Build Your Own Youth Trip


I love youth ministry trips. It’s that simple. I love them. Our youth get out of their usual environment and live like Christ intends. Trips change lives of everyone involved. This includes the teens, the adults, the people we are serving, and even people who witness our group living for Christ. They are amazing!

There are numerous companies that have wonderful experiences that your group just can’t attend. Sometimes its the wrong week or too far away but most of the time it’s because they can be expensive and the spiritual content is not in line with your church’s views.

By planning your own trip you can save a lot of money so more students can attend and it allows you to know what content the students will be learning.

Here are 5 simple steps to planning any youth trip.

1. Pray

Start off any trip with prayer. Pray for guidance, wisdom, the youth who will attend, and even how many vans you may need. Pray about everything you know and everything you don’t know. Just pray.

2. Start Early

Start at least 6 months early but starting the planning process a year early is even better. This allows you to put out any fires early, for more time to meet with the group attending, fundraise, invitations (some call this marketing), and communicating about the trip.

3. Build a Team

Build a small team of 3-4 people to help you organize the trip. Qualities I look for are good communicators, strong initiative, excited about trips with youth, and organized. In reality, they really just need to be excited for a youth trip and willing to do some work.

4. Don’t Be Afraid of Cold Calls    

When planning trips be willing to call churches, non-profits, businesses, parents, or whoever you need to make the week happen. I once called a restaurant and asked if they could provide a meal for 50 every night for $3 a head. Sounds crazy but they said yes. We built great relationships with the owners, cleaned up the place for them, and got fed very well at a low cost.

5. Plan It

This obviously has several steps so I am listing all the things I keep in mind when planning a trip.

  • Primary Purpose. Is it a mission trip, a fun retreat, or a spiritual growth trip. This will help dictate where you may go, what you will do, and what is cut first to save money.
  • Who is invited? Is this a trip for active students or a trip that works as an outreach event?
  • Budget. The main budget items I take into consideration are gas, food, activities, supplies, lodging and vehicle rental. With budget comes the question are you going to fundraise or charge each student the full cost of the trip.
  • Location.  Closer is less money but further away can be more appealing. I pick location by two major factors: budget and drive time.
  • Adults. By planning early, it allows you to have many conversations with adults you want to attend. I never charge my adults to attend and always keep a 1:6 ratio.
  • Food. This one is always tricky. If you have the ability to get a volunteer or two to cook for you during the week, that is amazing. I talk with churches and organizations to see how many meals I can get donated. If you have the ability, having the youth cook for each other is a wonderful experience.
  • Spiritual Elements. Are there daily devotions, nightly worship, small groups, prayer services, or any other spiritual elements during the week.  These should be intentionally planned and prepared well before the trip.
  • Activities. Are you going to play the biggest game of hide and seek ever or go to a local laser tag facility? Keep activities simple but fun!!
  • Registration. When do you need to have all your numbers locked in? This can be determined by the organization you are working with, vehicle rental needs, fundraising events, or how often you want to meet with the group before you go on the trip.

Remember, the first one will be a learning process. Always evaluate each trip and make changes each time accordingly. Don’t stress out but know that God is working through you and this trip. I will pray your trip goes well.


Rick has been working in youth ministry for the past 11 years and is currently the Director of Youth Ministry at Ankeny First UMC, a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa. Rick and his wife, Becky, have two children. They spend their time camping, jet skiing, and zip lining in their backyard.