One of my favorite events in our Student Ministry is the Mystery Trip. We take a fun, short trip (usually 2 nights/3 days) during Spring Break (but it could be whenever it works best for your ministry). We tell the parents where we are going and what we will be doing, but it is literally a mystery to the students. Here are a few simple steps to help you plan a Mystery Trip.
1. Know The Purpose
The point of the Mystery Trip is to get students away from their regular routines, have some fun and do things they might not otherwise have the opportunity to do. Hanging out, building relationships and making memories are the goals.
The mystery aspect makes it a highly anticipated event that appeals to teenagers and their friends. They look forward to the shared bonding experiences.
2. Count The Cost
I believe in the value of a fun trip like this, so our student ministry budget covers the lodging and then we pass along the cost of tickets, admission fees etc. to the students. We try to keep the cost around $50-60 per student and so the fun activities should add up close to that amount.
You can keep costs down by staying in inexpensive hotels, looking for group discounts on activities/attractions and it never hurts to plan some free (or nearly free) things to do. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to be a great trip.
3. Keep It Balanced
It is hard to please everyone in a group. Find balance between outdoor and indoor activities, long and short duration, active and leisure, large group and small group activities, educational/historical and just plain fun etc.
I usually plan 3 or 4 activities (not too many, not too few) that will keep students interested, having fun and always wondering what’s next. I tell them that not every activity will be their favorite, but that we can make everything fun by doing it together.
4. Shh…It’s A Mystery!
You can tell students what to pack for the trip without telling them where we are going. Give parents the detailed information about the trip; they certainly need to know where you are taking their sons and daughters. Then parents can better help their student pack because they know exactly what the group will be doing.
Make sure the adult sponsors and parents keep a tight lid on the mysteries. Students may act like they want to know, but deep down they love the mystery of not knowing.
After leading more than 10 Mystery Trips, it is hard for me to rank all the activities we have done, but a few of my all-time favorites include: touring Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium) in Arlington the first year it opened, hiking the iconic Lighthouse Trail at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, flying kites in Zilker Park in Austin and visiting the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco.