Mission Trip Planning Ideas

Mission Trip Planning Ideas

1. Gather information. Use this listing to explore the opportunities that are available.  Explore websites.  You can also access volunteer opportunities on-line at www.ucc.org/volunteer.  Feel free to call the Volunteer Ministries office.  Talk to others who have participated in mission trips. What do they suggest? Are there young people or adults from these groups who would be willing to come and talk to your group about their experiences? Hearing first-person stories can generate enthusiasm within your group for the trip you are planning.

2.  Attend or Coordinate a Mission Trip Leaders Training event in your UCC Conference or Association.  Invite experienced mission trip leaders and "newbies" to share experiences and ideas.  Contact the UCC Volunteer Ministries office for resource materials.  Friend the Facebook page "United church of Christ Volunteer Ministries."

3. Select the site. Involve the members of your group in the decision.  Consider where the passion of your group lies.  Consider how this mission trip can encourage your congregation in current directions of mission or open the possibility of new directions and the development of a 'culture of mission.'

Host sites have different emphases in their ministry and opportunities for groups.  Educational immersion trips often focus on meeting people, hearing their stories, and being equipped and empowered to return home with a strong justice advocacy commitment.  Service-learning sites offer opportunities for 'hands on' service and acquaintance with the local people and issues.  Disaster recovery mission trip sites are developed in areas affected by natural disaster several months after the disaster and continuing for the long-term.

Other considerations in finding a good match for your group is geography, cost, and age of the participants in  your group.

4. Prepare the participants. Encourage leaders to attend a training event for leading mission trips - or host a training event in your Association or Conference.  Contact the Volunteer Ministries office for ideas.  Utilize resources from the bibliography listed on page 2 of this booklet.

Gather the group for trainings on cross-cultural skills and familiarity with social-economic-faith issues in the area where you will serve.  If your host site engages in construction ministries, be sure  to practice basic skills with all members of your group.

5. Determine a budget. The major categories to consider when determining a budget are transportation, lodging, food, special events (i.e., amusement park, tours, museums), insurance, donation toward materials, and cost for leadership expertise (i.e. crew bosses, adult sponsors). You may find it easier to figure the cost per person, multiply by the number of participants, and then add other discreet costs to it. Transportation costs will depend on whether you rent a van, charter a bus, or fly. Food costs per person per day averages between $15 and $25 when you prepare your own meals. You may wish to plan for at least one dinner out.

6. Raise the funds. Many groups use this task to help build a team spirit among the group members so that they get to know one another and learn how to work together.  Building this spirit can help to make the trip more meaningful and fun. Do not let finances be a deciding factor in who is able to participate in the trip. Strive to make the trip as affordable as possible. Find scholarship support, if necessary, so that everyone who wants to go is able to do so.  

There are many great fund-raising ideas. Here are a few: service and talent auction, talent show dinner, pledges, gift wrapping service, parents' day out, homemade candy sale, and selling "stock" in the trip. 

7. Determine a schedule. Determine the schedule before you depart so that the participants (and their families) know what to expect. Include realistic work hours and free time.  Organize devotion, a Bible study, or worship time every day. Attend worship in the host community if possible.  Plan, plan and then be flexible.   Mission trips tend to take on their own time flow and mission happens in the unexpected spaces of our days.

When you are on the trip, schedule teams to lead worship, shop for food, and prepare meals. Other tasks to assign are: treasurer, photographer, first-aid person, and secretary/correspondent (to send thank-you notes, etc.), blogging-schedule. 

8.  Plan Safe.  The UCC Insurance Boards suggest questions to consider and safety precautions to implement.  See http://www.insuranceboard.org/safety_solutions/default.aspx Summer2009 newsletter, page 3.



  • Will you borrow or rent vehicles?  Are the vehicles insured?  Does the church have a  "hired and non owned vehicles" endorsement for its general liability policy?
  • Have you vetted the drivers?  Are they licensed and do they hae acceptable driving records?
  • Are you using 15-passenger vans?  Are the particular hazards understood and managed?  Do drivers have a CDL (Commercial Drivers License)?



  •  Have you obtained written permission with reasonable releases and disclaimers from the correct parents or guardians?  (Consult attorney.) 


Medical Emergencies:

  • Are medical accommodations, allergies, special diets and medication requirements recorded?
  • Have emergency contact instructions been provided by guardians?



    • Have overnight facilities been inspected for cleanliness, safety and security?
    • Are communications channels open with the facilities?


Activities & Supervision: 

When trips are prolonged and involve relative isolation of children, careful attention must be given to those who are supervising - for their protection and the protection of the children.

  • Are adult-to-child ratios adequate to the activities?
  • Have background checks been conducted on non-clergy employees and volunteers?
  • Have employees and volunteers received training in abuse prevention and detection?
  • Are they First Aid/CPR/AED trained?
  • Are there clear rules regarding contact with children?
  • Are intended activities understood and age appropriate?
  • Are children able and qualified for the activities?  (e.g., swimming)
  • Is safety equipment sufficient and properly sized?  (e.g., flotation devices)

Custody Transfer:

  • Is it clear for each child who is authorized to pick up the child upon return home?

9.  Connect with the Congregation.  Before you leave, plan a covenant and commissioning service.  You can find sample covenant and commissioning liturgies in this booklet.  This worship helps the congregation participate in the mission trip through prayer, support and openness to new ideas when the group returns.  

When you return, find creative ways for the participants to tell the story of the trip.  Use pictures, words, songs, skits, displays, and sermons. 

Look for local mission projects that the congregation can become involved in to continue to foster the spirit of service and actions of advocacy that the trip generated.  Connect with partner churches and organizations around the globe.  (www.globalministries.org)

 10.  Become advocates for economic and social justice.  When you return to your own community, become advocates who speak out against the systems that oppress persons and who work to encourage change.  For more ideas, contact the Volunteer Ministries Office www.ucc.org/volunteer; Global Ministries www.globalministries.org or Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ, www.ucc.org/justice/

Contact Info

Mary Schaller Blaufuss
Team Leader, Global Sharing of Resources
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44115