Investing in a local body of believers is one of the key ways the church can see lasting change through encounters with other cultures and people groups. Mission trips, in general, encourage believers to live missionally every day so the church can witness long term growth. Short-term missions trips, especially during the summer, are a popular way for churches to get their congregations involved in missions and outreach projects without requiring a long-term commitment.
The call to go and first five best practices were previously shared on the blog. And today we are rounding out the final five of the top ten best mission trip practices. These practices come from the recently published guide, Mission Trip Best Practices: The Top Ten guide.
6. Conduct Comprehensive Team Training.
Training the team prior to the trip is essential. Both for the information that will be communicated during the sessions, but also for the team building that will occur along the way. Best practice dictates beginning team training sessions 6 months in advance. Team training encompasses a multitude of topics depending on the location of the trip, the purpose of the trip, the needs of the partner ministry, and the experience of the team members.
*Pro-tip: Agreement for attendance should be included in the team covenant team members sign in their trip application.
The cost of a summer mission trip can be substantial. Because of the nature of the trip, it costs more than a normal personal vacation or a trip across the nation. There is funding required for safe and healthy lodging, group transportation, ministry supplies, assistance for ministry partners, and contingency accounts. For most, funding the cost of the trip out-of-pocket is simply not possible. Therefore, many churches recommend giving friends, family, and church members the opportunity to partner in God’s work. They can do this by making financial support contributions in response to individuals’ requests for trip funding.
8. Packing Party!
Summer missions trips require an abundance of special supplies and equipment. A best practice regarding luggage is to allow every team member one personal suitcase and one “ministry” suitcase. Team members are fully responsible for their personal suitcases. However, bring the ministry suitcase to the church in advance. Then on the appointed evening, several days before trip departure, the team comes together to pack all the ministry supplies and equipment into the ministry suitcases. This way, ministry team leaders can help to manage their team’s supplies and ensure that they have everything they need.
9. Daily Team Meetings.
During the daily course of the trip, one of the most important responsibilities of the team leader is to communicate clearly with the team and be aware of their changing emotions and experiences. The best way to do these crucial things is to hold two daily team meetings every day:
- First, a daily morning team meeting is essential. During this time, the team can discuss the day’s events, what to expect from the day’s activities, review cultural information, hold a devotional word from the Scriptures, ask about expectations that might be going unmet, allow anyone to share about what they are learning, and have candid discussions about team member health conditions.
- Second, a short evening team meeting to debrief from the day. Remember to make the meeting brief as people will be exhausted from the physical, mental, and emotional demands of the day. Review the day, take questions, allow for feedback, check on everyone’s health, and then let everyone go to bed and get some much-needed rest.
*Pro-tip: During these meetings, team leaders should pay close attention to anyone who might be struggling personally and give them extra counseling and emotional support.
10. End-of-Trip Debriefing.
Everyone has worked hard and given it their all. They have endured numerous cross-cultural situations which have confused and frustrated them. They have had spiritual experiences in which God came through in miraculous ways they never expected. It has been a life-changing time. This becomes an important time to harness the emotions surrounding these events and capture the learning that has taken place. None of this should go to waste or be forgotten.
*Pro-tip: To make the most of this great growth opportunity, before beginning the journey home, plan for a half or full day of debriefing in a special location (i.e., a resort, a special restaurant, a beach, etc.) to help the team members mentally unwind and relax. Separating to a special place will help team members to let go of any cross-cultural tension they may be holding. It will help them feel more at home. They can clean up properly and rest well in comfort. They can eat special food and drink cool beverages. Or they can play in the sea and the sand. Team leadership can hold special meetings during which they can intentionally guide the team in a careful review and evaluation of every aspect of the trip.
Processing the trip with your team:
- Spend extra time talking deeply about the personal spiritual implications of the trip and how this will affect team members’ lives moving forward when they get home.
- Encourage journaling and time spent alone in prayer and reflection.
- Remind participants that the trip doesn’t end emotionally and spiritually when the plane takes off for home. The processing will continue for weeks and months and even years to come. Team members, all of whom have shared the same experience, can now lean on one another in the future as they see just where God will take them.
Additionally, for those in the church not able to physically join the mission trip abroad, consider challenging your small groups and/or Sunday School classes to adopt different people who are going out on the mission field. Commit to supporting them with prayer, finances, correspondence and follow-up support. These gestures will create a powerful impact in the lives of people in the field and back home. Especially as the believers return home with more “confidence in the faith” (1 Timothy 3:13). A visit to the mission field can alter a believer’s spiritual priorities. It can unleash the winds of change that can make the church back home a redemptive force in the community. And to that we say, to God be the glory!
Mission trips empower Christians to serve in high need environments, live out their faith in practical ways and make a spiritual difference in the lives of people. Our newly released guide, Mission Trip Best Practices: The Top Ten, details why this is more than just missions: it’s building the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Mission trips can propel the body of Christ into missional living back home and influence other believers to do the same. It’s essential to develop close and lasting relationships with people. To make it even easier so you don’t miss any of our Church Growth Resources, you can also receive our ministry blog posts straight to your inbox!
You don’t want to drop the ball on your next mission trip. Summer mission trips give your congregation a unique opportunity to serve others as you grow spiritually as a team.
Our ACST team wants to help your next summer mission trip be your best yet. That’s why we put together this new guide detailing ten best summer mission trip practices.
Whitney joined ACS Technologies in 2017 and is a Senior Product Marketing Manager in the market department. Prior to ACST, Whitney worked at Blackbaud for 11 years in various roles focusing on churches and other non-profits.