Effective Tips For Short-Term Mission Trips (Tips 6-10 | Before The Trip)

(This is part 2 of a series about mission trips; if you are looking for tips before the trip, CLICK HERE)

Embarking on short-term mission trips can be a transformative experience for the communities you aim to serve and for your own spiritual and personal growth. These journeys, often filled with moments of challenge, learning, and profound impact, require thoughtful preparation and an open heart to truly make a difference. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran in youth ministry or setting out on your first mission, understanding the best practices for a successful and meaningful trip is crucial.

From leveraging your unique skills in unfamiliar environments to ensuring your efforts align with the needs of the communities you visit, the landscape of short-term missions is vast and varied.  That is why I want to share with you some tips I have learned through my 20 years of youth ministry experience and participation in 15 short-term trips.  These tips are from mistakes or “life lessons” I have had in leading them.  Tips 1 – 5 were about preparing for your team, and these tips are what to do once the team has been formed.  All Before you even go on the trip.

Tips 1-5 Were:

  • ONE: Create Ownership By Letting Your Student Leaders Decide The Location
  • TWO: The Bigger The Group, The More Need For A Missions Agency
  • THREE: Have Monthly Team Meetings To Prepare Your Team
  • FOUR: Don’t Draw From The Same Well With Fundraising
  • FIVE: Don’t Focus on Payments Until Way Closer To The Trip

SIX: You Can Never Over Communicate With Parents

This might seem like a basic statement rather than a tip, but believe me when I tell you that your main role isn’t just to get your team there before a trip. It’s also to gain and increase trust with all parents who are involved.  Remember, not all parents are the same. Some won’t read long emails or watch long videos, and some emails are never detailed (or long) enough.  So always write mission trip emails with the I-need-more-details parent involved.  The parents who don’t need details won’t be an issue, and you will win over those who do.

  • Have a parent and student informational meeting to share about the trip and answer questions to start all promotion
  • Invite parents to your team meetings (even if they don’t come)
  • Send a recap email after each meeting with specifics on what each participant has to do
  • Write up your team meeting agendas on a Google Doc and then share that in the recap email
  • For important deadlines, record a video of yourself going over everything
  • And then…

SEVEN: Create A Facebook Group For Each Trip

We live in an age where social media has a lot of negative impacts, but every once in a while, something really good can come out of it.  One of the best decisions I’ve stumbled across is creating a Facebook Group (not a page) for the trip.  I invite everyone to join that group: team members, families, church people, and anyone else who is connected to our team.  This becomes the public forum of our trip.  We promote fundraising events in this group, such as team pictures, updates, prayer requests, and everything else.  The best part of a Facebook group is that only people who need to receive this information get it, and you don’t bombard everyone on your personal Facebook page with trip details.  Facebook also works with any information in the group that goes to the top of the member’s feed rather than a personal post.

But the best part of this group is during the trip!  We do picture and blog updates daily on the group.  Everyone back home loves seeing regular updates.  And if WIFI is available, we do daily live Facebook videos, usually when there is a free moment of ministry and our team is playing with kids or eating a meal.  I try to include the face of every team member so no one asks, “Where’s my kid?”

EIGHT: Send Support Letters In Early December

If you are going to send support letters, there are some things you need to be aware of.  First, I request a list of 20-25+ names from each team member by November.  I look over the names to see if there are not too many repeated ones, and this gives some accountability so everyone sends enough letters.  Second, I inform them that this is a “pot fundraiser,” which means everyone’s total goes into one pot, and once a team member’s total is full, their funds spill over to other team members (it’s why I want everyone to send a bunch of letters and not just a few).  Third, I usually write up a “default” support letter that shares all the information (trip details, how to give, etc.) and then email it to team members where they edit it, add their own personal touch, print it out, and bring it to our team meeting so we can all stuff the envelopes and mail it together.  Fourth, for our team meeting in early December, we have a “packing party” where we collect all the letters, add a team picture, and then mail them all together 1 to 2 weeks before Christmas.  I have found this is the best time of year for mission trip support letters.  People are already in a giving mood, and having it at the end of the year also adds to the urgency of giving.  Most letters are returned by the middle of January.

NINE:  Recruit Parents As Leaders – You’ll Win Them Over As Leaders Afterwards

Another thing I did not plan but realized later was when I allowed parents to be sponsors on mission trips.  I was totally amazed at how well that actually worked!  When a parent and a teenager can experience a mission trip together, it’s a life-changing experience for both.  Yes, it’s a risk, and I vet each adult as I would for any of the ministries I oversee.  I don’t let parents go on the trip if they are not believers if they don’t have a servant’s heart if they are just afraid of their kid going, or anything else like that.  They are not there just to be a parent but a crucial team member. If they can’t agree to that, they can’t come.  But for those who make it, it is a great experience for them and opens the door for new small-group leaders!  My small group leaders signed up for a 4-year commitment, so it would be a big deal if they signed up.  Mission trips have been one of the best on-ramps for adult volunteers I have ever had.

TEN: Use An Amazon List For Packing Suggestions On What To Bring/Buy

Something that came recently for me was creating a packing list using the Amazon List feature.  I add everything that I feel could be (but not always required) used on the trip and then send it out to our team.  I explained that this is a suggestion, not a required list.  One of the neat features is anyone I give permission to can add to that list.  So, things I didn’t even know were added, and it became a living document.  I had families send this list to their relatives for Christmas and birthday gift ideas.  It was a very simple and easy thing to do.


So that is ten tips for short-term mission trips, all that you could do before the trip.  Next comes some tips on what you can do DURING the trip.  Stay tuned.

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