Local Mission Trips: 6 Tips for Serving at Home

Exploring local mission trip options? This post is perfect for you.

Local mission trips are a perfect option for groups wanting to mobilize teenagers to serve this summer without the potential risks of traveling to a new community. COVID-19 has changed so many elements of youth ministry this year, and as thrilled as we are to be planning mission trips for thousands of teenagers in 20+ communities this summer, we know not everyone is comfortable with that this year. So, if your ministry has opted to plan a local mission trip, we want to help in any way that we can.

YouthWorks has been facilitating mission trips for 26 years, and this post is a chance to share a few key things we’ve learned along the way that might help with your local mission trip.

But if you’re already tired of reading and want to jump straight to the resources, these links will be helpful for you:

Are you ready to read on? Let’s dig in together.

local mission trips

How do you include local mission trips in your broader vision of missions? 

A local mission trip might be different, but it isn’t necessarily less impactful than a traditional mission trip where you travel into a new community. If your local mission trip doesn’t have a place in the broader vision of missions and discipleship for your students, it will feel like an afterthought. Worse yet, your youth and broader church will be able to tell, and they’ll treat it like an afterthought too.

If your local mission trip doesn’t already have a place in the vision of discipleship for your students, here are a few key questions that can get you thinking:

  • How can a local mission trip be a part of the broader role of missions and service in the discipleship of your students?
  • Does your church already have partnerships with community service organizations in your area? If so, how are your students involved in that relationship?
  • For your youth who haven’t gone on a mission trip before, how would a local mission trip help prepare them for a future mission trip?
  • For your youth who have gone on a mission trip before, how would a local mission trip help them understand what it means to bring the experience of their mission to their own backyard?

(PS – We always recommend books that help churches know how to build healthy relationships with service organizations. If you haven’t read When Helping Hurts, we highly recommend it, and we’d love to talk with you about it.)

local mission trip planning

What do I need to plan during my local mission trip?

Local mission trips are built around serving, but service shouldn’t be the only component. They are a chance for your students to serve AND to meet new people, learn new things about what God is doing, share their story and connect with people, and have a ton of fun along the way.

As you are imagining the schedule for your local mission trip, here’s a helpful list of things that should be included each day:

  • Service that makes a difference and that students can see why it matters
  • Relationship building experiences that are fun or inspiring
  • Worship or some form of programming (large group gatherings, small groups, etc.)
  • Meals (Seriously. Meals are prime relationship building time)

Don’t know what to do for programming during your local mission trip? We’ve got you covered. You can download this FREE Curriculum + planning guides >>

home mission trips

How do set the right expectations for your at home mission trip? 

If your group has gone on mission trips before, they might not quite comprehend the difference in your local mission trip. It’s important to get ahead of any misconceptions or short-sighted views of what your local mission trip might be.

Work with your local service partners to understand what expectations you need to communicate. It’s helpful to organize those things into a “Service Orientation” that you’ll refer back to when answering questions from your students, volunteers, and parents. Here’s a quick look at some key questions:

  • What service partner will you be working with and what needs do they help meet in the community?
  • Is there a schedule for each day?
  • What will be your role while supporting your service partner?
  • Is there anything that might be difficult or challenging?
  • What helpful info might be good to have before each day?
  • Is there anything specific we should wear or bring?

So that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we included a Service Orientation outline with the bundle of resources in the Day(s) of Service Planning Guide HERE >>

local youth mission trips

What is the secret success to any mission trip?


You know this well, but especially this year, flexibility will help make or break your local mission trip experience.

There are so many elements that you can’t plan for, especially if your local mission trip includes working with service partners that will have more relational ministry opportunities. Things like serving at an elderly care facility, doing VBS, or a sport camp with kids might need a bit more flexibility than normal this year.

You could minimize potential changes to your service days by focusing on low-contact ministry opportunities. Those could be helping sort clothing, food, or medical supplies at crisis resource centers.

But even your best plans for a local mission trip need to have backup options. Think through plans A through E and preach flexibility all along the way to help smooth out any frustrations from the potential changes that might come.

local mission trip experience

How do you continue the momentum?

Your local mission trip will take a lot of energy to pull off, but don’t forget to plan for the ways you can connect the experience to the days, weeks, and months to follow. This is a huge opportunity to build momentum around service that could continue all year round.

If you’re not quite sure how to build momentum after your local mission trip, here are a few quick ideas to get your imagination going:

  • Celebrate the experience. Have a church-wide celebration service where your students can share from their experience, your service partner can address the entire congregation, and you can lay out a plan for how you’ll continue to support them going forward.
  • Daily devotions for students and families. You could create a short devotional series to help your students continue to process the impact of the experience on their own or with their family.
  • Build a new expectation for local service in your ministry. Work with your church leadership to build local service into the DNA of your ministry. Build it into the rhythm of your programming and events.
  • Invite your local service partner back to share updates. Find ways to bring your local service partners to your ministry so that students can see what has changed since your local mission trip, if there are any new needs of the community, and how they can help.
local mission trip partner

How can YouthWorks help with my local mission trip?

We love helping churches mobilize teenagers to serve. If you need help with the details or logistics of your local mission trip, we’ve gathered a few resources that could make your life a bit easier:


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