if you need a(nother) mission trip idea… with a MAJOR twist

This week I’m writing on Spring Break options a little bit – starting yesterday with a question about Spring Break traditions. Today, a repost of one of the ideas people have talked to me about the most – yes, it’s a little crazy, but if it fits your ministry’s purposes, it can be an amazing thing.

How does your campus ministry’s Spring Break look? Will you be mission-tripping this year? Are as many students going as you’d hoped?

If you’d still love to consider a Mission Trip for Spring Break (or this summer) OR wouldn’t mind throwing out an additional option for students (that doesn’t require any planning), here’s an idea I’ve mentioned before.

It’s also a perfect last-minute idea for your college ministry because it is, in fact, the Unplanned Mission Trip. This is something I’ve personally done, and it was highly successful. It takes more than a few lines to explain (sorry), but the idea is actually pretty simple.

The Purpose(s)

ANY method isn’t valuable if it doesn’t actually accomplish our most-needed purposes, right? So let’s start there.

The Unplanned Mission Trip can…

  • highlight God’s out-of-the-blue blessings
  • remind us and our students that sometimes we don’t have to have everything “all planned out” in our lives (so it can help your “Type A” students)
  • shake up a lethargic (or boring) college ministry
  • teach our students to look for opportunities to serve and grow can pop up any day, anywhere
  • build relationships (like any trip, but with an added adventurous twist)
  • experience other settings, cities, people, campuses, etc.
  • become a unique “bonding experience,” since it’s such an interesting experience

How It Works: The Setup

The basic Unplanned Mission Trip requires ONLY three pre-trip preparations:

  • Determine the “parameters” of the trip: maximum cost, dates, what vehicle(s) you’ll be driving. Don’t plan where you’re actually going.
  • Determine the road trip’s minimum and maximum distance from home (based on how many days you want to spend). You don’t want to end up too close to home, but you don’t want to spend the whole time driving, either. The closer in, the more time you’ll have for “activities” on the way to the destination – but if you’re too close, that might be pretty boring.
  • Randomly pick your destination. (See below.) This is where the “Unplanned” part comes in.

The destination isn’t determined until the day you leave. You and your students will randomly pick a road trip destination, and there are several ways to do this. For example…

  • Throw darts at a big map until you hit a spot inside your predetermined distance.
  • Google (or eBay) some random words, and see what city comes up on that page.
  • Draw five random one-digit numbers to make a Zip Code. Google to find out the city it’s in.
  • Draw names from among those going on the trip (or from church staff, or from school administration, or from a list of U.S. Presidents). Determine beforehand that you’ll go to that person’s hometown, alma mater, their mom’s birthplace, etc.
  • Call someone, and have them name a city (without knowing why).
  • Come up with some other method.

Once You’re on the Road

After you’ve determined the destination, you’re on your way! (You can, however, keep the destination a secret for awhile if you’d like, and you probably should keep it secret until you’re on the road.)

The leader’s job (along with anybody else he has appointed) is now to plan the trip – once you’re driving.

Thoughts to consider: Are you driving near any big cities? Any cool college campuses? What about driving near friends or family of someone on the trip? Anything can be made into a fun stop or a chance to serve – especially if you have a good map, mobile broadband internet, or a “helper” back home who can help plan while the team is on the road.

On top of the fun stuff, you can also include a major service component in your trip – in the “destination city” or along the way. For example, you could…

  • Decide to stop at the first (Christian) church you find in that city. Pop in, and ask if you could help them in any way during your stay!
  • Hunt /ask around the town looking for possible service opportunities.
  • Contact a church or other non-profit in that city, and ask if they know anyone who could use a day of help.
  • Go to a nursing home, homeless shelter, or other place where service takes place regularly.
  • Do random acts of kindness that you don’t need permission for: pick up trash, take care packages to houses in a poor part of town, or something else.
  • BE CREATIVE! AND PRAY FOR GOD’S BRILLIANCE! (See below for a testimony of how this worked for my college ministry!)

I also think it’s a great idea to attend church(es) during the trip, especially if the trip includes a Sunday. Exposing students to different church environments – or even different denominations – can be a great experience, and you can all talk about the experience together afterwards.

As you know, I’m also a big fan of visiting college campuses. Honestly, those visits can be incredibly eye-opening for students, since most may not have seen any campus besides their own. Why not spend some time prayer-walking at a campus, or even get in touch with a ministry at that campus? Often different campuses have different Spring Break schedules, so that may help you determine where you’ll stop.

Most importantly, as you take the trip, be very open to whatever God wants to do! Pray – lots – with your students, but then trust that He can and will do what He wants to do. Go with the flow. You do NOT have to plan everything out the first day. God may have purposes in mind that you haven’t thought of, and He may allow opportunities to pop up along the way. That’s the point.

Even if the trip doesn’t end up “super busy” or you don’t find lots of service opportunities, you get the chance to take a cool little adventure with your friends. And you practice the mindset of every day being a day to look for service. And for adventure. And for relationships.

Of course, there are all kinds of further tweaks you can make to this idea. I’ve given you the outline, but your group can make it your own!

A Real-Life Testimony

In my last year as a paid college minister, I took a group of students on an extreme version of this. I called it our “Mad Libs eBay Road Trip,” and it was highly successful. If you want to see my report from Spring Break 2007, which also explains the method a little bit, just read this post.


[Click to ask questions, comment, or see any comments on this post!]

One Comment

  1. Pingback: ministry through the tournament (even if you haven’t planned anything yet) | Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes on our field)

Leave a Reply