term mission trip is an incredible opportunity to serve others while growing in your relationship with Christ. Anyone who has gone on a short-term trip will tell you that it has had a significant impact on how they view the world and their role in it. I am personally grateful for the opportunities I've had to serve on the missions teams that I have been a part of and I look forward to planning our next trip.
When planning a mission trip, there are a number of things to consider. Here are a few to get you started:
The first part of planning a Mission Trip is defining the purpose of the trip. What is the goal of this particular mission trip? While an answer such as “to serve God and others” is acceptable, let’s be real - it’s a pretty surface-level purpose. And if your answer is “because I want an all-expense-paid trip to somewhere beautiful,” you should probably check your heart. (And also know that raising funds for a Mission Trip is hard work. It’s not simply mailing out a handful of support letters.)
I encourage you to dig deeper when defining the purpose of the mission trip. If we’re going to be completely honest here, we can acknowledge that the church has a reputation. We’re known for going out into the world to tell others how they can be more like us (i.e. the White Savior Complex).
Does this mean Mission Trips no longer have a place in the church?
While some people may think it’s time to part ways with Mission Trips, I believe it’s simply time for us to pivot. We can and should still be going out into the world to love and serve others, but I think a Mission Trip is most beneficial for those who are humbly prepared for some intense heart work. While we get to serve others in their own communities, the real work is done in ourselves.
When we lead our youth on a mission trip, while our primary purpose is to have them in service to others, our secondary purpose is for them to grow in relationship with God and with each other. By removing them from their norm and exposing them to the world and the lives of others, they have an opportunity to really reflect on God’s purpose for their lives. They also have the opportunity to challenge their perspective. Exposure to different cultures encourages our students to embrace diversity instead of trying to fit everyone in the world into our middle-class American box. We want our students to recognize that we can’t be so focused on making everyone else like us that we miss out on the work God is doing in our own hearts.
We can’t be so focused on making everyone else like us that we miss out on the work that God is doing in our own hearts.
The mission trip Team
Who is the trip for? Is it for adults only? Is it for the youth group? If it’s for the youth group, will there be exceptions made for parents or families that would like to go? What are the minimum and the maximum number you want on the team? I’ve heard of groups as large as 200 going on a single trip or as few as two or three. Determine what a manageable team would look like for you but remember to be flexible - if someone feels strongly that they are supposed to be on that trip, don't take that away from them.
Flying Solo or Using an Organization?
If you have personal connections with a full-time missionary or a missionary who is supported by your church, you may want to take on a bulk of the planning yourself. You can connect with the missionary and determine the time frame, what type of service projects they may need help with, as well as other details required for planning the trip.
Another option is to use a Mission Trip Organization. There are a number of organizations that dedicate their time and energy to facilitating short-term mission trips. This is a great option if you are a first-time planner and are unsure of where or how to start. Mission Trip Organizations take care of a lot of the details and typically have a plethora of information and ideas for planning your trip. They also have personal connections and often support missionaries on the ground in a variety of areas to assist in short-term trips and help determine what the needs of the communities are.
There are a number of organizations that dedicate their time and energy into facilitating short-term mission trips.
My personal favorite to work with is Praying Pelican. They have a variety of destination options, both international and domestic. They took a lot of guesswork out of the planning when we planned our first trip.
Don’t forget to consider this when determining your cost!!!! First, determine if you’re driving or flying. If you’re driving, will you be able to carpool or will you need to rent a van (or two)? If you’re flying, I would suggest using an organization such as for booking your flights. Often these organizations can book for a large number of people and you can make payments towards the tickets as you raise the funds.
Speaking of fundraising…It’s best to start brainstorming now! Fundraising for a Mission Trip is a lot of work. When planning a mission trip for a large group, I like to plan a large group fundraiser every other or every third month based on the event and our timeline. I also encourage individual ongoing fundraising. I think it’s vital for everyone to participate in the fundraising portion of a mission trip, even if they can afford to pay for the trip out of pocket. It’s an opportunity for the team to get to know each other better and learn how to work well together.
Do not underestimate the power of a Mission Trip. It can forever alter the trajectory of someone’s life. While it can be quite the undertaking, a Mission Trip has the potential to be incredibly impactful for not only those who are being served but those who have been called to serve.
Have you been on a Mission Trip? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!
If you’re looking for an organization to help plan your mission trip, check out this blog post!
For fundraising ideas, visit this blog post!