5 Key Questions to Consider Before Your Next Mission Trip

By David Boerema

4 min readJul 8, 2020

It’s that time of year when many student ministry leaders are making critical decisions about how they will leverage summer trips and where they will take students. Endless flyers, mailings, emails and social media blasts try to grab our attention. It’s hard to make sense of it all and choose the right organizations to partner with. Most will choose to go with someone they know or, on the recommendation of a trusted colleague.

Sadly hundreds, if not thousands, of youth groups will do a mission this summer with little to no long-term impact for the gospel beyond the week.

Here are some important questions to consider when choosing a mission trip for your student ministry.

#1. How does a short-term mission trip fit into your overall disciple making strategy?

I often ask this question to the youth pastors I interact with and very few can articulate the reason why they are doing a short-term mission trip. Most of the time I’m met with an inquisitive stare that says… “Isn’t that youth groups do in the summer?” Yes, but why? Why raise the money, enlist the leadership help, leave for a week or more, sleep on the floor and serve if it does not contribute to the overall disciple making strategy you are pursuing as a ministry. Land why you are doing a trip before deciding what trip you will do.

Questions to consider:

  • Will this trip intentionally translate back into student’s life at home?
  • How will this experience train them to be gospel influence in their spheres of influence?

#2. Does this trip expose students to ongoing, strategic, gospel ministry that lasts beyond their participation?

One of the great defining factors of the emerging generation is they want to be a part of something larger than themselves and want to invest in things that are long lasting. The best thing we can do is help students see that God has been working before they got there, that he will use them while they are there, and the work that is going on will continue long after they leave. It helps diminish the posture that we are the essential factor in effective ministry and refocus students to the fact that we have the privilege of joining God in his ongoing redemptive mission.

Questions to consider:

  • How do we join in and help with what the missionaries are already doing?
  • Are we helping our partners or making more work for them to do?
  • How comfortable am I with participating in a ministry that others started, and others will finish?

#3. Do you get to interact with inspirational leaders who are passionate about the ministry they are doing?

The number one factor in groups returning to a ministry site or organization is… relationships. Not just any relationships, the key is interacting with the stakeholders of the ministry. It’s critical that your student get to interact with missionaries, pastors, volunteers and leaders. There is nothing more impactful than hearing a missionary’s heart for the people they serve and the story of how they got there. Students need inspiration. They need to see how their week of ministry connects to the bigger story of the gospel effort.

A question to consider:

  • Who are the stakeholders, and do they care about investing in the next generation?

#4. Is there an opportunity for them to be involved after high school or beyond the youth group participation?

A friend once said to me “Be very careful what you expose your student hearts to. What you expose them to they will fall in love with. Choose wisely.” Chances are good that if you bring students on a short-term trip, God will move, and they will want to be involved long after they get home. Some may even desire to become missionaries and their desire will be to go back to where you took them. It’s a demoralizing conversation for you and for the energized student when there is not a clear, easy next step for their future involvement.

A question to consider:

  • Does this organization have clear next steps for our students beyond this experience?

#5. Do students have the opportunity to lead and share the gospel?

There are trips I wish never happened and there are some I wished would never end. The distinguishing difference was when our students had the opportunity to step out of their comfort zone and get on the front lines of gospel ministry. There is nothing wrong with doing a service project or running a camp, but the gold of a trip is when students get to interact with the least, last lost and left out. Students rise to the occasion and blossom when they get to lead the ministry and share the gospel story with people who do not know Christ.

Questions to consider:

  • Will students move into relational ministry for the sake of the gospel?
  • Will this trip require our students to know, and be able to articulate the gospel to people?

So much effort goes into a short-term mission trip. Let’s make sure that the effort we are putting forth is for long term growth in students and ongoing gospel impact with the ministries we partner with. These principles are at the heartbeat of what we do at Apex. We would count it a privilege to be a part of your disciple-making strategy to leverage one week of ministry this summer for fifty-one weeks of gospel influence at home.

David Boerema is the director of Apex. Apex is a next generation leadership development pipeline mobilizing students to be gospel influence form here to everywhere. We provide one-week mission trips for youth groups as well as three and six week trips for college student to explore full time missions with ReachGlobal, the missions arm of The Evangelical Free Church of America.