Mission Trips: Things You Need to Know | UMC YoungPeople
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February 2020

Mission Trips: Things You Need to Know

By Chris Wilterdink

Short-term mission experiences remain a cornerstone of many local church ministries, youth and young adult ministries included. Sometimes the terms “mission trip” and “service trip” are used interchangeably, though there are some subtle distinctions that can be important to consider as you plan out these experiences for young people.

A “mission trip” usually means a religious volunteer experience in an underserved community. These experiences generally combine religious activities like prayer, worship, personal or group devotions, or evangelism with a tangible project that requires energy, expertise, and presence.

A “service trip” usually means a volunteer experience without the religious aspects. The projects could be the exact same, the communities being served and connected with could be the same, but the religious introspection and opportunities are not present.

Missions therefore present an opportunity to create a witness of what it means to be a member of your local church, or a disciple, or a Christian. Through these experiences, it is critical to invite youth to reflect upon their experience and the witness that they are creating through their actions in service.

All that said, as a leader you are probably already planning on the mission experiences that will play a part in your summer calendar. We have some great tips from Carl Gladstone, who has worked with Motown Mission in Detroit in many roles and from Don Ballard, the president/CEO of City Service Mission, which creates opportunities in urban settings across the United States.

DOWNLOAD Plan Your 2020 Trip - Steps (PDF)

Chris serves as Director of Young People’s Ministries for Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Chris has a BA in English Education, and an MS in Project Management, and over 15 years of local-church youth ministry experience. He is passionate about leadership and faith development in young people and helping ministry leaders understand their value in the lives of young people. A Stephen Minister, Chris is a native of Colorado living in Franklin, TN with his wife Emily, 2 children, and sausage-shaped beagle.