Serving Locally & Giving Globally


Overseas mission trips have long been a staple of youth ministry. As a kid, I grew up building houses inMexicowith my youth group and led many trips to the same area when I became a youth leader. Every year it was the same—flight fromSeattletoSan Diego, (except for the one year we took a train: lesson learned), rent a huge white van, and drive across the border intoTijuana. We’d spend the week in massive army tents, building houses from chicken wire & stucco, and singing songs around a campfire. It brought us closer to God, created lasting memories, and made a difference—albeit a temporary difference—in the lives of people in Tijuana.

Over the last few years, I (along with others in the youth ministry world) have been re-thinking this mission trip model. The 30 Hour Famine Team is frequently asked why we don’t offer overseas mission trips. Here are some of the questions that fill my mind as I try to answer:

  • The money we spend on expensive overseas tickets, hotels, visas, food, etc…Is it worth the cost?
  • Would our dollars be spent more effectively if we just sent the money directly to the country?
  • What about the priceless experience youth gain by being hands-on in ministry?
  • How do I engage the students in this type of work who can’t afford to go overseas?
  • What about the poor in our own communities?
  • How long lasting and effective are the efforts of a short term, overseas mission trip for the people we are trying to serve?

The 30 Hour Famine is unique in the sense that it engages students by helping them feel hunger and equips them to do something about it. By fundraising for World Vision, where more than 60 years of expertise in community development and emergency relief, students’ funds will be put to the best use possible. We believe this is one of the best ways to engage teens and serve the poor on a global level. The average group who participates in the 30 Hour Famine raises about $1,600-enough to feed and care for a child for more than four years OR the cost of one plane ticket for a student to go to Uganda for a mission trip.

It’s easy for us to see the effectiveness of the 30HF, but what about the benefits of hands-on ministry for students—something more than fasting and fund-raising?

About a year ago, we met some incredible friends at an organization called YouthWorks, who been operating domestic, short term mission trips for more than 15 years. Partnering with 70 communities around the country, each summer, YouthWorks facilitates more than 35,000 individuals for mission work. So, what sets YouthWorks apart from the other short term missions I’d participated in?

YouthWorks focuses on domestic mission trips. In fact, most of the projects are within driving distance from the participating churches. Staffers spend the summer living and working in these communities, assessing the needs, and leading trips.

What makes YouthWorks…work?

  • When youth show up, the cost is minimal—less than $300.
  • The work is necessary—painting and repairing houses, activities with children, etc.
  • The relationships are real. Because of the close proximity, many groups establish lasting relationships with the communities they serve with YouthWorks.
  • Participating youth are taught that poverty is real—even in our own backyard.

The 30 Hour Famine has developed quite the crush on YouthWorks because their mentality is so similar to ours: Serve the poor, build relationships, and engage youth in serving.

Sure, driving a few hours away from your church might not be as risky or exciting as a 25 hour flight to the middle of Africa, but for some, domestic mission trips is the perfect choice. Teens will be familiar with the culture yet will still face necessary obstacles many of these communities face.

All this to say, if you’ve been pondering some of the same questions weighing on my mind, consider what it means to serve locally and give globally. Participate in the 30 Hour Famine during the school year, and join a YouthWorks trip in the summer. More kids get to participate, budget stays minimal, and you are able to develop a heart within your students to care for the poor both within their backyards and around the world.

Check out Youth Works today and find a domestic mission trip that will work for your group!