What Do “Christ-centered Mission Trips” Look Like?

Creating a mission trip is tough. But if everything you do points to Jesus, it’s worth it. Here’s how we know…


[My students’] world became bigger and so did their view of Jesus.” – Shannon (Trip Leader in Duluth) 

It was encouraging to witness what God is doing in His church.” – Claire (Trip Leader in Milwaukee)

“Walls were broken down and God was doing healing work in many of them.” – Krissy (Trip Leader in Duluth)

“The overall week was life changing for our group…” – Mark (Trip Leader in Kansas City)

“Our students learned that there are many ways to serve The Lord and that we all play an integral part…” – Marcus (Trip Leader in Denver)

Solidified my sons love for Jesus, and I got to watch that.” – Penny (Trip Leader in Lake Traverse)

“My students have become so much closer, and they want to find service/mission opportunities back home!” – Greta (Trip Leader in Alamosa)

“The work sites were a great learning experience in so many ways. We all could see God’s hand in all we did… Thank God, thank you!” – Milou (Trip Leader in Rapid City)

For 27 years, we’ve been leading Christ-centered mission trips that help fuel the movements of God in the lives of every student, community, and ministry that we have the privilege to serve alongside.

Christ-centered youth mission trips don’t happen by accident. It takes incredible intention, and a commitment to a missional framework that incorporates 3 things:

  • Discipling Students
  • Developing Leaders
  • Serving Communities

Our church partners are passionate about these things, too. They don’t just plan a mission trip to check a box on their ministry calendar. They know the opportunity a mission trip can have to help a student experience God in a new way, to empower young leaders to put their faith into action, and to join in what God is doing all around the country.

Jesus connects us, unites us, and leads us. That’s why we love what we do.

But if you’ve never experienced a Christ-centered mission trip before, it might feel a bit unique. Here’s a closer look at how our missional framework helps you disciple students, develop leaders, and serve communities.


You want to see students take their faith to the next level and participate in the bigger story of the Gospel. That’s what discipleship is all about. Discipling your students takes a lot of focused relational investment, and that carries over into the ministry events that you plan—especially your mission trip.

But creating a healthy mission trip that honors community partners, invests in service with long-term impact, and finds a way to prioritize the discipleship of your students is incredibly difficult to pull off on your own. We can help with that. 

We build lasting relationships with communities, organize service opportunities around the greatest needs that can make long-term impact, and we do it all with a framework that helps you prioritize the discipleship of your teenagers.

We Help You Disciple Students

We both have a role to play in the discipleship of your students. Here’s what that looks like on a youth mission trip…

YouthWorks creates and organizes:

All the mission trip details, including:

  • Housing
  • Meals/Food
  • On-site staff support and pre/post trip resources

Service and learning experiences through…

  • Relational Ministry and Work Projects
  • Supplies
  • Diverse community experiences

“Launch Pad” programming that is…

  • Large Group Gathering
  • Eclectic worship
  • Experiential conversation starters

So that you can…

Build relationships with students as you…

  • Serve and make a long-term impact
  • Engage with learning experiences
  • During the in-between times on the drive, between projects, and over meals

Dig into the “Go Deeper” programming in church group time in a way that…

  • Takes the large group gathering deeper
  • Focuses on the issues and perspectives of your church
  • Calls out what God is doing in your group

Lead your group through the “Get in the Mindset” pre and post-trip resources that prepare students to…

  • Serve respectfully
  • Live out a servant mindset on-site
  • Bring it all back home to your own community

You prioritize discipleship for a reason. Let us help you keep that priority on your mission trip.


To help you get a taste of our discipleship focus, here’s a free resource you can download and use right now in your ministry:

This guide book was created in partnership with Jesse Criss and Fresh Ministry Consulting because of Jesse’s passion for training youth workers. This guide book is designed to help you consider how to engage teens on your mission trip in a discipleship framework, regardless of where they are spiritually.


You know God is up to some amazing things in the lives of your students. There are gifts in your students waiting to be explored, and that can support the work of God in their lives and through your ministry. But your students don’t fully realize those gifts unless they are in an environment that can help bring them out.

Mission trips inject your students into the kinds of challenging and skill-shaping environments that hone their gifts. We’ve seen it happen over and over again in the last 27 years of creating youth mission trips. Students come face-to-face with what God is doing in a new community, they uncover their leadership skills and how they can help make a lasting impact, and then discover a new passion to put those same leadership skills to work making a Gospel-sized impact back home.

Our mission trips are designed to help your students notice their leadership skills, put them to use, and learn how they can grow as leaders. For some students, our mission trip is the beginning of their journey to becoming a leader. Others, it’s the culmination of a year’s worth of leadership in your ministry. No matter where your students fall on the spectrum, we’ll help you spot your leaders, challenge them to grow, and set you up to carry the momentum of their leadership development back home.

We Help You Develop Leaders

We both have a role to play in the spotting your leaders, empowering them, and launching them out into the world. Here’s what our shared responsibilities look like when developing leaders through a youth mission trip…

YouthWorks creates…

Pre-trip leadership resources that…

  • Outline how mission trips can develop leaders
  • Builds a plan for leadership development
  • Prepares you to empower leaders

On-site leadership opportunities through…

  • Roles in service crews
  • Community learning experiences
  • “Go-Deeper” programming guides for church group time that outline roles for student leaders.

Next level leadership challenges through…

  • “Take it Home” resources that help new student leaders know how to bring what they’ve learned back to your ministry.
  • Summer staff positions that challenge and prepare them for greater leadership throughout college and beyond.

So that you can…

Create or grow your student leadership team with…

  • Future leaders
  • New leaders
  • Active leaders

Plug your student leaders into experiences that…

  • Use their gifts
  • Challenge them to grow
  • Help them own their faith and your student ministry

Position your student leaders for growth by…

  • Understanding more about their gifts and strengths
  • Creating a vision for leadership beyond the mission trip
  • Preparing them for the next life-changing leadership experience
  • Pre-trip Skills assessment

When students become leaders, the Church is better for it. You know that, and that’s why you invest in them so much throughout the year. Let our mission trips help you create a launching pad for your next phase of leadership development.


To help you start developing your leaders right now, here’s a free resource you can download and use in your ministry:

Your mission trip is a perfect opportunity for developing new student leaders and investing in your current student leaders. But it takes a lot of intentional planning to do it well. This free resource will guide you through the best ways your mission experience can be used to build up student leaders before, during, and after your trip. 



You want to see students know God and participate in the bigger story of the Gospel through mission trips. But you worry that short-term mission trips can damage the communities they’re trying to help. Creating healthy mission trips for your youth ministry requires a lot of competing priorities: establishing healthy and honoring relationships with community leaders, organizing and setting up service logistics, and helping your students live into a servant-mindset when things get tough.

Over the past 27 years, we’ve partnered with churches like yours to facilitate healthy mission trips in a way that strikes the balance between the community and your students. We pour our energy into long-term relationships in communities, we let local leaders guide us toward what service opportunities will help make the biggest impact, and we set you up to guide your students deeper into a servant-mindset.

We Serve Communities Respectfully

We both have a role to play when we serve communities through a healthy and sustainable community partnership model. Here’s what our shared responsibilities look like on a youth mission trip…

YouthWorks develops…

Lasting relationships in communities that…

  • Understand the immediate needs and the long-term impact.
  • Builds on each week of service to create sustainable support throughout the year.
  • Prepares us to enter, work with, and learn from local leaders.

Service models that follow Jesus’ example of servant-leadership, so that we can…

  • Listen closely
  • Speak carefully
  • Serve humbly

So that you can…

Guide your students through service experiences that…

  • Challenge a consumer/tourism mindset of missions
  • Prioritize people over programs, projects, and plans.
  • Follow the leadership of the community, even if it feels different or less efficient.

Take advantage of learning opportunities for your students that…

  • Embrace new perspectives
  • Embody servant-leadership
  • Explore what God is doing in the community they serve and in their own lives as they serve

Mission trips bring students face-to-face with hard stuff. When that happens, we want you to be available so you can help students see how God might be using that discomfort to challenge them and help them grow. But if you’re too caught up in other details, you’ll miss those opportunities. Let us free you up. Use our healthy mission trip structure and our long-term community partnership model so that you’re available when your students need you.


To help you introduce your students to our model of “Respectful Service”, here’s a free resource you can download and use in your ministry:

Through our experience facilitating short-term mission trips we have learned a lot of lessons about respectful service. We know that, without intentionality and thoughtfulness, missions can end up hurting the people they are intended to help. But we also know that this hurt can be minimized and avoided altogether. This guidebook is a summary of the things we’ve learned about respectful service. 


Ready to take your students on a Christ-centered mission trip?

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