What Youth Leaders Really Want in a Mission Experience

With the goal of continual improvement in mind, Youth Unlimited asked ten Sending Church youth leaders to explain what they hope for in a North American mission experience. Here’s a glimpse at their answers.

  1. TRUST: Taking a group on a trip means that you must trust the leaders who will guide you through the experience once you arrive. It’s nearly impossible to have a great trip without a good host organization or church to guide you. That’s why Youth Unlimited is dedicated to building strong Host Church teams. A new Host Church learns the best practices of short-term missions and hosting. They consider how the Serve week integrates with their ongoing home missions and community outreach efforts. Resources and ideas are shared across an extensive network of Host Churches across Canada and the U.S.
  2. SIMPLICITY: Missions is never “easy.” The very nature of missions demands that we grapple with spiritual battles and issues of injustice. However, by providing administrative help and an excellent Digital Resource Box, Youth Unlimited seeks to make the mobilization of students for the cause of Christ as simple as possible for church leaders. Clear communication is also important here. This is the difference between a smooth and simple experience or one in which groups feel confused and lost. Youth Unlimited encourages Host Churches to communicate clearly and often.
  3. THE GOSPEL: Youth Leaders want their groups to experience a Gospel-filled week. The Speaker, the Worship Leader and the Adult Leaders at Serve are urged to make the Gospel the center of everything that happens. Students will be reminded of the good news and that the death and resurrection of Christ is our motivation for serving in the community.
  4. A CHALLENGE: At the end of the week, participants ought to be saying, “I worked hard, played hard and thought more deeply about my walk with Christ. I was stretched out of my comfort zone.” That’s the ideal. Now, a brief reality check: There are always a few students and even adults who do not want to be challenged. Sending Churches want Host Church/Ministries to use grace and love when confronting behavior problems. Also, not all worksites will lead to amazing and fulfilling experiences. The Host Churches strive to connect the work to the need and the need to a person and their story. Even when that person or story is not obvious, however, students are still urged to serve with perseverance and a good attitude.
  5. LEADERSHIP ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND ASSISTANCE:Some youth leaders are veterans and come with years of experience. Others are recruited at the last minute and need almost constant guidance. Host Churches/Ministries can assess adult leaders’ abilities and help them out as needed.
  6. INCLUSIVE TRIPS: Youth leaders and students work hard to raise the money for a mission trip, so hidden costs are not cool. Sure, an extra $5 for the day away is reasonable. But an extra $15 is not going to happen. Sending Churches shouldn’t have to pull out their wallet for anything except to purchase fuel for their vehicle.
  7. A CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF PROTOCOLS AND INSURANCE IN CASE OF AN INJURY: If there’s an incident, adults want answers and not confusion. Youth Unlimited has procedures in place to make sure students are cared for and God is glorified in the process. Youth Unlimited also has excellent secondary insurance with Mutual of Omaha, but there is paperwork to file and the parent/legal guardian must be proactive after the student returns home.
  8. LONG-TERM IMPACT: Youth leaders want to know that their group’s work mattered. They also want to help their own students integrate what they learned into their daily lives. In the Student and Leader versions of the Spiritual Life Guide and in the Digital Resource Box, Youth Unlimited supplies a Post-Trip Plan to help with follow-up.


If you’re one of the more than 200 Sending Churches working with Youth Unlimited this summer, please add your thoughts to this list by sending your comments to missions@youthunlimited.org.