Youth Ministry Mission Trips: Part Three

May 17, 2019 7:00:00 AM / by Erik Ullestad

GROW (6)

You made it to the finish line. Your mission trip week has come to an end. It was a week of spiritual high points, meaningful relationship building, and physical exhaustion. You’re back home safely. The final youth has been picked up by their parent. The last vehicle has been unloaded. And, like someone who has just run an endurance race, you are ready to collapse.

Taking time off

It’s prudent—even Biblical—for a staff person to get some extra rest after an intense week of ministry. It’s helpful to have a recuperation plan in place with your supervisor before you head out on the Mission Trip, because trying to negotiate time-off rarely goes well when you’re exhausted. There are a lot of ways to determine "comp time" during this week.

In most cases I advocate for taking three days off the week following a Mission Trip is appropriate:

  •  1 day to make up for the normal day off you didn't take during the Mission Trip
  •  1 extra day because you worked more than a standard 40-hour week
  •  1 day which is your normal day off the week you're back home

A few arguments for why this might not be enough time or why it’s too much time exist, but this is what I usually do after a trip. 

What now?

 Once you’ve figured out how much time you’re going to take for sabbath, it’s good to determine when that will happen and what you’re planning to do (or not do) with that time. Here are a few suggestions:

Wait Two Days – When you return from the trip there are a lot of loose ends that need to be tied up. Receipts need to be processed, rental vehicles need to be returned, the errant sleeping bag and pillow needs to find its rightful owner, leftover food needs to be distributed, and trip photos need to be shared with parents. Consider doing these tasks immediately after you get home from the trip. Doing so will allow you to truly unplug from work related worries and you won’t have a long to-do list waiting for you when you return to the office.

Don’t Check Messages – After spending a week of being highly engaged with people at all hours of the day, it’s helpful to establish more sustainable ways of interacting with church people in the weeks that follow. Consider silencing your email, text messages, and other communication apps for a few days to recalibrate everyone’s expectations.

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Schedule Pampering – Removing yourself from a ministry setting is a good start. But it’s also important to do something nice for yourself during your time off. Take two naps in the same day. Get a massage. Do some yoga. Eat ice cream for breakfast. Watch too much Netflix. Figure out which indulgences will help you recharge and carve out time for this to happen.

In closing

A Mission Trip can make a youth worker feel like the most important, essential, non-replaceable person in the world. There’s some truth to this. You’re an amazing person! Leading a trip of this magnitude is a momentous achievement. It’s also true that being “on” in this way is not something you can do while remaining healthy the other 51 weeks out of the year. So, take a few days to find a new rhythm. Calm your mind. Give God thanks for the gift of a meaningful week of ministry and for a time of recovery after you’ve completed your good deeds.

If you missed it check out Part One & Part Two in this series!


Topics: Youth Ministry

Erik Ullestad

Written by Erik Ullestad

Erik Ullestad is a certified youth minister with 20 years of congregational experience. He's served on a variety of national boards, spoken at youth conferences, and contributed to more than a dozen youth ministry resources. He lives in Iowa with his wife and three teenage children.


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