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 someone based on the recommendation of a trusted colleague. Sadly, hundreds, if not thousands, of youth groups will do a mission trip this summer with little to no long-term impact for the Gospel beyond the week.

Here are 5 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 what 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 the why before deciding what trip you will do.

Consider these questions:

  • Will this trip intentionally translate back into a student’s life at home? 
  • How will this experience train them to be a 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 their desire to be part of something larger than themselves and 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.

Consider these questions:

  • 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… relationship.  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.

Consider these questions:

  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • Do the stakeholders 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 students’ 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 want 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.

Consider this question:

  • 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. 

Consider these questions: 

  • 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?


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 partner ministries. These principles are at the heartbeat of what we do at Apex. We would count it a privilege to be part of your disciple-making strategy to leverage one week of ministry this summer for fifty-one weeks of gospel influence at home. 

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David Boerema

David Boerema

Director at Apex
David and Shawna Boerema serve as US Project Directors for Apex. For 20 years they have served in local church student ministry and are passionate about helping students take the next steps in their walk with Jesus. David also serves as the Associate Director of ReachStudents for EDA Move. David and Shawna live in Central Pennsylvania with their two boys and love to be outdoors, travel and appreciate a cup of finely crafted coffee.

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