Sanity-Saving Tips for Your Next Mission Trip
By: Byron Townsend
Do you remember the mission trip you took just a few months ago? Well, believe it or not, it's time to begin planning the next experience. The good news is that the stress and headaches can be relieved with some basic planning strategies.
1. Bathe every decision and detail in prayer.
So many times, we simply rely upon our own logic to accomplish tasks. God is a God of detail. Allow Him the opportunity to provide and lead the way not only on the big decisions, but even in the small details. This is an excellent way to ensure that God receives the glory with every aspect of your mission experience.
2. Discern where God's Spirit is leading you and your students to build His Kingdom.
The mission project location and type of ministry that your students involve themselves in is vital to the overall health of the mission experience. Student leaders must seek Holy Spirit guidance in determining a mission location that matches the experience of the students. The capacity of ministry in which the students serve must also correspond with their abilities, needs and present journey with Jesus.
3. Set goals.
Answer these two key questions about your trip. What is the major goal of our mission trip? What does God want to accomplish in and through us?
4. Keep other obligations and activities in mind when selecting dates for the trip.
When you plan the date for your missions experience, try to schedule around as many extracurricular activities as possible (summer softball and baseball leagues, band camps, swim team or JROTC drills, for example). Take as many students as possible! Potential for tremendous life change is embodied in each mission experience. Even the students who seem unreachable are in a climate where the power of Christ can transform.
5. Locate potential mission project sites.
You can use the resources of the North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, Woman's Missionary Union or an associational office to find mission project sites. Once you have a list, you can find one that will correlate with the type of work that God has led you and your students to do.
6. Initiate and develop a relationship with the contact at each project site.
The contact person at the mission project site is one of the most important people involved with your mission experience planning. He or she will be able to inform you of potential ministry opportunities and should be able to offer an orientation on the culture, neighborhood and effective methods of ministry. Be sure that the contact person is one who is reliable!
7. Work out all of the "eats and sleeps" logistics.
Where will the students eat and sleep? Some student leaders are attracted to the gym floors and family life centers because of the low cost. If this is the route you follow, keep in mind that you and your students will be physically exhausted at the end of the day. If the mission experience is short term (one to two nights), a sleeping bag on the gym floor and some fast food and spaghetti may be acceptable.
If the mission trip is more extensive and the mission work includes physical labor, the students and adult sponsors need to have a good night's rest in a bed of some sort. If your group's sleeping and eating habits are poor, your group's ministry will be poor. Trying to save a few dollars is not an excuse for poor ministry.
8. Coordinate all necessary transportation.
This includes transportation to and around the mission city. Do you have a church van or bus? Will you rent vans there, or will you rent them in your hometown and drive? Make sure your wheels are taken care of and that you have insurance covered.
9. Plan how free time will be spent.
Are there any local places your students might like to visit? Is there some space that your group can relax in and spend time with God in private or corporate worship? Many times, your local contact will have some information for you, or you can contact chambers of commerce for ideas.
10. Plan your costs.
This one's important to the parents! Be sure to include all costs necessary when giving details of the trip. Ask the church about possibly using an existing missions fund to help with expenses. Offer to provide scholarships for needy students. Although money is a necessity in planning a mission experience, remember that our God is a God of detail and is not bound by finances!
11. Promote your mission trip.
Keep your church informed as you work through the planning. The congregation is a tremendous resource of prayer! Enroll prayer warriors to pray for specific students during the mission experience (For example, senior adults are waiting to hear how they can be involved with the student ministry!).
Byron Townsend serves as the associate director for students & college for MissionLab, a ministry of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. This article is courtesy of Lifeway.