Planning a Mission Trip: Picking the Perfect Location

1.  Custom trip or pre-made (agency) trip? There are zillions of short-term mission trip agencies that will offer you a pre-made trip to one of their destinations.  I’m fairly certain they all know my address, because I get their flyers across my desk all the time.  From Group to LeaderTreks to Adventures in Missions to CIY, lots of agencies will offer to plan your trip for you, and let you bring a group.  While these can be great in that you don’t have to write the devos, plan the logistics, or deal with all the details throughout the week, there are some downsides.  The cost is usually much higher to go with an agency than to do your own (I’ve found it to be almost twice as much).  Secondly, you only get the locations they offer with the people they work with.  And finally, you’re locked into specific weeks for certain trips. I used an agency one time for a trip, and I will probably never do it again.  I encourage you to plan your own trip from scratch.  This allows you to choose the time frame, the work you want to take on, the location, and you can use personal connections in ministry to make it happen instead of trusting an outside group.  Through this process, your group will have a trip designed JUST for them, and you will know all the details going in so there are no (or at least fewer) “surprises.  It’s hard work, but I’ve found it to be worth it. HCCYM-NYC2.  Who do I know that I want my group to know? One of the greatest joys of a mission trip is the people you meet along the way.  There are some amazing people that are doing incredible things for the Kingdom, and it’s a joy to expose your students to these unique servants of God.  When I begin planning a trip, I start off wondering who I know that might be in need of our help in some way or another.  Whether it’s Jair, Norma, and Abner at Vida Nueva Ministries in Mexico, Danny Schaffner at Common Ground in Tampa, or Scott Solimine in New York City, almost all of our mission trips have started as a relationship.  When this is the case, there is trust, friendship, and a deeper joy because you are serving with someone you know and love.  And the greatest joy is watching your students fall in love with them, too.  This is where I start. 3.  Where is there a need? As you consider where to take your group, prayerfully consider what needs might exist that you and your students are passionate about.  This most recent trip is a great example.  We worked with Scott Solimine at the South Nassau Christian Church on Long Island.  We got to know Scott and his wife Val on a prayer journey to NY and DC a couple years ago.  My group fell in love with them and with the ministry where they served.  Just recently, Hurricane Sandy swept through, leaving people on Long Island with quite a mess to clean up.  The South Nassau church was badly damaged, with over 4 feet of water throughout.  And the people of Scott’s church are trying to get their lives back to normal.  So we went and hung drywall, painted, put down tile, and more to meet a need with people we love.  What needs do you know of?  What causes do you think your students can get behind?  Where is God leading you to serve? 4.  Does this location fit my budget? My next post will be about how to budget for a mission trip, but generally speaking, you will probably have a sense of what your students can afford and what your budget can handle.  Sometimes, you have to say no simply because of cost.  I had a friend at a church camp in California that would have been a great trip, but by the time we would have paid for airfare and materials, students would have been paying upwards of $700.  The most I’ve ever charged for a high school mission trip is $225, and that covered almost all of the meals while traveling!  I knew that it just would not work financially, so we didn’t go to California.  Even if everything seems to be lining up, you still have to consider the budget before you decide to move forward with a location. This is a glimpse into how I choose the perfect location for a mission trip.  I wonder…what would you add to the list?  What do you consider as you pick a spot?  Where have you gone that has been successful?  I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.]]>

18 Comments

  1. Thanks for the love brother! We were very blessed by your ministry here. I hope those who plan their own mission trips put the investment into them as I've seen you do.
    • Hey Scott, thank you so much for your hospitality. Our group has fallen in love with you, your family, and your ministry. It makes serving and working that much easier when you can stand behind the people whose ministry you work with. We had a blast in NYC, and will continue to pray for you and your ministry.
  2. Thanks for the love brother! We were very blessed by your ministry here. I hope those who plan their own mission trips put the investment into them as I've seen you do.
    • Hey Scott, thank you so much for your hospitality. Our group has fallen in love with you, your family, and your ministry. It makes serving and working that much easier when you can stand behind the people whose ministry you work with. We had a blast in NYC, and will continue to pray for you and your ministry.
  3. Jeeze, $225 for a mission trip? Looking forward to reading that post. Would love to hear more about the relationships you use for the missions. I mean I know where I am wouldn't be a good "mission trip" but the thought always comes to mind, if someone asked me if they could bring a group to do a mission trip in my town, what would I have them do?
    • I've got the budget post almost done. Hoping to post it soon - how soon do you think? As far as the relationships, it's amazing how God often brings people to mind that I've met along the way. I also have some great connections like Dave Empson and Jim Chamberlin at the International Conference on Missions that I rely on to give me ideas and contacts. Usually, I have someone in mind to speak with when the planning begins. It's also funny that you mention "not knowing what they would do," because I think some people have had a hard time figuring out what to do with 50 people. But it's always worked out well.
  4. Jeeze, $225 for a mission trip? Looking forward to reading that post. Would love to hear more about the relationships you use for the missions. I mean I know where I am wouldn't be a good "mission trip" but the thought always comes to mind, if someone asked me if they could bring a group to do a mission trip in my town, what would I have them do?
    • I've got the budget post almost done. Hoping to post it soon - how soon do you think? As far as the relationships, it's amazing how God often brings people to mind that I've met along the way. I also have some great connections like Dave Empson and Jim Chamberlin at the International Conference on Missions that I rely on to give me ideas and contacts. Usually, I have someone in mind to speak with when the planning begins. It's also funny that you mention "not knowing what they would do," because I think some people have had a hard time figuring out what to do with 50 people. But it's always worked out well.
  5. Am so happy to see such a website ,thanks for the work you are doing ,i have a question to ask you on your trips do have a dream to make a mission trip to Africa? Am very very Interested in youth ministry ,
  6. Am so happy to see such a website ,thanks for the work you are doing ,i have a question to ask you on your trips do have a dream to make a mission trip to Africa? Am very very Interested in youth ministry ,
  7. I serve as Director for Utah Partnerships for Christ, a mission agency based in Utah to reach Utah for Christ...just wanted to say that we have conducted about 240 mission trips and I never turn anyone away due to finances...I will tailor the date and the people you work with and we will tailor your training ahead of time at your church before you get to Utah. We will provide you with all the food shopping and meal preparation, and carry some of the liability and supervision of your team with our intern staff...I would just suggest that in your article you may advise people to pray about using an agency especially if they have never conducted a mission trip before. As for veterans in this area, if you are going to an area you have never been, you just want to be sure you are going to be safe, be busy, and have an experienced host to help you be a good steward of the time and funds invested in you by your church.
    • Hey Russ, sorry for not seeing this comment earlier. That's great to hear about your willingness to work with people and fit their finances. That's not been my experience, but glad to hear it exists. I think the general default in YM is to go with an agency - most would see that as easier and less "messy," so I don't think you're in trouble of losing groups due to this article. I just wanted people to consider the positives of planning their own. Thanks for the read! God bless you and your ministry!
  8. what are some good companies that you went through where you planned your own? I'm starting a mission trip but i want to go through a company that i can choose my location/date! thanks!

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