5 Do’s and Don’ts of Recruiting Teenagers

If you’ve been in youth ministry long (and probably even if you haven’t) you’ve experienced that perfectly planned event that, somehow, nobody shows up for. Making sure your mission trip isn’t that type of event starts well before students are packing their bags. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to get you started recruiting teenagers for your mission trip while avoiding being a badgering youth leader.

 Recruiting Teenagers for Mission Trips

5 DO’s for Recruiting Teenagers for Mission Trips

Do Start Early. If you don’t, summer sports programs, camps and a thousand other events still will. Get the mission trip on students’ calendars as soon as you can.


Do Persuade Parents. Youth aren’t your only audience – parents are a huge influencer in their lives. You need their buy-in! Communicate, promote, meet with and cast vision with parents just as you do with youth.


Do Solidify Commitments. Once students say they want to be part of the trip, help them commit. A great way to do this is by having them sign a covenant. You will also want to have them pay their first deposit to reserve their spot on the trip.


Do Keep Youth Engaged. Once they’ve committed, don’t lose their attention. Well before they pack their bags, you’ll want to involve them in planning, build excitement with what you communicate, encourage and cast vision for what the trip will be, and of course, meet and build unity within your team.


Do Pray. Take time to talk to God about your hopes, fears and plans as you seek to involve students in an experience that could change their lives. And pray for your students – that they would respond well to the opportunities God puts in their path.



5 DON’Ts for Recruiting Teenagers for Mission Trips

Don’t Guilt Trip. Be positive when recruiting teenagers for mission trips. Do your best to help students know that they’ll be missed if they don’t come, but don’t let the message be, “You’re letting the group down by not going.” As always, focus on building students up. Guilt trips will only serve to damage your ongoing relationships with teenagers.


Don’t Give Up. A quick “no” from a student might not be the final word. Check back in with them. Maybe God is working on their heart. If a student “can’t go,” double-check with her parent. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting parent buy-in.


Don’t Badger. There’s a fine line between being persistent and being annoying. Be persistent! But also be conscientious of how your attempts to encourage students to join the trip are being perceived. Recognize when a “no” really is a “no.”


Don’t Overlook. While it might be easy to target your extraverted students who will sway the rest of the group (and leveraging their influence is a good idea), don’t ever overlook your outsider students. The quiet ones, the hesitant ones, the frustrating ones – trust that God can work in and through them too. Think of who they are, and commit to pursuing their participation with the same energy you pursue the in-crowd.


Don’t Get Discouraged. If, despite your best efforts, you don’t get the numbers you were hoping for, trust that God can work in a smaller group too. Be excited that you can focus more of your valuable attention on a few teenagers, and plan for the unique opportunities only a smaller group can provide.

Photo on 2009-10-09 at 09.20 #2Sam Townsend helps write training, programming and marketing materials for YouthWorks mission trips. When he isn’t hanging around teenagers at church or digging into seminary homework, he is generally looking for a good conversation and a hole-in-the-wall restaurant to have it in. Sam still considers his first couple summers working for YouthWorks in Virginia and Pennsylvania communities some of the most transformative times of his life.



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Sam Townsend

Sam Townsend loves wooded trails on warm summer days, full conversations over half-price apps and puns that could make a grown man groan. He is a writer, a third-generation footlong hotdog salesman and the Senior High Ministry Pastor at Calvary Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. He’s also a big fan of YouthWorks, where he contributes to theme material creation and blog production.

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