11 Mini-Missions Trip Ideas

Every mission trip is built on a deep truth wrapped in a sticky lie. Although we don’t intend for it to happen, that lie can bury the truth in what we say and hear. For example, try to spot the lie in each of these statements:

  • “You need to come be part of this experience, and Jesus will change your life there.”
  • “Jesus has lots of important things for us to do this week. Let’s give our best and follow him when we arrive.”
  • “Wasn’t that trip incredible? Now that our missions experience is over, let’s discuss doing it again next year.”

Here’s the lie clearly spelled out: “Missions is all about what happens when you go somewhere else.” Obviously that’s not true.

Missions is about responding to Jesus and joining him in what he’s doing wherever we are.

Yet as we plan trips and experiences for teenagers to go serve “somewhere else,” we tend to nurture a destination mentality. It says, “When we get there, then Jesus will work in us. And if we return there every year, he’ll continue to work in us.”

What if you could deflate that concept along your journey? A solution I created involves fun tie-ins called mini-missions. I believe Jesus does amazing things in and through us when we enter situations that involve being stretched and stretching others. I’ve also discovered we need a way to emphasize that this happens not just when we “get there” but while we’re getting there. (After all, isn’t that how life happens?)

So whether I’m planning a trip on my own or using a well-planned and executed program such as Group Mission Trips, here’s the plan:

  • Every morning on the trip from day one, our leaders review possible options. It’s a process of prayer and discernment based on where this particular group seems to be and what they’re capable of pulling off that day.
  • Each day we ask a different student to pick from three different envelopes with no writing on the outside. Whatever they open and read becomes the group’s mini-mission task for that day.
  • The group’s success or failure earns them perks such as extra group grocery money, free time to go shopping, a late-night snack run on us, and so on.

This approach has several advantages. First, it adds a fun relational component that helps the group bond from the ground up. It also opens teenagers to the idea that the missions experience is about more than just going somewhere else to “do good deeds.” Instead, we’re letting Jesus shape something deeper inside us. Through mini-missions, I’ve watched teenagers transform from strangers or mere acquaintances into young people who challenge one another into some really great places.

Here are 11 Mini-Missions Trip Ideas You Could Use:

  • Silence Day—For a certain number of hours, no one is allowed to talk or make any vocal noises. Teenagers and adults can write things down, use hand signals, or create their own Morse Code type of communication system. Another option is to allow only one person to talk during each hour. Several great lessons can be drawn from this; for example, how challenging it can be to express ourselves and how relationships require intentional investments besides communication.
  • Attachment Day—Kids buddy-up with someone of the same gender, and the pair is tied together with a thin string. Let participants determine how long the string is, and have them stay attached except for bathroom time. This will spark some great dialogue about who we attach ourselves to in life, and how they influence us.
  • Compliment Day—Every interaction with team members or complete strangers must include at least one compliment. This emphasizes that we’re called to encourage one another.
  • Salutation Day—Have team members use Mr., Mrs., or Miss to address each person they interact with throughout the day.
  • Trash Day—Wherever you go, look for trash to pick up. We always have opportunities to make a difference by caring for God’s creation.
  • No-Shower Day—For 24 hours, no showers are allowed (which is a greater challenge for some people than others). This ties into how we’re sometimes comfortable living with sin rather than letting Jesus cleanse us.
  • Carry Someone’s Burdens Day—You can’t carry your own stuff (Bible, backpack, etc.), only someone else’s. This is a great illustration about the body of Christ.
  • Letter Home Day—Students must write something meaningful to someone back home, either to be mailed or hand-delivered upon arrival. Set a 200-word minimum and use the honor system.
  • Yuck Day—Every meal must include a food that teenagers normally wouldn’t eat, without complaining.
  • Gum Day—Team members must chew gum all day long, including during meals. (Provide an alternative for teenagers wearing braces.) This is a great lesson about the “little things” in our lives that affect everything else.
  • Dollar Lunch Day—If team members are buying their own food, challenge them to spend only a dollar per meal one day. Compare that to what the average person lives on.

You get the idea. What do you think? What mini-missions would you recommend?

I also recommend Group Mission Trips’ 4-day Weekend Workcamps! These are great “mini-missions” to introduce your teenagers to the concept of meaningful service. You’ll be amazed at the spiritual growth that can happen in one weekend.

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8 Tips to Planning a Life-Changing Mission Trip

Real life transformation occurs when Jesus disrupts our routine and gets us outside of our comfort zones…Amen?! When teenagers get outside their daily routines and away from their phones, powerful growth occurs…especially when they serve others. They are able to take the focus off of themselves.

They’ll get away from peer pressures and embrace their identity in Christ. Millions of teenagers over the years have been transformed by mission experiences. Planning a mission trip can be intimidating, so here are eight “sanity tips” to plan a life-changing mission trip without losing your mind…

1. Don’t do it all yourself.
You might be great at planning events but mission trips require different expertise. Maybe you’re looking for a community service mission trip, but unless you have relationships with local non-profits or ministries in the area you want to serve, it may be very challenging to find meaningful service partnerships. Perhaps you want to try international missions, but don’t know the first thing about customs or packing light for a youth group. A youth mission trip organization like Group Mission Trips can share their experience to make this process more seamless.

2. Determine How Long The Trip Will Be. If you are just starting out, try a shorter trip. Get comfortable with the process of doing a mission trip before you jump off the deep end. It’s similar to running a marathon, if you strap on your running shoes and try to run 26.2 miles on your first run you will end up dead. A good place to start may be Group’s four-day Weekend Workcamps.

3. Choose: Domestic or International trip? The choice is going to be driven by what everyone is comfortable with and where you feel God is leading you. The right mission trip provider can help you find the right destination. If you are going international, find a mission trip partner who embraces the concept of sustainable local ministry…where you come to serve and not be served.

4. Engage key teens and parents early and often. Talk to them about the benefits of going on a mission trip and how this experience will help teenagers with leadership and life perspective. Parents can be your best ally. They want their kid to embrace their faith and a mission trip can do just that. OVER COMMUNICATE! Once is never enough, so keep the conversation going.

5. Shocking truth…the type of mission trip is not as important as you think. Getting into the habit of serving takes a lot of pressure off of finding the perfect trip. Start with the date that works best for everyone and then work back into the type of service. Going the other direction can cause a concussion from constantly beating your head against the wall.

6. Don’t wrestle against other activities. You are trying to work with these other activities not against them. Early in January, most schedules for summer events will be posted. Find the most amendable date and go with that.

7. Use this as a strategic way to get more committed volunteers for your youth ministry. Identify key parents who you want to be more involved in your youth ministry. Approach them with this opportunity to not only have their son or daughter to on a life-changing mission trip, but that they can be a part of that experience.

8. Emphasize friendship. Deepening friendships with others and Jesus is the secret to growing and sustaining a vibrant youth ministry. Start with friendship first then move to Bible knowledge. Want more time-saving wisdom to plan your next youth mission trip?

Get your FREE “90 Days to Summer Mission Trip” Planner from Group Mission Trips!   [Click Here to Download Now!]

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How to Get Students Reading Scripture

I have had a huge burden for a few years now to get students to read the scriptures.  I’ve come up with a way that many of them have been receptive too.  Simply by sending scriptures to their mobile phones!  Now hundreds of students and adults have signed up to receive these.  If you’d like to share with your youth group, simply tell your students to text FOLLOW MYSCRIPTURES to 40404. Each day they will receive a verse from the Holy Bible that I select personally. It’s that easy!  

If you’d like to announce or share this in your services or youth group this weekend, I’ve created a FREE DOWNLOADABLE PPT SLIDE that you can insert into your announcement loop. Simply [Click here] to download the zip file of the PPT and Keynote slides.

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Win a FREE TICKET to Orange!

Just recently we announced on This Week in Youth Ministry that we are giving away a FREE TICKET to the Orange Conference in Atlanta, GA! This conference ticket, valued at $349, will be given to one lucky leader on February 17, 2017! Go [here] to enter this giveaway.

This conference is designed for the entire family ministry team – for children’s pastors, youth pastors, college pastors, and more!  There is something for everyone.
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Click [here] to explore The Orange Conference – Check out the breakout sessions, see the lineup of Keynote speakers, plan your trip to Atlanta, and more!

Don’t Let #2017 Get Away With This …

I have a resolution for YOU and ME.
 
This year, 2017, let’s work to make our relationships better.
 
Seriously people.
 
We are SO lame sometimes when it comes to relationships.
 
It’s not that hard, people.
 
How many times has a friend or family member said “Hey, let’s talk soon?” Or “Let’s do lunch soon, k?”
 
And it never happens.
 
Good intentions, yes. But it doesn’t happen as much as it should.
 
It’s 2017 people.
 
We have phones (connected to our heads at all times!), the internet, vehicles, and SO many other means of getting us face to face with someone or ear to ear in mere seconds.
 
There is no excuse.
 
You are NOT that busy.
 
I’ve reached out to people on numerous occasions (sometimes for an ENTIRE YEAR) about talking with me. Did I say a YEAR? Yes.
 
And just today someone vented to me that they are weary of reaching out to someone who has told them several times over a 3 year period that “they’d like to get to know her.”
 
Did I say 3 years? Yes.
 
The busiest person I know (I’m talking the leader of a Company…family man… wears about 15 more hats than I do kinda guy…) gets back to me within 24 hours when I reach out to him. Every single time!
 
“Relationships are the most important thing to us,” we say.
 
Let that sink in for a moment.
 
What means the most to people on their death bed? Their relationships.
 
And we let dumb stuff and silly stuff come between us.
 
We grow apart.
 
We isolate ourselves from each other.
 
And yes, make lots of lame excuses.
 
If someone means something to you, let them know.
 
If it’s important to you, make time for it. Make time for them.
 
You are not that busy.
 
It can be done.
 
Don’t let 2017 divide us like 2016 (and so many years before) did.
 

What God Told Me About Donald Trump

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Less than 48 hours ago God spoke to me about Donald Trump.

Before I share this, let me just say, I know some people reading this don’t believe in God, some don’t understand how God speaks, and others will doubt that God said this [to me] at all … but it’s my experience, my testimony.  Just please honor this, if you would, and hear me out.

I’ve actually always had a hard time describing what it’s like when God speaks to you.

Even as pastor and Bible college graduate, I’ve had a hard time explaining the voice of God. But, I’ve always explained [the voice of God] this way to people: when you hear it, it’s undeniable.  It’s like hearing your mom or dad speak to you.  You KNOW their voice.

So, less than 48 hours ago I believe God said this to me:

Rally as many Christians world-wide, as possible, to pray for America. Pray for healing.  Pray for unity. Pray for Donald Trump and all newly elected leaders for 21 days.

Immediately I was humbled.

Anytime God speaks to you it should humble you.

Then I realized something remarkable.

Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on the 20th day of January.  His first full day of his Presidency will be on the 21st day of the year.  There’s your 21 days.

So immediately I sprang into action.

I shared the word with a few close friends.

And then recruited them to help me get as many people to commit to prayer for the first 21 days of the year as possible.

If you want to join me for 21 days of consecutive prayer, to God, for America, and for our newly elected leaders please visit www.TwentyOneDays.org.

MinistryDownloads – BOGO Offer!

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BIG NEWS from MinistryDownloads.com.   We’re offering a BOGO Deal for the next 3 days!  You can BUY a Resource Bundle for yourself and then GIFT one to another friend\youth worker\church leader!  It’s been exciting today to see leaders gifting other pastors. Don’t miss out on this opportunity!

Hurry, this offer ends Wednesday, December 7th, at 11:59PM EST.
Go [here] to MinistryDownloads.com

Voting Isn’t All That Matters Tomorrow

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On this final night before the Election (thank God!), I am so sad at
what shape our country is in after this election. I think the candidates
we have chosen reflect where we are at as a nation. It’s rather
pathetic. In fact, tonight on CBS News, Bob Schieffer said “It’s like
our country is under a curse, based on the candidates we have.”

Honestly, I hate the way elections go for us. We’ve been enduring this
cycle now for 2 years…and when you think about it, we are picking
a president at this point based on who smears their opponent better.

People have bought into this negative speak. I’ve tried to be careful
of what I’ve said, when I’ve said it, but I’ll admit it’s been difficult.
Some people have been down right cruel and I’ve had several people
say nasty things to me (personally). Which is quite ironic, considering
most of these same people are quick to call out Trump (for example)
on the nasty things that he has said. Hypocritical much?

So today I’ve thought about our election process. Weird, I know.

What would it have been like if we had nominees who shared their
policies a year out (2 years is too long, right?) and then spent the year
on a “Do Good” campaign … and after that year we compare what each
candidate did with their time & resources for one year (coupled with
their policies) and cast our vote then? Think of all the $$$ the candidates
raise & pour into negative ads alone? These dollars would be spent doing
good! Wow. What that year could do for our country would be AMAZING.

We really need to rethink our democracy.

With this said, VOTE. Get out tomorrow and VOTE.

I’m not voting for a candidate. I’m voting strictly on policy. Both
candidates are flawed (some people are still in denial about that),
so either way this election goes, as I see it, we still need to depend
on God’s guidance for our president-elect and the direction of our
country.

Voting tomorrow isn’t all that matters though.

As one of my friends put it today: “It matters more how I treat people
tomorrow than it does how I vote. It matters whether I love the unlovely,
respect those who disagree with me, help the helpless, honor my wife
and my kids, and act toward the person who cuts me off in traffic. That’s
how the world is changed. One loving act at a time.”

And tomorrow, regardless of how the election goes… let’s just agree to
move forward and be better (especially better to each other!) We need
each other and we need God.

May God have mercy on us. May he guide our country. May he keep
people from acting fool after tomorrow’s decision is made. And may
God bless America again.

ReVamp Your #YouthMin Outreach!

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Just 5 years ago I signed on to help Water Mission International raise awareness about the need for clean water globally. It was incredible to work with this organization to raise support and also help meet the needs of those who suffer daily due to lack of clean water.

Water Mission, a Christian nonprofit that builds safe water solutions in developing countries and disaster areas, now invites your Youth Group to participate in an exciting new learning experience this Fall – Project Disaster!

Think about this … If a natural disaster struck your hometown what would your students need to do in order to survive? Water Mission wants you to take a look at your Fall or Spring calendar and consider an event or series of events to help your students get a taste of what it’s like to survive should disasters strike and what refugees worldwide experience every day.   You can choose among 9 different activities, depending on length of your event (day, evening, or even overnight events) — much like a 30-hour famine experience — where students experience firsthand what a refugee or survivor might go through to meet their daily needs like food, water and shelter. And Water Mission wants to help you with the planning too!

Check this out ... You can get a FREE PLANNING KIT from Water Mission (includes T-Shirt, Wristbands, & Materials!), and you’ll also be entered to WIN A FREE International Trip to see the impact of safe water firsthand! Go [here] and sign up now!  Amazing!

5 Ways to Reach Students with #PokemonGO

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Whether you care personally about the latest phenomenon in the #PokemonGO app or not, this is a pretty big deal.  Churches are beginning to see random passersby show up on their doorsteps because of this app!   The popular video game app mixes augmented reality with a form of geocaching and has literally swept the nation.  In fact, nearly 35 million people are using the app now… surpassing popular platforms like Twitter.

In our latest podcast, This Week in Youth Ministry, I interviewed Nils Smith, VP of Social Media and Innovation for the Dunham Company (TX) about how to leverage this game to reach students for Christ. [Click here] to launch and listen in iTunes now.

During the show I shared 8 ways churches can capitalize on PokemonGO. I referenced an article [here], which includes all 8, but I’ll share a few here with you.

5 Ways Churches Can Reach Students with PokemonGO:

1. Check Your Church on the Game – The first thing you want to do is download PokemonGo to your smartphone. Begin to familiarize yourself with the app and check to see if your church is a “Pokestop” or “gym!”  If you are in a larger city you might have more foot traffic, but knowing if your church is a stop or gym will give you a better idea of how to engage people who come by your church!

2. Create a Welcome Area for Players – Churches who are intentional about reaching people will take this opportunity to interact with the public.  Check out what Kyle’s church did.  Kyle shared [this] with our Facebook group. It’s a welcome area for players where they offer free snacks and prizes too – brilliant.

3. Post About it on Social Media – There’s already a buzz about #PokemonGo online, so why not join the conversation? If your church is doing something unique (or really anything at all!) share it on your social media.  This will create more interests in your ministry.

4. Bring Pokemon to Your Church – You can actually lure people to your church or ministry by creating a “Lure Module” that will draw in Pokemon to Pokestops for 30+ minutes! Check out this article in Forbes that I just read about how to lure more people your way!

5. Let Your Students Shine! –  One thing Nils & I talked about on the podcast is this is a great opportunity to let your students lead. Your students will know more about this app\game than you.  Why not host a night soon where you allow a couple of students to teach everyone how to play and equip them to reach their friends!  Giving your teens a chance to share will create a buzz in itself and create interests in your ministry.

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