YouthMin - Resource for Youth Ministry
FeaturedSlider
planning a youth group mission trip
Fun days are essential to your Youth Group mission trip

Are you going on a mission trip this summer? Don’t forget to plan the fun day!

A lot of people think that if you go on a mission trip, you are forbidden to have fun. Fun can only come in the shape of laughing while doing some hard work, sweating, and getting dirty. When you talk about having a “fun day,” it’s easy to think that the mission trip is not has “hard core” as others. But, I’d argue that you’re wrong. Here is why I advocate having a day set aside for fun.

1. Having a fun day gives your students something to look forward to after working hard all week. 

  • I always ask my students to give 110% on each mission trip. I want them to go all-in every morning they wake up until that night when they fall asleep. I’ll often say, “You can rest at the end of the trip! Now, I want you to give everything you’ve got.” Students always seem more motivated and pour out more each day. Phrases like “Come back empty. Let God fill you up tonight. Go back out and lay it all out” resonate with students. (Side note: This only works if your fun day is at the end of the trip…which is my suggestion anyway.)

2. Having a fun day(s) allows your students a healthy point to disengage from the mission culture. 

  • Even though student culture shock doesn’t look like culture shock for full-time missionaries, students go through their own version on short term trips. Having a time at the end of the trip for them to start transitioning back to their home culture is not only healthy but prepares them to interact with others. 
  • Students need a time to process the past week and everything God has done in their lives. Students need to learn and practice telling their stories in 10, 5, and 1 minute times. They need to be able to sum up in one sentence the most important thing God did on the trip. Having a time at the end of the week or a “fun day” allows them to work through this outside of their newly established mission routine.
  • I would argue that if students don’t have this time, then they will return not fully ready to interact with others. They’ll hog others’ time, force their stories on everyone, and judge everything their home culture does negatively. While some of this may still occur, having a “transition” time for them at the end of the trip helps them adjust.

Now that I’ve shared my major reasons, I want to give some pointers on how to have a successful fun day on a mission trip.

1. Plan it towards the end of the trip. 

2. Give them time to have fun, but structure the day. It might look like this: 

  • Wake up
  • Morning Devotions
  • Leave for activity
  • Arrive (spend 2-3 hours having fun)
  • Break for lunch (transition to a more intentional time)
  • Have each person write the most important things down from their trip.
  • Have each person sum up those aloud with the group
  • Challenge them to pick one of those things as their MOST important and share that with the group.
  • Talk about what life will look like when they return. Remind them that not everyone will want to hear their whole story and that’s why it’s important to represent the trip well.
  • Break for supper
  • During supper share funny memories from the trip.
  • That night after everyone has showered, have everyone gather for a time of prayer. Pray for each person as they return to their family and friends. Pray that what God has done will not be forgotten.

You might be worried that allowing your students to have a fun day will taint the experience. What if they go home and talk about how much fun they had on that trip? What if they talk about the fun day more than they do the trip? My challenge is this: Choose mission trip experiences that won’t give them an opportunity to do that. Make their week of missions more amazing than their fun trip. (Suggestion: Plan trips with tons of interaction with families and kids. Everyone likes to do service trips, but students will connect better when they are doing VBS programs, sports clinics, and evangelism centered trips.)

  • Bekah

    YES! I totally agree Nick. It is so important for them to decompress after all that they do during the week. I have also found that if I give them that time it becomes a little easier to then do some debriefing times with them as we head home. I’ve had some push back about this strategy before, but it has only enhanced our group dynamics and increased their ability to process and take stuff home. Thanks for posting this!

  • Bekah

    YES! I totally agree Nick. It is so important for them to decompress after all that they do during the week. I have also found that if I give them that time it becomes a little easier to then do some debriefing times with them as we head home. I’ve had some push back about this strategy before, but it has only enhanced our group dynamics and increased their ability to process and take stuff home. Thanks for posting this!

  • That Guy

    Our motto is Worship Hard, Work Hard, So you can Play Hard

  • That Guy

    Our motto is Worship Hard, Work Hard, So you can Play Hard

  • http://www.hazelwoodchristian.org/hccym Keith Parker

    Great thoughts, Nick. We always have a fun day, but ours usually comes towards the beginning of the trip just because that’s usually the timing. I’ve found that Sunday works well, because you are usually going to church, and it’s tough to go work a half day that afternoon. Great stuff.

  • http://www.hazelwoodchristian.org/hccym Keith Parker

    Great thoughts, Nick. We always have a fun day, but ours usually comes towards the beginning of the trip just because that’s usually the timing. I’ve found that Sunday works well, because you are usually going to church, and it’s tough to go work a half day that afternoon. Great stuff.

  • http://www.everythingpastor.com Nick Farr

    Thanks everyone!

  • http://www.everythingpastor.com Nick Farr

    Thanks everyone!

  • Eddie Witkowski

    How long do you typically go on your trips for? And what is an average cost? We typically go from a Monday- Friday and cost would be our only reason for not doing a “fun day” kind of thing.

    • http://www.everythingpastor.com Nick Farr

      We go at least on 7 day trips. Sunday-Sunday. Fri-Sun is typically the days that we plan to shift gears. However, that varies though. Sometimes we only use one day for “fun/debrief.” We typically spend anywhere from 1,000-3,000.00 per student. I have done trips for $250-500.

  • Eddie Witkowski

    How long do you typically go on your trips for? And what is an average cost? We typically go from a Monday- Friday and cost would be our only reason for not doing a “fun day” kind of thing.