International Mission Trip Planning Guide
Recently, our youth group took a trip to Spain. Admittedly, I was a bit worried about the trip, the details, the travel, the program….and the list goes on. But the Lord blessed! We saw hundreds and hundreds come to hear the gospel message. Only the Lord knows who accepted the message, but we did our job in planting seeds.
Back to the subject at hand, how do you plan for such a monumental trip? How often do you go? How do you a pick a place? What do you do when you get there?…So many questions! Well, I will do my best to answer them all in this “International Mission Trip Planning Guide”.
Early Planning Stages
- Not for beginners – Our youth group does a mission trip every summer. However, we go in a cycle – Local trip, Work Trip, Out-of-State Trip, International Trip. This not only provides the full spectrum of missionary work, but also gets your student leaders ready for the international trip.
- Picking your trip location – My recommendation is to first look at the missionaries your church supports. You start with this list first. Why? Because if you are able to choose one of these missionaries, you become an extension of the your church family. Also, you have familiarity with the missionary, and even know about the different ministries that are happening around the world. It is not a blindfolded, at night, left-handed, dart thrown in a hurricane. You have purpose for your choice of location.
- Send out Feelers – Choose a handful of locations and see if these missionaries are even capable of hosting a student mission team. Also, you will want to find out cost and availability. The cost may be too much or the timing may be off (i.e. missionary furlough, etc.). Once you find several locations…PRAY, PRAY PRAY. Pray for God’s leading.
- Confirmation – After prayer and research of your finalists, allow God to help you choose your mission trip location. Call the missionary or set up an interview (skype, if not available to come to States). Compile a list of questions that your mission board/church leaders will need to know: Cost? Dates? Lodging? Food? Transportation? What will you be doing there?
- Presentation – Take one of your student leader with you and present the mission trip to your board. Be professional in your presentation. Have something typed out with all the vital information. Listen to their questions and concerns, write them down and fix any leaks. Then you will be ready to face the parents.
- Parent Meeting – Again, have a professional presentation ready for them. Explain to the parents the importance of the trip. Use phrases like “once in a lifetime” and “life-changing”. These phrases describe an international trip. Get them excited about the trip. Give them important deadlines, dates, and financial information.
These 6 things should be accomplished at least 9 months prior to the trip.
Preparing Your Team
- Student Meeting – Meet with your students. Get them excited about this trip. Allow experienced students to share the value of previous trips. Use Scripture to show the importance of the trip.
- Applications – Be serious in your application process. This is not a vacation to a foreign country, this is a mission trip. Be stern in your deadlines for applications. Do an interview process to see the seriousness of each student.
- Training Meetings – Begin your training meetings at least 4-5 months out from your trip. The training is mandatory, and only allow 1-2 skips the entire time. Be clear the skips are only to be used when you are out of town or sick, not just when you want to sleep.
- Fundraising – Begin fundraising efforts early. Teach your students how to write support letters. Plan spaghetti dinners (work the best in my opinion), car washes, etc. to help raise funds.
- Assignments – Give out weekly assignments. Have each student pick a prayer partner and pray with them each week. Give out reading assignments in the book of your choosing (see Resources)
- Report Cards – Each week do an attendance report. Ask questions: How many devotions did you have this week? How many services did you attend this week? Did you do your assignment? These things are pass/fail. It is not for legalistic purposes, but to encourage your students that this is a trip for student leaders and they need to act like it. 2 Fails = Extra Assignment, 3 Fails = Letter to parents, 4 Fails = Meeting with Parents, 5 Fails = Dismissal (These can be changed to your liking, just an example)
- Evangelism Training – Depending on your trip, and the level of evangelism, there needs to be evangelism training. Even if it is a work trip, there still will be opportunities to share Jesus, and your students need to be ready. Know how to share gospel with children & adults. (Possibly use Evangelism Explosion or Contagious Christian as resources)
- Program Work – Provide time in your training for program work. Whether it is a program or a VBS, give each teen responsibility (see Give Responsibility). Provide time for pratice.
- Unity Exercises – I call these “special exercises”. The best website is found here: http://www.bonner.org/resources/modules/modules_pdf/BonCurChallengeCourse.pdf
- Give Responsibility – You are the director…not do everything person. Give each teen responsibility. Depending on the size of your group and your program, you will need: Drama leader, Puppet leader, Evangelism Team leader, Prayer Coordinator, Public Relations, Team Photographer….and the list goes on. Put your teens in charge of something, and you will be surprised how well they do. Let them do it!
- Packing – Be specific on what not to pack: certain cd’s, books, magazines, no cell phones for students, etc. PACK LIGHT! Allow only to pack what they can carry themselves. Suggestion: pack night before if leaving in morning.
- Arrival – Take away all electronic devices. Plan a short time for rest and time adjustment, but not too long. Sleep as much as you can ON THE PLANE.
- Trip – Have devotions in the morning to rally the troops, and have debrief at night to bring them back to the mission at hand. Discuss problems, good things, and stories of the day. Have a time of prayer. Give out special prizes for those that did something well to boost morale (I have given rings or silly bands).
- Hold yourself back – Let the students be stretched. You will be tempted as a leader to do everything or fix everything. Unless it is life-threatening or illegal, let the teens figure it out. Guide them, but don’t hold their hand. Let them reach for new heights and succeed by God’s help, not by your help.
- Final Debrief – Have a list of questions ready for the debrief time (Good resource: Appendix B – “Greenhouse Project” by Calhoun & Walker. Prepare students to come with what God has been teaching them. Be amazed at what God is doing in their hearts, and maybe even bring some tissues.
Mini-Mission Trip Resources DVD – by Bryan Waggoner
– A MUST buy for anyone doing any trip. This is so helpful, especially in planning.
Anticipate: Youth Mission Devotional Journal by Standard Publishing / Hardcover
– Also purchase “Experience”. These journals are the perfect size. Not long chapters, but help prepare your students for the trip. Are also good assignments to see if your students are serious.
The Greenhouse Project – by Mike Calhoun & Mel Walker
– Chapter 12 and Appendix A & B – MUST read for the trip.