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The Most Important Thing You Can Do After Your Summer Mission Trip

Summer is mission trip season for many of us in youth ministry and my social media feeds are currently full of pictures and comments celebrating the wonderful, beautiful, Jesus-led moments surrounding short-term mission trips. I love it. It’s awesome.

Strangely, many of the same people fill up my fall and winter social media feeds asking for advice or feedback on options for next summer’s trip. Why submit yourself to the effort, stress, and vision-casting needed to make a new trip happen, when you already have had an experience full of wonderful, beautiful, Jesus-led moments on a short-term mission trip?

So, in a selfish effort to clean up my youth ministry social media feeds this winter, I want to make life easier for you. I want to pass along a youth ministry shortcut that I’m passionate about. A “hack,” if you will, to make sure your mission trip next year is both less stressful to plan, and more honoring of those you serve.

Book the same trip, to the same location, at the same time of year.

I understand the temptation to choose new locations each year for your mission trips.

  • Variety keeps things interesting
  • Your teens (and you!) enjoy visiting new locations and cultures
  • The hope that “maybe this year your teens will be more excited about going to _________ than when hardly anyone signed up last year when you went to __________.”

But each of those reasons are far more about us than they are about honoring those we are serving.

When we choose to invest in the same area, the same city, the same neighborhoods, and the same people we open ourselves, and our teens, up to a consistency that God honors in fruitful ways. The resulting relationships end up being far more mutual, honoring, and formational than what we usually experience on a one-off trip. (You can read a little more about my personal experience with consistent mission trips HERE)

Consistency isn’t valued nearly enough by youth pastors when it comes to mission trips.

Consistency means you get to know and trust an organization more and more while they get the opportunity to know and trust your group.

Consistency means there’s a likelihood of seeing the same folks year after year and actually building meaningful relationships with them, instead of a one-time interaction.

Consistency means you and your church get to see the active, ongoing work of God outside of your normal context at home.

Consistency means that it will be a lot more difficult to fall into the unhelpful, but all too common, trap of swooping in to an area as (likely) white, middle class people playing savior for a week, never to be seen again.

So, if you have already returned from a week of service, love, and community on a short-term mission trip – awesome. Want to know the most important thing you can do in the wake of such a profound experience?

Call up the organization you went through and sign up to do it again next summer. Sign up for the same city, the same community, and, if possible, the same service partners.

Maybe you are still gearing up for you group’s trip, and have high expectations of the wonderful, beautiful, Jesus-led moments that are about to happen. Awesome. Want to know the most important thing you can do if those hopes and dreams are fulfilled?

Call up the organization you went through and sign up to do it again next summer. Sign up for the same city, the same community, the same service partners.

Maybe you recently returned from a mission trip and it went horribly. The organization you worked with was unprepared, disorganized, and dishonoring of the folks you were serving. Don’t sign up with them again! Find a better mission trip option and do that next summer! But then stick with that trip for the coming years.

I truly pray that each and every trip this summer has expanded you and your group’s concept of just how big and how active God is in our world. And how big and active a role they get to play in that world. If that was (or will be) the case for you this summer, go ahead and make the call. And next year go back to the same area, the same city, the same neighborhoods, and the same people. Watch how God honors the work and those relationships and consistency grows year after year.


Brad Hauge is a lifelong resident of the great Pacific Northwest and has survived this youth ministry thing for 15 years in spite of crippling introversion. He is currently the Director of Student Ministry at First Presbyterian Church in Spokane, where he lives with his wife and daughters- who are far better humans than he is.

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The Lost Art of Writing Letters

A recent study in the UK showed some interesting statistics (and boy, did they make me feel old!) about teens and writing letters. A third of the teens surveyed said they had never even (hand)written a letter and half of them had never written so much as a thank you note or letter. And get this: one in ten said they didn’t even own a pen.

Let that sink in for a bit. Handwriting, it seems, is a lost art. Gone are the handwritten love letters, the cheesy poems decorated with little red hearts, but also the Christmas cards, a thank you note for a special gift… Continue reading The Lost Art of Writing Letters

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Moving Past Your Dominant Teaching Style

When I was in college getting my teaching degree, we learned about teaching styles. You know, the  differentiation in how people supposedly learn, for instance visual, auditory, kinesthetic, read/write, verbal, etc.

Turns out, the evidence for teaching styles isn’t all it’s claimed to be. That is, research suggests people do have preferences in their learning styles. But the bedrock of the learning styles approach is that teaching people in their preferred style improves the learning results and sadly there’s no evidence for that. Continue reading Moving Past Your Dominant Teaching Style

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The Three Biggest Mistakes in Creating a Mission and Vision

I’m still amazed when I hear of churches, youth groups, or (Christian) organizations operating without a mission and vision. For the first year or two of a new church or group that’s perfectly fine, but after that creating a mission and vision statement is crucially important to bring focus and growth.
That being said, you can’t ‘just’ create a mission and vision. Or to use a well-known meme: one does not simply create a mission and vision. Here are the three biggest mistakes when doing so: Continue reading The Three Biggest Mistakes in Creating a Mission and Vision

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7 Principles for Creating a Youth Ministry Year Plan

It’s that time of year again where many of you start prepping for next season. One of the big headaches tasks is always to create a youth ministry year plan with all the activities. This calendar is basically your planning for the entire year and shows you exactly what happens when.

Creating this season plan takes a lot of effort. Usually many people are involved, or need to have a say anyways. And many dates seem like a given, like the small group dates, or the youth service planning.

But before you finalize that plan, before you approve that calendar, take a step back to evaluate. Sometimes we are so caught up in getting it done, that we forget to look at the bigger picture. To help you do that, here are 7 principles for creating a youth ministry year planning. Continue reading 7 Principles for Creating a Youth Ministry Year Plan

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Your First Programs and Events

[This is the eighth post in our series on Building a Youth Ministry from Scratch]

A big question many youth ministry ‘start ups’ wrestle with is this: where should you start when it comes to programs and events? Should you start with small groups? Something fun? Organize a big event?

In a previous post I mentioned the importance of engaging your first students. Make sure to start with something that fits their spiritual interests. But there are a few more things to consider. Continue reading Your First Programs and Events

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Your Mission and Vision…Or Not

[This is the sixth post in a series on Creating a Youth Ministry from Scratch]

A huge priority for a new ministry is to create a mission and a vision. That means putting into writing where you are right now and where you want to go in the near future. However, I don’t recommend working on this for the first year or so. That’s because you need time to experiment a bit first and get to know the context well enough. Continue reading Your Mission and Vision…Or Not

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Making Small Talk With Teens When You Know Nothing About Youth Culture

Not every youth leader is into youth culture. The fact that you do not like The Walking Dead, have no idea who Taylor Swift is, or have never even heard of The Hunger Games does not disqualify you for youth ministry.

It can, however, make it hard to engage in small talk with teens. Because what do you talk about with them? Here’s my advice. Continue reading Making Small Talk With Teens When You Know Nothing About Youth Culture