Worthwhile Mission Trips in Five Steps

Get out of your home community.

Initiate relationships with people whose lives are appreciably different from yours.

Do helpful work.

Make partnerships.


This is my process for a worthwhile short-term mission trip. The “Repeat” step means there is value in returning multiple times to the same place. There is a well-documented pull in planning mission trips to mix it up and expose students to a variety of places, a pull that is not without merit. But I’m at a point now where I am less interested in that particular pull than I am in another pull, the one that brings me back to the same place and the same partners more than once.

Going back multiple times to work with the same people in the same place forces the issue of what a mission trip is for. It’s not tourism. It’s not heroism. The weeds my students pulled and the brush they cleared from a church parking lot in East Detroit last week is growing back even now; I want them to see that. I want them to attack it with the same sense of purpose the second time as they did the first, because it’s no less helpful for the fact that they already did it.

The leaders my students worked with and learned from aren’t going anywhere either. I want to expose new youth to those leaders, and I want youth who have worked with them once to grow in their appreciation for those leaders’ challenges and contributions. That is second-level stuff. You have to go back for it to happen.

I have no concrete plans at the minute, but I am without a doubt starting next year’s planning with the conviction that going back to the place we just left is a valuable proposition.


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