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Preparing Teens for an International Missions Trip

Youth leaders Nikolai and Kristi Payne recently returned from taking a team of 14 teens on an ambitious 10-day trip to Guatemala. As you read of their trip in the Baptist Bulletin, the Paynes’ careful preparation of their church’s teens is evident. Kristi shares six tips from her and her husband’s recent experience in preparing their youth group for this missions endeavor.

1. Focus on prayer.
Learning to see how God guides, provides, and protects through prayer is one of the main benefits that God gave our group. God answered specific prayers, and the teens personally learned about the power of prayer. That taught them more than anything we could have said.

2. Set high expectations.
It has been said that people live up to what you expect of them. From the beginning, we had high expectations of our teens’ personal conduct and responsibility. We dealt with problems and patterns before even leaving the states, which gave us a basis for resolving issues while traveling.

3. Make the trip their own.
We knew that the trip would mean significantly more to each member of our team if they had responsibility for it. We asked the teens to consistently show up for preparation meetings, used “rent a teen” work projects to earn money instead of simply asking for gifts, gave individual assignments for planning the children’s programs and preparing puppet skits, required the teens to write and practice sharing their testimonies, and asked that they learn multiple songs in Spanish.

4. Get paperwork in order.
Because taking a group on an international trip is a huge responsibility, we needed to be well prepared. Each teen (and his or her parents) had to apply for and provide copies of passports; provide notarized permission/medical slips and “Hold-Harmless” waivers for our church and the mission organization we were working with in Guatemala; provide medical insurance cards for stateside travel; and be covered under our group short-term medical insurance policy for foreign travel. Also, we needed to arrange for flight insurance, along with the application forms, testimonies, and biographical sketches.

5. Provide travel/packing tips.
Make sure you know the luggage requirements of the airlines as well as the luggage limitations of your travel accommodations once arriving at your destination. We provided a detailed packing list that included luggage measurements, what could be packed in a carry-on, what kind of clothes would be needed for each day (including what not to wear), and which team supplies they would be carrying. We went over safety and how to be aware of your surroundings, avoiding “group-stupid” courtesy during travel, and looking for opportunities to share the gospel.

6. Encourage team unity and growth.
It was fun to see our group bond over the months of work going into our trip. It was even more fun during our trip to see them serve together. Sometimes in the midst of all the preparation, we had to remind ourselves that chatting over root beer floats and building camaraderie was just as important as getting through our agenda for the meeting. Praying in small groups, studying Biblical questions, discussing life . . . all of these, though they felt insignificant at the time, were important parts of our preparation.

Kristi Payne, youth leader
Walnut Ridge Baptist Church
Waterloo, Iowa