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A guest post: Catherine Workman on “How to Plan and Organize a Church’s International Mission Trip”

September 3, 2017

Recently I have had the chance to correspond with Catherine Workman, who has a great interest in church mission trips.  She has kindly written the below article for our readers, and I certainly hope this will be most helpful for anyone who might be considering a mission trip for their church.  Having known others who have been involved with these mission efforts, I can tell you they are blessings for both the workers and those being ministered to.

Catherine writes that “As a teenager, I was fortunate enough to go on a two-week mission trip to Guatemala. It was incredibly eye-opening, and it paved the way for much of the volunteer work and traveling I now do as an adult. Over the years I have continued to travel and work with my church’s youth group, I have learned a lot of valuable lessons about trip planning, budgeting, and organizing. Because that trip to Guatemala was so transformative for me, I want to make sure other mission trippers have the best possible experience.”

I believe this article can indeed be very helpful towards that end.

How to Plan and Organize a Church’s International Mission Trip

A mission trip is a great opportunity to see and learn a new culture while also helping those in need. Volunteers will bond together, broaden their perspectives, challenge their comfort zones, and feel inspired. The trip will require a lot of planning in order to be successful. Before leaving, you’ll need to carefully select where you’ll travel, raise the funds, and ensure everyone is prepared for the trip.

First Steps

The first step is to get a plan in place and give yourself ample time to prepare. Although rewarding, a mission trip can be overwhelming at times in the planning and preparing phases. Being crunched for time will only add to your stress, so give yourself plenty of time to put everything together. Aim to have a minimum of 12 months to plan out all of the details and give families time to pull together funds for the trip.

Find an organization or missionary to partner with before you decide where you’ll travel. Be sure you choose a partner who’s already involved in the community you’re looking to visit to guarantee they truly understand the needs and resources of that community, as well as their culture and language. A partnership not only provides safety. They typically set you up with long-term missionaries to ensure you really make an impact. The communities you visit will benefit more from long-term investments that only long-term missionaries can see out, as you’re typically there for one short week.

Where to Go and What to Do

Before you decide where to go, define what you want to do. While it can be tempting to pick a beautiful location or one that you’ve always wanted to visit, your goals for the trip should determine your location. What do you want to offer the area you visit? Groups can take part in community development, hunger ministries, orphanage outreach, medical missions, teaching English, technology training, and homeless ministries.

Also, consider what you hope to gain personally. Do you want to learn new skills or grow the skills you already have? Do you want to deepen your faith or gain college credit? All of these considerations will help you determine which organization you work with and where you go. Money isn’t the only factor, but it is an important consideration. You’ll need to figure out the cost of airfare, lodging costs, and cost of meals. Know what your group is capable of handling financially. Will they realistically be able to raise the funds or cover the costs?


Many groups rely on fundraising to pay for most of their mission trip. Whether the church helps raise the money or splits the bill with the group, both parties will likely partake in fundraising efforts. To start, write letters to family and friends to ask for support. You can also host a bake sale, sell crafts, or host a car wash.

Some more creative ideas include holding a contest with an entry fee and grand prize or hosting a movie night. Your local theater may allow you to sell tickets using one room, or you can set up a screen at your church or outdoors. Some restaurants sponsor missions trip by contributing a percentage of their profits for a designated night.


Ensure your group receives training sessions on cultural, language, and safety topics. For language and culture, discuss cultural differences, such as what certain hand gestures mean, what clothes to wear, and what phrases to learn and which ones to avoid. For safety, cover everything from pick pocketing to drug or alcohol exposure. Some countries have laws that differ from the United States, and a teen may be influenced to try alcohol or tobacco. Discuss ways to enjoy the culture without experimenting, which could potentially create an addiction problem.

The last piece of advice is to enjoy your mission trip! Taste new foods, learn new dances, explore your surrounding, and help other people. Chances are you’ll learn something from the people you’re helping too. Take this opportunity to grow in your faith, knowledge, compassion, and spirit.

Image via Pixabay

Catherine Workman is part of a great team at and enjoys sharing her thoughts on travel and wellness.

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