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Mission trips’ success keyed to planning, prayer, NAMB leader says

ATLANTA (BP)–The church van is packed, checklist completed, medical release forms collected and itinerary finalized. Everything appears to be in place for the annual mission project.

Then the familiar saying, “the devil is in the details,” comes to mind and doubt leads to anxiety about the unforeseen challenges ahead.

While the outcome of a mission project is never known at the start, those unexpected occurrences that often distract from the mission can mostly be avoided through strategic and prayerful planning, said the North American Mission Board’s head of volunteer mobilization.

“The challenge is not finding a mission project,” said Jim Burton, director of NAMB’s volunteer mobilization team. “The challenge is finding the project that is right for your mission team. Find a project that matches the skill level of your people.”

Speaking during a NAMB regional conference for pastors, ministry leaders, directors of missions and other NAMB partners in Atlanta May 20-24, Burton said mission volunteers “will do just about anything once,” but for a mission project to be a life-changing experience for participants the task must be well-defined with concrete objectives clearly communicated at all stages of planning.

Mission projects have the greatest impact on volunteers when the experience becomes a mission education event and not just a mission trip, Burton said. To achieve that objective, he suggested the following steps:

— Hold a church-wide commissioning service for the volunteers a week or two before the project so the entire church can join in prayer and celebrate the importance of being involved in missions.

— Conduct a pre-project practicum including evangelism training for volunteers and equip them for their specific responsibilities in the mission project.

— Encourage participants to record their experiences in a daily journal during the mission project.

— Hold a daily debriefing during the mission project so participants can share with each other how God is working in their lives.

— Hold a celebration service for participants to report back to their church about how God used them in the mission project.

“Volunteers need to see your vision and understand how they fit in your vision,” Burton told prospective mission project leaders.

Whether the mission project involves construction, Backyard Bible Clubs or door-to-door evangelism, Burton said, the project’s logistics, including sleeping and eating arrangements, will most likely determine whether volunteers participate in future mission projects.

“The size of the group may not be determined as much by the vision as by the logistics,” he said. “No matter what your vision is, at some point you’ve got to be practical.”

Burton recommended that mission project leaders conduct a pre-project visit to the designated location no less than two months before the event and participate in a worship service on site.

When volunteers participate in a mission project outside their normal environment, he said, they often “experience God at levels never achieved before because of focus.”

“They hyper-focus on what God is doing,” he said.

Other steps to help ensure that volunteers have a positive mission experience include establishing a code of conduct and creating a covenant that clearly identifies expectations of participants.

“This simply facilitates communication,” Burton said. “Poor communication can leave some deep hurts. Not only do we want to make good use of a volunteer’s time, but we want repeat offenders — people who repeatedly offend Satan through their obedience to Christ.”

The best of planning, however, cannot replace the importance of prayer when preparing for a mission project, Burton said, noting, “The whole process has to be saturated in prayer because God is at work.”

Churches or groups searching for a mission project can contact NAMB’s Volunteer Mobilization Action Center, headquartered in Alpharetta, Ga. The center helps place volunteers in missions settings in North America best suited for their spiritual gifts, skill level and availability. Contact the volunteer mobilization center at 1-800-462-VOLS to find out more about mission opportunities or go online at www.namb.net and click on “Volunteer Opportunities.”

Those who prefer to be more hands-on in their search can access NAMB’s volunteer mobilization website at http://volunteers.namb.net to identify potential mission opportunities based on their user profile.

Mission project leaders or anyone interested in planning a mission endeavor can obtain a free copy of NAMB’s “Volunteer Mobilization Project Logistics” manual online at www.namb.net/beonmission/volunteers/logistics.

(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Libary at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: IN THE SWING.

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  • Lee Weeks