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Planning an impactful and unforgettable mission trip

short-term missions

Part 1 of 4 The essential preparation stages to ensure a life-changing experience for all

Chances are you’re already knee-deep into your summer 2023 mission trip plans, so this will be a good gut check on your progress so far. 

But now’s the time to start planning for 2024 mission trip opportunities. These church group endeavors are important to a spiritually enriched, faith-filled, and purpose-driven Christian life. The most meaningful, long-lasting — and life-changing — mission trip experiences are the result of careful consideration, meticulous planning by many, engaging and compelling recruiting efforts, flawless and worry-free logistical execution — and, of course, a heavy dose of thoughtful prayer and reflection throughout.

“For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45

Short-term mission trips are exciting and deeply rewarding experiences because they offer a unique opportunity for clergy, laity, and members of the church to come together to advance the shared mission of the church while making a direct, immediate, and often highly visible, impact on a community. More importantly, they create a pathway for individuals to grow stronger in their faith journey and become closer in their relationship with God. That said, planning a mission trip can also be overwhelming, especially if your church scaled back or put plans on hiatus during the pandemic. You should take a few minutes to review some of the ins and outs and ups and downs of Short-Term Missions. The good news is that now more than ever, people are hungry to return to the good work of doing good.

Your upcoming mission trip efforts are the catalyst you need to renew, reengage and re-invigorate your congregation. A little extra effort and attention now can pay big dividends over many years.

Planning. Team building. Recruiting. Executing.

Whether you’re considering a local mission trip or an international one, there are certain steps you can take to ensure that your trip is successful and impactful. To make the task more manageable, it’s helpful to break down the steps into these four essential stages: plan, team build, recruit and execute.

This four-part series will explore these essential stages, starting with the planning stage.

First and foremost, start your planning with prayer

As with any faith endeavor, it’s important to begin the planning process with prayer. Pray for guidance, wisdom, and discernment as you seek to plan a mission trip that aligns with God’s will and the fundamental mission of your church. Pray for the people you will be serving, as well as the team members who will be joining you on the trip. Seek God’s leadership in every aspect of the trip, from selecting a destination to deciding on activities, recruiting, fundraising, and the like.

"Entrust your works to the Lord, and your plans will succeed."  Proverbs 16:3

Set goals and select a destination.

Once you’ve prayed and deliberated over the general direction for your mission trip, it’s time to look at your options, determine your goals and ultimately select the cause and the destination. The world has changed a lot over the past three years, so it’s important to step back and consider where the greatest needs are now and how those align with your church’s mission. There are many other factors you’ll want to consider as well when choosing your mission trip destination, including:

  • The needs of the community you will be serving and the impact you can make
  • The safety and security of the destination
  • The accessibility of the destination for ease of travel, availability of accommodations, etc.
  • The cultural and linguistic differences of the destination
  • The level of support available from local partners or missionaries
  • The opportunities you’ll have for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth 

Be sure to do your research and seek input from trusted sources. Consider partnering with a mission organization or local church in the destination area to ensure you have the support and resources you need to make a meaningful impact.

"He said to them, 'Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.'"  Mark 16:15

Be optimistic about recruiting, but realistic about challenges. 

To accomplish the goals you set out for your mission trip, you will need to actively and aggressively recruit people to join and serve as the hands and feet of God. We’ll explore this in more detail in parts two and three of this series, but for now, know this is a great opportunity to do some outreach and connect personally and spiritually with both active and lapsed members of your church. 

During the planning stage, don’t underestimate the potential challenges that may arise during your mission trip. While unexpected situations are inevitable, it is crucial to have a plan in place for how you’ll handle them. This includes having a contingency plan for emergencies, having enough resources to address any medical or safety concerns, and having clear communication channels among team members throughout the process. 

“For I am with you. No one will attack and harm you, for I have many people in this city.”  Acts 18:10

Consider preliminary logistics.

Now, it’s time to sketch out a preliminary timeline and itinerary, taking into account high-level logistics like:

  • Number of participants you’ll need
  • Travel arrangements (flights, transportation, etc.)
  • Accommodations (hotels, hostels, or homestays)
  • Necessary passports or permits
  • Supplies and equipment (medical supplies, construction materials, etc.)
  • Budgets and fundraising plans

This should be a team effort. Be sure to assign responsibilities to specific team members to ensure that important information and details are gathered and carefully considered.

"Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?" Luke 14:28

Stay focused and connected to God.

Throughout the entire process, it’s important to stay connected to God and seek out His guidance. Make time for prayer and reflection every step of the way, and encourage your team members to do the same. Remember, the ultimate goal of your mission trip is to do more than complete a checklist. Or accomplish certain goals. It’s to spiritually enrich all those involved and share the love of Christ with others. 

Your mission trip is just the journey towards a far greater end goal. As such, it is important to have a plan in place for follow-up and ongoing support for the community you touched and all those who joined in the effort. This could include continued prayer, regular and consistent support, and ongoing mission work.

For a more in-depth guide to mission trip planning, download The Top Ten Mission Trip Best Practices.

Next up in this four-part series, we’ll look at how to effectively build your leadership team and committees for a successful mission trip experience.

Find out how Realm’s latest integration makes managing mission trips a breeze on April 20 at 1:00 PM ET!

Short-Term Missions

This free guide will help you and your team make the most of the trip. Letting you be a blessing to others as you serve God across town or around the world.

  • Find the right participants for your next mission trip.
  • Pack to ensure you have what you need, and can be a blessing for the people you’re serving.
  • Raise funds in a way consistent with your principles.
  • Ensures anyone can participate regardless of their financial hardships.
  • Debrief in a manner that helps people grow.

Lauren is the Enterprise Accounts Team Manager at ACS Technologies. She’s been with ACST since 2019, working with churches of all sizes and, most recently, large churches (1200+ AWA).  As the Children’s Director and Worship Leader for her church, she knows the everyday struggles church staff face in making it all happen. Lauren’s goal is to partner with as many churches across the country to help them move forward doing ministry.

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