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Moving Your Youth Mission Trip from Good to Great
By: Doug Franklin

The trip is all planned and everything is ready to go. The money is all raised, all the release forms are signed, and you have even communicated to the missions committee all of your goals for the trip. You have it all together. You are going to have a good trip.

Many good youth workers make it this far, but few do the little extraordinary things to make a trip great. Here are three ideas that can turn your good trip into a great one.

Build a Student Profile
Develop a profile of each student that is going on the trip. Ask yourself the following three questions.

* What is this student's greatest need?
* How is God currently working in him/her?
* How is God working through him/her?

Then, write your answers on a sheet of paper in three columns. Under each column, write out five ways you can encourage that student in these areas based on your assessment of where they are at. For example, under the student's greatest need, you might write friendship.

Now think of five things you can do to encourage him to build relationships with other students or to say nicer words that could endear him to others. Or, you may need to think about confronting him about some negative aspect of his personality.

Whatever the need, you will have a roadmap to speaking truth into this student's life. On a missions or wilderness trip, you have a great opportunity to go deeper with students. Don't miss the chance!

Turn Your Adult Chaperones into Youth Workers
So many of the youth pastors that I meet on trips have the traditional extra adults on hand because the church thought it would be nice to bring a few parents. Many youth pastors see this as a necessary evil and bring them along, but what they fail to do is see this as a great opportunity to mentor students. When students get on a bus or plane, something magical takes place, and they are often willing to work harder, be more responsible, and sometimes listen to adults.

What adults need to understand is that students don't want chaperones, they want relationships. If you will take some pre-trip time and train your adults in how to build relationships with students, I believe you can move your summer trip into greatness. Please know that adults are often very afraid of students, and they won't want to build relationships with them. My suggestion is to not bring those adults. You have a mission to grow students, so stay focused on your mission.

Challenge Your Highest-Level Students 
 Most programs and curriculums that are available for youth ministry are designed for the lowest common denominator. In other words, they focus on the kids that are not the sharpest, hoping that by meeting their needs, the group will grow and develop. In the meantime, the students that "get it" grow bored and disinterested in church. I personally believe that this has been one of the greatest mistakes of the church in the past 25 years.

It has been my experience that by challenging the top students in a youth group, the rest of the students then rise to meet them. It's called positive peer pressure. I challenge you to try it on your trip. Raise the level of expectation for your top students, give them true leadership roles, allow them to make decisions that lead to success or failure, and let them deal with the consequences of those decisions. Move away from entertaining your students and giving them free time. Instead, increase the intensity of the work project or ministry outreach. Push your students mentally, spiritually, and physically. Test me on this.

I am pray that God will give you safe and growing experiences that will stretch your students.

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, a student leadership development ministry, using trips, innovative training, and curriculum to help students identify and develop their personal leadership skills, www.leadertreks.com.

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