By Deborah Avery
CLEVELAND, Ohio (BP)—As you begin planning your next mission trip, here are eight tips for success. Please pray about where God would lead you to serve and learn from our experiences.
Get an early start. The earlier you’re able to plan your trip, set your date and location, the better chance you have of finding affordable lodging, especially if you’re planning to stay at a church; they tend to fill up quickly if a lot of mission teams are coming to that area.
Pre-trip advantages. If you plan to lead a mission team, never underestimate the value of going on a pre-project visit. A pre-trip allows you to connect with the local church or missionary you’ll be serving and get familiar with the area. Take time to scope out possible accommodations, the mission site, and recreation opportunities.
Train your team. Always train prior to your ministry experience to ensure time for clarifications and overall effectiveness. We suggest requiring a couple of training sessions to ensure people are committed to serving and to build community within the group. Train your volunteers in what you’ll be doing before you leave. Make sure this training includes how to effectively share the Gospel with the culture you’re ministering to. Don’t forget to include training on your specific mission tasks. Get materials in the hands of teachers as soon as possible.
Find the right housing. Take advantage of housing opportunities offered by local churches. Many churches offer space to stay, meeting space and kitchens for meals. If you plan to stay in a hotel, find one with kitchens available in some or all the rooms in order to save money, rather than eating out all the time. Take advantage of hotel services such as free breakfasts. This can save around $5 per person per day. Some hotels may offer grocery service or meeting rooms in which to serve meals or have devotional time; others may even have laundry service at minimal cost. Don’t forget, many hotels offer discounts with local restaurants.
Be flexible. Enter your area of ministry with a teachable heart and a listening ear. Listen to the ministry leaders you’re coming alongside to serve. Remember, they know their mission field the best. Set aside your own agendas and serve alongside the local church’s purpose. Be flexible — you may train for block parties and then it rains. Don’t get discouraged! God has you there for a reason; look for those unexpected opportunities to serve.
Ask about follow up. Ask the ministry leaders about their plan for follow up with people your team connects with. Ask about follow up in advance so the church can have a strategy in place by the time you come.
Budget extra. Extra costs tend to come up. Budget with a minimum cushion of $20 a person. This way, should there be unexpected expenses, you’ll be covered. If the extra money goes unused, either refund the team members or give a special gift to the ministry you came to serve. Make sure you wait until you’re home before doing this. You never know what unexpected things can happen on the way home!
Tax-exempt savings. Make sure to take advantage of your tax-exempt status when paying for restaurants and hotels. Give your service person advanced warning so your bill can be totaled correctly the first time.
Deborah Avery served as Cleveland Hope mobilization associate in Cleveland, Ohio. She is currently serving alongside her husband at The Bridge church in Perry, Ohio.