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5 basics for planning a mission trip

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Good mission projects don’t just happen. Following a few simple guidelines will help make the experience meaningful to on-mission volunteers as well as the people they serve.

Here are fundamentals every church should consider when planning a mission trip.

— Leadership is the key to success. If the team leader is not on your church’s staff, recruit a volunteer from your membership to be trained and equipped to help lead. To be successful, this person should have a heart for missions, good organizational skills and the ability to work with and motivate others. The church’s team leader will take primary responsibility for project logistics, keeping everything on track and maintaining communication with the on-site project manager.

— To enlist a mission team, make announcements about upcoming mission trips and encourage interested folks to sign up by a certain date. Then conduct an orientation meeting to lay out expectations, logistics and requirements. First-timers may have questions, so this meeting can go a long way toward alleviating their anxiety about “the unknown.” Also, this is the time to inform team members about required training, which is best developed around four areas:

1) Spiritual preparation. A Bible study on the basics of missions and service can be instructive and inspirational. Prayer and a personal relationship with Christ are prerequisites to being on mission.

2) Task training. Whether it’s how to teach children, how to paint a house or how to conduct a block party, task training is essential for a successful trip.

3) Evangelism training. All team members should learn how to share their faith. Provide opportunities to practice doing this, so they’ll feel comfortable before the beginning of the trip. There’s only one Gospel message, but there are a variety of ways to share it. To be an effective witness, learn about the culture or people group you’re trying to reach. Most on-mission Christians have a favorite evangelism tool, whether it’s a tract, witnessing bracelets or a written testimony. Some tools are more appropriate in certain situations than in others. Choose one that works best for your group and then practice using it.

4) Hands-on preparation. To provide experience beforehand, work together on a local project such as your church’s Vacation Bible School. If your mission team will be doing construction, smaller projects in your community give participants a chance to learn how to work with tools. Be sure to involve the whole team.

— Budgeting boils down to three choices for financing a mission trip: 1) place the total cost of the project in the church budget; 2) designate the project as “total cost recovery” and charge sufficient participant fees to cover all costs; or 3) blend these models together. Many churches use the blended model, with part of the total cost funded by the church budget, part charged to the participants and part recovered through sponsorships or fundraisers. This plan has the benefit of requiring serious commitments from both the participant and the church. To build a mission trip budget, consider costs such as transportation, lodging, food and ministry supplies. A free downloadable Volunteer Mobilization Logistics Manual with budget worksheets and planning checklists is available from the North American Mission Board at www.namb.net/logistics.

— Implementing a successful mission trip depends on how closely you work in advance with your project manager/missionary so there are no surprises when you arrive on site. If possible, key leaders should make a pre-project visit to the location. Ask the project manager/missionary how your team can best assist him or her in meeting the goals of the ministry. By working with that person you can design a schedule to maximize your impact and complement the established ministry. Consider establishing a dress code and covenant for conduct. Make sure you look at the trip with an eye toward maximizing safety and minimizing the risk of danger. For more short-term missions resources, visit www.namb.net and click on the “Missions Opportunities” link.

— Involve the whole church by holding a commissioning service before the trip. This will bring into focus the importance of missions for the entire church and remind volunteers that the body of Christ is sending them out. Challenge church members to pray for the team throughout the entire project. When you return, plan a follow-up celebration. This is the perfect forum for volunteers to share what God accomplished during the mission trip. Be creative in the presentation — use photographs and video to show church members what took place. For resources to promote a missions mindset at your church visit www.ActsOne8.com.

Today, thousands and thousands of Southern Baptist volunteers are answering the call to short-term missions. For many, it’s a launching point to a lifetime of being on mission. Isn’t it time you answered the call?
Provided by the communications staff of the North American Mission Board.

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