Maximize Your Mission Trip!

Posted on Jun 3, 2024

Guest blogger Amy Niemann does youth and children’s ministry at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Plymouth, MN. She served on staff at Lutheran Youth Encounter and is a long-time Quake attendee and donor. Amy can be reached at [email protected]

Summertime for most church youth leaders includes at least one mission trip of immersive service experience. These “greenhouse” times away can be like a shot of fertilizer for the faith growth of our youth, as well as our adult volunteers. 

What if you were intentional about boosting the impact of mission and service events in fresh ways? Check out these ideas and ask God to point you to those who will bear the most fruit in your group. 

Cultivate Community 

  • Prior to your trip, create your own “family” groups. These are different from your work crews and intentionally include one adult plus a mix of guys and girls of various ages. 
    • At your pre-trip meeting, do a challenge/team-building activity using these family groups. As you highlight your trip’s theme or include a devotion for the meeting, provide on-topic discussion questions to start a family group conversation. 
    • During the mission trip, have family groups connect throughout the week to debrief what everyone is learning and doing. Also, ask each youth to make a point to check in with their family group adult leader once a day throughout the trip. This helps build lasting bonds and gives an opportunity to support youth who are struggling. 
  • Have a “fun day” on the way to your destination. This helps break the ice in your group, and the shared experience—including what didn’t go according to plan! —will build community. 
  • While traveling, provide some icebreaker questions to get to know one another. If you are riding in a van, alternate talking as a large group with talking with one person near you. In a bus, rotate seats (safely) with each question so you get to talk with more people. Faith Legacy’s “U talk I listen” cards and The Vibrant Conversations Deck from Lutheran Hour Ministries are good resources to start with if you need ideas. 

Growing Leaders 

  • Instead of leading morning or evening group devotions yourself, invite a student to lead. 
  • If your group sings together, ask a youth to choose the song list. 
  • Have one student per vehicle in charge of the icebreaker travel questions (above). 
  • Invite a youth to be in charge of photos/videos (see below). 
  • Ask your adult leaders to watch for youth giftings that sprout as you work together during the week. Make a note of these giftings and look for ways youth can use their gifts to serve back at home. 

Nourishing Congregational Connection 

  • Before you leave for your trip, have a plan for how you will share what you are doing. Will you post on your church’s social media platforms—or send content to someone who can? Consider creating content about your trip theme and daily activities in advance. Will you report back to the congregation the weekend after you get back? Or have everyone wear their (now-laundered) trip shirt and invite people to ask about how everyone served and grew?  
  • Take thank you notes with you—perhaps including a photo of your group—and have each participant write 2-3 notes of thanks during the trip. It’s easiest if you do this together during one of your group times toward the end of the trip. Send these notes of appreciation to people who participated in funding the trip. 

Weeding out Spiritual Amnesia (Supplies needed: 2 sheets of paper + 2 envelopes per person; your life will be easiest if you pre-label the envelopes with participant name and address.) 

  • During your travel day(s), take some time to worship together. For a prayer activity, give each person a sheet of paper, and ask them to write out their prayer requests for the week. Encourage them to include prayers for the work to be done, relationships, things they are nervous about, and things going on back at home. Have each person seal their prayer sheet in an envelope marked with their name. Collect them and keep them! On the last night of the trip, hand them out (90% will have completely forgotten about them!), open and read them. Invite people to share how God showed up and answered prayers. 
  • On this last night of your trip, give each person another sheet of paper and ask them to write down the ways God showed up, answered prayers (even those we were too scared to write down!), people and experiences they want to remember, and what they learned. Have each person seal their sheet in an envelope marked with their name and mailing address (again, your life will be easier if you pre-label the envelopes; otherwise, you will get to teach a lesson in how to address an envelope!). Collect these and keep them. Sen them by snail mail in September or October to remind everyone of God’s faithfulness. 

May God provide all that is needed as you continue to plant and tend faith in young people this summer!