Why I’ve never done a missions trip with a missions organization

Maybe it’s heresy for a youth worker to say this, but I’ve actually never been on a missions trip with a missions organization, like Group Workcamps, Global Expeditions, or Youth Works. It’s not that I’m opposed to them — it’s just that the Lord has always provided other personal connections to serve, both in the US and overseas.

Based on my experience, there’s several benefits to organizing your own missions trip.

1. Total flexibility. You’re in charge of the dates, where you go and what you do there, how long you stay, and everything else you can think of.

2. It’s cheaper. Since we’re not paying to support a missions organization, the cost of the trip is whatever we need it to be to cover expenses and not a penny more.

3. Serve according to your gifts. You can tailor the trip to the specific gifts and talents of your teenagers. Got lots of singers and kids who love to share Christ with strangers? Or do none of them sing and talking to strangers is like a Fear Factor mission?

4. Push the teens without breaking them. You can create a missions experience that will challenge them, but not push them over the edge. Since that breaking point is different for every group, so a one-size-fits-all trip may be too much for one group, but not stretching enough for another. Only you, their youth leader, know where that point is.

Again, there’s there’s nothing wrong with using an organization to plan and coordinate your missions trip. But if you’re considering a trip on your own next summer, these might be some reasons to give it a try.

Posted on August 5, 2008

  • Tim,

    We have used orgainizations in the past, with the hopes of doing our own soon. When doing your own where do you start?

  • @ Steve Baker: It definitely takes someone who is strong in administrative details to plan and organize a missions trip. Better yet, it takes someone can delegate administrative responsibilities to others in order to pull off your own missions trip. (That’s what I do.)

    It starts with a personal connection or contact you have in a place where you’d like to serve. Does your church support any missionaries? Talk with them about coming to visit and serve them and their ministry. Once you have a location and an idea of the ministry you guys can do there, then you can start planning all the other details.

  • What about insurance? I have always been affiliated with a missions agency to alleviate some headaches, insurance being one of them. (Plus, it helps when your grandfather is a missionary and helping lead the trip!)

  • Chris

    I think it depends on the mission organization you work with….we just got back from our mission trip where we worked with a disaster relief ministry in Iowa.. and they were very good about us being flexible, they did not charge us anything (our only responsibility was getting there)…I dont know I can see your point though

  • As a guest speaker for a youth missions organization this summer I do have to say I see the benefits of working with a missions organization. The biggest benefit I saw as I spoke with youth leaders and youth pastors is that it made their job easier and they felt they could devote more time to their students and youth leaders versus the logostics and administravtive tasks that come with planning your own missions trips. I’d have to agree that in order to plan your own missions trip it takes a leader/s with good administrative skills.
    One youth pastor I spoke with told me he enjoyed the missions program because it was that one week out of the year (during the summer especially) that he could truely rest from doing the planning and instead be a part of the plan.

  • Currently I am on a trip in Washington DC and I partnered with an inner city ministry that has done a lot of planning. We simply came along side of them to help with their summer ministries. I find that partner with other ministries and missionaries seems to be the best option for me. I am a leadership guy so I dont mind getting my hands dirty when things dont go as planned. They are willing to take advice and actually often they seek my advice. This way we are both serving each other. Its great. I dont get a chance to spend a lot of time with the kids in my group but that is why I bring other qualified leaders. I make sure to connect with each student for their questions and concerns.

    Missions organizations are great for those who need help planning and are going to be going to a different place every year. I prefer to build relationships with various communities and ministries as we serve God together.

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  • Re: Where do you start? For 8 years our group did summer mission "camps" with large organizations in big cities, but when we were ready to try an out-of-country trip for the first time, I contacted the missions division of our denomination (United Methodist Volunteers in Mission) to ask for advice on what destinations might be appropriate for teenagers. They recommended 4 or 5 projects/ministries in different countries and I started by checking out the websites of each, and one just stood out more than the others. You know how sometimes you just know God has led you to the right person or place? That happened. In less than a week's time I was committed to an "exploratory trip" (through UMVIM) to visit that ministry (in Nicaragua). With encouragement from my pastor and God smoothing the way, three weeks later I had obtained a passport, an airline ticket at a reasonable price, and the necessary shots and medicines, and found myself on a plane with 6 new friends, headed to Nicaragua. It was a life-changing trip for me. And 7 months later I led a team of 25 Sr. High students and parents on our first international mission trip. This summer marks our third trip to El Ayudante in Leon, Nicaragua (with a team of 25-30 each time). And we have made a commitment of at least 5 years. (I agree with the writer who preferred long-term relationships and would highly recommend that to anyone else contemplating an international trip.) The ministry we partner with is fairly young (less than 10 years) but they are very God-directed, organized and effective. While I do have to be organized, and planning the trip is quite a bit of work, they have spelled out each step and are are in touch by e-mail and phone during all the months leading up to the trip, which makes my job so much easier. And they customize each trip based on the gifts and skills of our team members – some are able to do construction, some do children's ministries and some, medical and dental mission. I have never worked with a missions organization like those mentioned by another writer, so I cannot speak to the pros and cons of that route. But I would encourage anyone who wants to try their own trip to do so. That said, I would also encourage you to visit the actual mission site if at all possible before committing your group so that you understand the mission, the culture, the country (or region) and the needs, and can prepare effectively. It also reassures those parents who are placing their most precious children in your care, if you can answer their questions with first-hand experience :-). There are many great ministries out there and God will lead you to the one that's a good fit for your group.

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