3 Attitudes That Will Create a Successful Short-Term Missions Trip

I just recently returned from a short term missions trip

… in New York City with a team of 30.  It had fun, frustrating, and impacting moments throughout it.  However, I think it was a huge success because there were three attitudes we constantly reminded ourselves of.  I think these three attitudes are the differences between a good and a bad trip.

1. The team is always more important than the individual

Let’s be honest, you are selfish.  I know it is a shock to hear that, but I am selfish too.  Everyone you take on a trip will be selfish by nature.  This is why you must remind yourself and the entire team continuously that the good of the team is more important than your personal good.

I remember during one team debriefing meeting a students “me first” attitude started to rise up.  In the middle of the meeting the student stormed off in a huff.  I had a decision, I could let the student go and reinforce the “me first” attitude or go after them and remind the student that I cared for them but the good of the team was more important.  I went after them and the student still talks about the lesson that they learned that day.

2. Be a servant of all

When you take students to a new part of the world (no matter how far or close to home that is) it is easy to become a tourist.  You want to take pictures of the new sites and decide what you will do on your day off.  However, you trained and raised money not to be a tourist but to serve.  Everyone has to be reminded daily to live in the moment and to serve well.

In NYC wherever you turn you see a familiar landmark from a movie or TV show.  It is so easy to want to point and take pictures.  The problem is that is not why we are there.  We are there to serve and serve to the best of our ability at the different ministries we partnered with.  However, I reminded everyone that on our day off they could be the biggest tourists they wanted to be.

3. Be flexible

I have bad news for those of you who like all of your ducks in a row.  Things will go wrong!  And here is the worst part, you don’t know when it will go wrong or what will go wrong.  You have no control over what goes wrong BUT you have complete control on how you will respond to the situation.  The key is to be flexible, move on to the next best solution.

This most recent trip there was a mixup with the hotel.  When we got there we did not have any rooms booked.  That is a big problem when you have a group of 30 people that need a place to sleep.  We could have flipped out, yelled, been stressed, but none of this would have helped.  Instead we stayed flexible and discovered the next best option and went ahead with that.

Short-term missions trips can be stressful but hopefully these three attitudes will help bring success.  What advice can you offer to lead the best possible trips?

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Tyson Howells

Tyson is the associate youth ministry director for Vanguard Youth Ministry Institute. He has been a youth pastor for many years in Winnipeg as well as in Edmonton. Tyson is passionate in seeing relational youth ministry that results in youth that are passionate about following Jesus. He still leads a small group at the youth group in his home church.


  1. Matthieu Coulombesays:

    Learn to laugh. Simple but a powerful action that will help you decompress in difficult situations.

    • Matthieu,
      Just saw this comment today! Thanks so much –such a great idea!

    • Tyson Howellssays:

      so true, a culture of laughter does so much good and us as leaders need to lead the way

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