HOW Short-Term Mission Trips in Student Ministry? (PART 2)

HOW Short-Term Mission Trips in Student Ministry? (PART 2)

If you haven’t read Part 1 of this post, click here to read WHY Short-Term Mission Trips in Student Ministry.  In that post, we covered why it’s important to do short-term mission trips in Student Ministry.  But how do we plan a trip, especially if we don’t have a large budget?  What if I told you, we do 3 high school mission trips every year on a budget of $500 total?  It can be done!  It may take a little work, but the payout is well worth it.

1.  Do you want to go through an organization or plan it yourself?

There are many positives and negatives to planning your own mission trip or going through an organization that plans it all for you.  If you decide to go through an organization, you may be tied to only the dates that the organization offers.  The positives of going through an organization are, the details of the trip are planned for you, and the elements of the trip are most likely top-notch, due to the professionalism and staff of the organization.  Negatives of going through an organization could be pricing – typically mission trips are a lot pricier through organizations due to all they have to pay for, including staffing.  Another negative could be lack of flexibility – dates and locations are set, schedules are set, not much room for wiggle.  If you do decide to plan your own mission trip, know that it will take more work, but ultimately will be your own experience at a much lower cost.  The rest of this post will pertain more to planning your own trip without going through an organization that plans the trip for you.

2.  When do you want your trip to be?

The next thing you need to do is figure out when is the best time to do a mission trip.  Traditionally, student mission trips are taken during the summer, but they don’t have to be.  Maybe the summer is the best time for your students, but maybe it’s not.  Spring Break could be a great time to do one, especially if you live in a town with one school district or if all of your school districts are on the same Spring Break.  The upsides to a spring mission trip are, you don’t crowd the summer, you space out your big trips (assuming you do summer camp), and you don’t overprice the summer.  I actually do our mission trips over Spring Break, even though we have many school districts on different breaks.  While I realize it may not be convenient for everyone who is not on break, we still try to make it work for them, knowing that, for us, spreading out huge trips during the year is more effective than piling them all up in the summer.  When is the most effective time of the year to focus on a mission trip?

3.  How long do you want your trip to be?

There’s no right answer to this.  Some trips may be better being a week long, some may be better being 4 days.  I think it depends on where you go.  For our out-of-country mission trip, we go for 8 days to get the fullest experience possible.  For our in-country trips, they are 4 days and within a 5-hour drive.  This helps students who are not on Spring Break miss only 2 or 3 days of school max.  We have learned that we can accomplish everything we want to accomplish and experience what we want to experience in that amount of time, and it still be a life-changing trip.

4.  Where do you want to go?

This question will also answer the questions of who do you want to go, and how much do you want it to cost.  Obviously the further the trip and the longer the trip, the more it will cost.  We take our Seniors overseas, which is more expensive due to flights and the length of the trip, but for everyone else, we try to give them the best missions experience at the lowest cost possible.  So, when deciding where to go, I want to be able to get there within a half a day, so we can use the other half for whatever we want.  We have narrowed our cities within 5 hours to Nashville, Indianapolis, Chicago & Kansas City.  Some great experiences can be had, and some great work can be done in big cities like this.  There are typically a lot of options.

5.  What do you want to do?

What do you want your students to experience?  For me, I usually want our students to get a good mix of both hard work and relational work.  Knowing that we have almost 3 full days in a city, I decide how much of hard work vs. relational work I want them to experience.  You may want all hard, grunt work, or you may want all relational work.  One of the things I also want to do during a trip is experience the city.  We typically carve out a few hours to be tourists.  Eat, shop, whatever!

6.  Call a church in the area to partner with.

The thing about short-term mission trips is, you swoop in and swoop out with little lasting impact.  But if you can find a church in the area you’re going to in order to partner with, there can be lasting impact!  Local churches already have relationships with local ministries and organizations.  Plus local churches are a great place to call base camp for your group.  Sleep on the floor in classrooms, and have a place to gather and re-group during the week.

7.  Call local organizations to partner with.

Whether it’s through a local church or local organizations, begin to piece together your schedule by finding places to serve.  For example, you could serve one organization for the entirety of your trip, or you could serve two different places each day.  Monday could be a Food Bank in the morning and an after-school day care in the afternoon.  You could do a homeless shelter in the morning and a disaster relief organization in the afternoon. It definitely takes more leg work on your end to plan a trip like this, but once you’ve done it, it becomes easier to do it year after year.

8.  Put together your schedule and logistics.

Once you have pieced together where your serving, free time, etc., you can make a master schedule.  Some logistics to think about, where will all your meals come from?  We will typically take care of all of their breakfasts & lunches, but have them pay for their dinners.  The day we arrive, a couple of leaders will hit up a grocery store to shop for breakfast and lunch food.  It’s amazing how many people you can feed from a store for not very much money!  For dinners, we will typically go out somewhere and enjoy a meal.  The great thing about going through organizations and staying at churches is, it keeps your costs down.  Aside from donations, your main costs are for transportation and meals.  We can easily do a 4-day mission trip to Chicago for $150/person.  If you would like a breakdown of how much we budget for a trip like this and for all the things we spend money on, let me know!

Our ministry takes 3 simultaneous trips during Spring Break.  There is a Freshman trip to a rural Children’s Home, a Sophomore/Junior trip to a large city, and a Senior trip to Haiti.  Once the week is over, we have a Reflection Night where all teams come together to celebrate and share testimonies of what God did during Mission Week.  Contact me if you want more info on how we do these trips!

What are some mission trips you’ve taken?  Do you typically go through organizations or plan them out yourself?

 

WHY Short-Term Mission Trips in Student Ministry? (PART 1)

WHY Short-Term Mission Trips in Student Ministry? (PART 1)

Mission trips, in general, are a very interesting concept within the local church.  There has been criticism that mission trips don’t do enough good, as in they are not worth the amount of money spent to go on them.  For example, taking a team of 15 to another country for 7 days could cost $2,000/person, which would be a total of $30,000.  Would it be better to raise the $30,000 and use that money to aid the people of the country you were going to visit?  How much impact can a team of Americans really have in a 7 day span anyway?  How deep can relationships get in 7 days, only to never see one another again?  I think these are all great questions, but I also want to give my reasoning for why short-term mission trips, especially in Student Ministry, are worth the time, sacrifice, and money.  See Part 2 of the post, “How” Short-Term Mission Trips in Student Ministry.

1. To EXPOSE Students to Missions

What future would-be missionaries do you have in your ministry that don’t become missionaries because they’ve never experienced missions?

The truth is, students that going into missions or decide to become missionaries, typically do so, because of an experience they’ve had in missions.  There aren’t many people that become missionaries having never gone on a short-term mission trip.  So, while short-term mission trips may not change the world, long-term missionaries do, and long-term missionaries come from short-term mission trips!  I also believe the younger you get exposed to missions, the more inclined you will be to continue going on mission trips as you get older.

2. To EXPERIENCE God Outside Their Life Bubble

Without the mission trip experience, most students will go through their entire adolescence with only one view of God:  the God they experience in their life, in their home, in the town or city they live in.  Mission trips tend to broaden a student’s view of God, when they see the heartache and pain and poverty and likewise, the faith, the perseverance, and resourcefulness of people not like them.  We always hear how the people going on mission trips are the ones who are usually impacted more than the ones they’re going to serve.  That’s usually true, and as youth pastors, I believe that’s also a valid reason to take your students.

Yes, we want to serve others and make an impact for Christ, but yes, I also want my students to be impacted and for their lives to change!

3. To ENGAGE in Serving Others

I want our students to get to the point where they don’t have to wait for the youth pastor to plan a serving event to serve, but where serving is on their radar consistently.

The more opportunities students have to serve others, the more they see the need to serve others.

I also believe in order for serving to be on their radar consistently, we need to plan serving events/trips for them to engage in serving regularly.  We typically do a good job preaching and teaching about serving others, so when that’s paired with actually doing it, I believe it starts to sink in.  Mission trips are a great way for students to see a need and make an impact.  And while this can happen with service projects, service projects don’t typically have the impact that mission trips have.

I did not take students on one single mission trip my first 6 years of Student Ministry.  I regret that.

Because now I’ve seen the impact that mission trips have had on our students these last 6 years.  I’ve seen students return to these place on their own.  I’ve seen students do internships overseas that probably would’ve never happened.  I’ve seen students get plugged into serving locally as a result.  I cannot imagine not going on a mission trip every single year, and our students can’t imagine that either!

Be sure to check out the next post of HOW to plan short-term trips (that don’t break the budget or the calendar)!

In your mission trip experiences, what are some of the why’s you would give for doing them?

3 Ways to Keep Seniors Engaged in Youth Group

3 Ways to  Keep Seniors Engaged in Youth Group

Student Ministry can be emotionally draining.  One of the reasons it’s so draining, is because every summer, you have to say goodbye to students you’ve had for several years.  Students you’ve come to know and like really well, students you’ve poured into for years, students who have been leaders in the ministry, and even babysitters to your own children.  I truly dislike the month of July for this reason:  watching people you like and deeply care for leave your ministry all while wondering how much of them you’ll see again.  I believe, as youth pastors, we need to make sure we are doing a good job transitioning seniors out of our ministry, and into the next phase of life.  My goals for seniors, are to see them stand on their own faith, while contributing faithfully to the Church themselves.  (You can read more about that here.)  I think it’s crucial to be very intentional their final year in student ministry.

1. Make it Count

It is so easy for seniors to check out their final year.  Many of them check out of school, so naturally, they can tend to check out of youth group as well.  And often, we as youth pastors let them.  We may even have the attitude of letting them go, because we don’t expect them to stay as engaged as the rest of the students.  We may think to just turn our attention and focus to the younger ones who are more engaged.  This is especially true for student ministries that have middle school & high school combined.  So, let’s re-engage them into the ministry as well as into the overall church body.  Give them leadership responsibilities within the ministry.  Give them areas to serve in the church.  The more they are involved in the leadership of ministry and the church, the more ownership they will have, even when they graduate.

Don’t check out on them, or they will for sure check out on you!

When the goal in high school ministry is to have students graduate standing on their own faith, we do a tremendous disservice to them when we check out on them.  Pour even more energy into seniors!  Meet with some regularly.  They have more freedom than any other students, so you have the freedom to do more with them.  Make their senior year count!

2. Make it Memorable

I want our Seniors to make the most memories their senior year.

I want them leaving our student ministry with awesome memories and not just itching to move on.

So, I believe in doing some things their final year to make those lasting memories.  One of the things that we do is a Seniors Only Mission Trip in March of their final semester.  All the other high school students also have the opportunity to go on mission trips, but the only one that we do out of the country is for seniors only.  The reason this is so memorable, is that prep for this trip starts in October.  So for essentially the entire school year, we are prepping and meeting for our trip in March.  There’s a lot of bonding that takes place, and it’s multiplied exponentially when we spend 8 days together out of the country.  The mission trip itself is a good mixture of work, but also group time.  It’s a great opportunity to spend time each night talking about the future, looking back at the past, and making tons of memories.  It’s amazing to see how engaged these seniors are, especially their final 3-4 months upon returning.

3. Make it Special

I think it’s okay to treat seniors special during this time of year.  After all, as much as you have invested into them, they have also invested into the ministry.  It’s a big deal that they are graduating and moving on, and for the first time in their life, they will be leaving specified programming and ministry designed and tailored just for them.  How can you make this time of year special for them?  I think it’s important to do some specific senior-only events, all while making sure they know that their time in the youth group is not over until it’s over.  Maybe your church has a college-aged ministry.  One way to make them feel special would be to get them plugged into and engaged in your college ministry while still in high school, whether it be a fun event or simply a preview night.  I believe one way to make them feel special, is by not graduating them from the student ministry until the very last minute.

They’re only in high school once, don’t rush them out!

Make it a point to give them a smooth transition out, and not abrupt.  Even if everyone moves up a grade in June, give them a special summer title of Graduated Seniors, and hold on to them for two more months.  Take them to your summer camp, keep them involved in summer programming and events.  At the end of July, we have a special senior night for them and their families.  It’s our final milestone event where we honor them, feed them, and for one final time, appreciate them.  It’s a great send-off.  (If you would like details on how we do this night, including some of the elements that make them feel special, let me know).

What are some things you have done to keep seniors engaged?

3 Ways to Planning Events w/Intentionality

3 Ways to Planning Events w/Intentionality

The Student Ministry Calendar is extremely busy, especially compared to all other ministries in the church.  It can be exhausting just looking at a yearly or even a summer student ministry calendar.  You have outreach events, discipleship events, community events, worship events, serving events, camps, retreats, mission trips, and then you multiply all of that by two if you have separate Middle School & High School Ministries.

The question becomes, is it necessary to have a jam-packed calendar full of events, trips, and programming?

I bet we would be surprised by how many of us don’t even ask this question.  We just pack our calendars full of things, because that’s what we do, or in all honesty, we don’t realize we’re packing them this full.  We put an event here, and a trip there, surrounded by programs, and the next thing we know, we’re gone four nights out of the week or two weeks out of the month.  When we examine a couple of things, we can plan our ministries with more intentionality.  We should always be asking, 1) Why do we do the events, trips, programs we do, and 2) Is there a better, more efficient way to do what we currently do?

I believe when we ask these questions, we can come up with three solutions to be more intentional, efficient, and impactful:

  • 1.  Combine events to maximize impact.

Combining events can surprisingly be very advantageous to, not just you, but your volunteers, students, and parents.  For some reason, we get so focused on having “outreach” events that we lose sight of why we do outreach events.  For instance, I plan a huge water wars night designed to get the masses through the doors of our church.  We don’t do worship, teaching, or anything like that, because this is an outreach event, not a worship/discipleship event.  My goal of the night is to collect all of the new people’s information, and make sure they are invited back to said worship/discipleship event or maybe a normal programming night.  The problem with this, is a very small percentage, or maybe a fraction of a percentage would actually come back to a normal programming night.  After all, they came for the fun, so where is the drawback to a “non-fun” night.

Combining events will put fun AND focus all in one event, without having to figure out how to get students back for something more meaningful.

What happens when you combine events, especially in the summer when you have more time, is it puts fun and focus all in one day/night.  Maybe it’s once a month, attaching an After Party to a Wednesday night service.  Do your normal program, but then have food and fun that follows.  This would double your timeframe, but when you do it once a month in the summer, it’s really not a big deal.  You could do things on campus, like dodgeball tournament, water wars, nerf wars, or things off campus, like bowling, trampoline park, swimming, etc.  What you’ll find is, you skip the step of trying to get people to come back to your program, because they are already there, waiting for your After Party!  Our motto this summer has been, “Come for Jesus, stay for the after party.”  Usually it’s the other way around, and they don’t end up staying.

  • 2.  Know the difference between utilizing momentum and over-scheduling.

Sometimes, it’s actually smart to schedule multiple things in a week when you’re coming off of a momentum-producing event or trip.  But often, we are simply over-scheduling.  When we step back and take a birds-eye look at our calendar, there are many random events with no purpose or meaning behind them, other than another night away from home for all, with little fruit to show.  When we schedule heavy around momentum-producing events, and light elsewhere, we begin to see, not only more fruit, but more excitement around events.  Often times, stand-alone events become pretty ho-hum.

I always like to start big and end big, with students hungry for more in between.

End the summer with a big event, take a couple weeks off, then come back with a big kick-off event for the fall.  To me, when students are hungry for more, it typically means we are doing well with the events we are doing, and not over-scheduling.

  • 3.  Utilize resources from other ministries.

Typically, churches have multiple ministries doing the same ministry.  In other words, there may be Children’s Worship, Student Worship, and Adult Worship Ministries, Children’s, Student, and Adult Small Group Ministries, etc.  Why not pool resources and help each other out?  Granted, some things need to be separated, but sometimes we are duplicating events unnecessarily.  There could be huge benefits to doing a church-wide small group leader training event, with age-specific breakouts.  Or using your adult worship ministries to train and mentor your student worship team(s).  This way, we are resourcing more efficiently while showing the congregation that we are one team going in one direction.

Typically, churches have multiple ministries doing the same ministry…why not pool resources and help each other out?

I believe that when we schedule with momentum, combine events for greater impact, and utilize resources from other ministries, our planning will be much more intentional and deliver a greater punch overall.

Have you seen planning be more effective using any of the about 3 solutions?

Read to Lead

Read to Lead

I’m not the best reader.  I always had a difficult time in school keeping up with all of the required reading.  I actually took a speed-reading class in college to get better, but I couldn’t keep up with that either.  Sometimes I wish that all the books I want to read would just be laid out as Facebook posts, then I’d for sure get through them in no time!  However, I completely realize the benefit to reading whether I’m a reader or not.  I know that if I’m not reading, then I’m not learning, I’m not growing, and I’m failing as a leader.  So, each year I try to set a modest goal of 6 books to get through.  The way I pick my books is based off the areas I want to be more effective as a leader.  These areas are 1) Leader in my Own Faith (sounds ridiculous, but often we completely rely on others to lead our spiritual growth), 2) Leader in my Home, 3) Leader in my Church/Ministry.  Here are some books that are on my docket this year:

1.  Giving Up Gimmicks:  Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture by Brian H. Cosby

2.  Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters:  10 Secrets Every Father Should Know by Meg Meeker

3.  Excellence in Preaching:  Studying the Craft of Leading Preachers by Simon Vibert

4.  The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

5.  You Win in the Locker Room First:  The 7 C’s to Build a Winning Team in Business, Sports, and Life by Jon Gordon & Mike Smith

6.  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

7.  Celebration of Discipline:  The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster

That’s it.  There’s always more books I want to read, but I know my limits.  If I can get through these in 2016, I’m confident that I will be a better leader in the areas I am led to lead in, either that or my brain will explode.