Mission trips can be a wonderful opportunity for church members to develop leadership and ministry skills, deepen their prayer life and put their faith into action. Unfortunately, they can also be a cause of sleepless nights and nervous breakdowns. The following article offers some basic guidelines in preparing for a successful mission trip.
Pray for God’s leadership.
Don’t attempt a mission trip just because it sounds like a fun thing to do or because all the other churches are doing one. Be sure God is leading you before you go any further.
Identify potential mission projects.
Consult your director of missions, BCM/D Missions Involvement Team, or the North American Mission Board for ideas (see resource listing at the end of this article).
If this is your first mission trip, you may be wise to consider mission sites within a few hours drive of home.
Select a project that fits your group’s size, interests and abilities.
Although church youth groups often go on mission trips, don’t feel you need to limit the trip to youth. Many ministry sites can use teams of adults, senior adults or a mixed group of older youth and adults.
Contact the project site leader.
Make a list of the information you need to discuss with the host project site leader. You will want to find out about logistical details such as housing, meals, daily schedule, type of work to be done, materials that will be provided by the host site and materials that your team is to provide.
Ask if there is any training or practice your group needs before they come. Confirm everything in writing. Stay in close contact as planning and preparation proceed.
Conduct a pre-project site visit.
Don’t skip this step! Take a camera or video camera with you and get as much information about the community where you will be serving, where you will be sleeping, the local culture, the local church leaders with whom you will be working and so forth. This is the time to make sure both you and the host site leader understand each other’s expectations for the project.
Work out the logistical details.
Some of the details you will need to confirm are the costs for each participant, insurance, equipment, materials and travel arrangements. Even if your church can afford to provide full scholarships for all participants, allow participants to pay at least something toward the cost of the trip.
Enlist your team.
Set high standards and stick to them. Every member of the team (including chaperones) should be expected to fulfill the requirements set for the group such as attendance at planning meetings, training sessions and personal Bible study.
Many behavior or attitude problems during a mission trip can be traced back to people who were “allowed to come along” when they really should have been left at home. This is real mission work—don’t bring someone unless they have demonstrated a certain level of maturity and a heart for missions.
Train your team in the necessary ministry skills
Work with the project site leader to determine what your team needs. Personal witnessing and prayer walking are good places to begin.
In addition to “classroom training”, do a local missions project to practice skills in real life. For instance, if your team will be leading Vacation Bible School in Vermont, make sure each member of the team has responsibilities in your own church’s VBS first. And when it comes to construction or painting skills, don’t assume someone knows how to do something unless you’ve actually seen them do it!
Work with your team to develop cultural sensitivity to the ministry setting, personal sensitivity to the needs of teammates and spiritual sensitivity to what God is doing.
Involve the whole church.
Although a few people are actually “going”, this trip is really a mission project of the whole church. Encourage the congregation in praying, collecting supplies, preparing ministry materials, baking cookies for the trip, etc. Encourage each mission team participant to enlist several prayer partners who will pray for them during their preparation time and throughout the mission project.
Hold a commissioning service.
As you plan the service, remember that although some are “going”, the whole church family is in this together.
Plan a celebration service.
When the team returns, plan a service to praise God’s work in and through the people involved. Show photos or videos so the congregation can see what happened, share testimonies and thank the congregation for their support. Make this a time of worship, remembering that God in his grace allows us to be a part of his redeeming work in the world!
Share your story!
When you share your story with others, God receives praise and other churches may be inspired to try something new. While it is fresh in your mind, please mail or email a brief account of your mission trip to the BCM/D Missions Involvement Team. Tell us what you did and how you saw God at work. If you have some good photos, send them along (please send a copy and keep the originals for yourself). Let us know if we have your permission to pass your story on to other BCM/D churches by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BCM/D Mission Trip Resources:
- Sample Forms
- BCM/D available Mission Trips and Partnerships.
BCM/D Missions Contact Information
Volunteers/Mission Teams: Ellen Udovich, 800-466-5290 ext. 216, email@example.com.
Partnership/World Mission Teams: Dan Sheffield, 800-525-2241, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mailing address: Missions Involvement Team, 10255 Old Columbia Rd, Columbia, MD 21046
North American Mission Board: email@example.com
Volunteer Mobilization Center: 800-462-8657, Option 1
Short-term project listing: thebridge.namb.net
Mission Project Insurance: Adams and Associates International: 800-922-8438, www.aaintl.com.