I am in no way and expert when it comes to serving trips with kids. I participated on a mission trips as a middle school kid and three during my high school years. I’ve also led 2 trips for elementary aged kids and helped lead 3 trips for middle school and high school students. So, I have enough experience to have some strong opinions, but I’m still learning for sure.

I really think that there are three elements that make the serving trip really successful.

  • The small group element
  • The serving element
  • The adventure element

Let me break these down.

The small group element:

This is where you help relationships grow and give students a place to process their experiences. Since you’re not really doing teaching sessions like they would get at camp, you have to process what they’re experiencing which is just as impactful.

The serving element:

This is the piece that kids get on a serving trip that they won’t get at camp. Giving a student the opportunity to put their hand to a task and see it completed adds incredible value. Whether it is a city park transformed by their hard work or new relationships with kids who live in the area, student end the day feeling like they did something significant and that their life matters.

The adventure element:

These are the things that stand out in the mind of a kid. It could be flying in an airplane for the first time or rafting down a river in Tennessee. It might be staying in a hotel the first time without their parents or taking on a task they have never be entrusted with before. Kids go to camp because their kids and that’s what kids do. The adventure element on a serving trip often helps a kid feel older because of a new and exciting adventure.

Taking a first step into serving trips can be pretty simple. They don’t have to be $300 overnight trips, but could start with affordable day only options around your town. If possible though, try to include the elements above that make the experience something they’ll never forget.