One of the key spiritual growth engines in a youth ministry is helping students serve—and one of the great ways to get a concentrated burst in that area is to take your teenagers on a short-term missions trip. We’ve been on at least a trip a year for the past 20 years, and here are a few of the things we have learned.
Crawl, walk, and run.
If possible, design your missions opportunities into three steps for students at various spiritual commitment levels. This year in our ministry we planned a food drive (1 afternoon, easy, free), a Spring Break trip (4 days, higher cost, some travel), and a global trip (international travel, 11 days, very high cost). It worked incredibly well!
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Work the cost for leaders into the cost per student.
A common question is what to do about leader cost, especially when budgets are tight—if you’re fortunate to have access to one in the first place. We always work leader cost into the price of the missions trip, camp, or event. We don’t like asking our volunteers to pay to minister alongside students on a big event like a missions trip, because they are probably already taking hard-earned vacation time. That’s just our philosophy…yours may vary.
Don’t get lost in fundraising.
Speaking of money: Aggressively plan the price for the trip so you don’t take the joy out of the trip by getting lost in fundraising Hell. It would be better to take a trip that costs less rather than getting stuck with a huge bill that can only be satisfied by 432 car washes and bake sales. We only have one high-cost missions trip a year…and we train our students how to write support letters because A) we’ve had great success with them and, B) selling frozen cookie dough is a drag.