It’s that time of year when groups start planning their mission trips. Your group may have been going to the same location to serve for many years or this may be the first time to serve in a new location or with an entirely new team. Regardless of your situation, you and your group most likely believe these common myths about mission trips.
- Your mission team will make a positive difference. While I do believe the “harm” mission work creates is greatly overstated, your group can still do more harm than good if you go in not properly prepared or with an attitude that isn’t humble and empathetic.(Note: Sympathy can be harmful.)
- Your team believes logistics are the most important part of preparation. Yes, the trip can fall apart if people don’t have passports in time or bring the wrong clothing, but there is much more to preparation than logistics.
- Your team believes “everyone knows how to…”. Ask missionaries and ministries what often causes the most problems and they will tell you it is mission teams who don’t actually know how to paint without ruining the walls in the process or prepare lessons for children that don’t actually teach them anything. Don’t assume the people assigned or volunteering for certain tasks actually know how to do those things properly or well. Get the training and practice you need….before you leave home.
- You don’t need people outside of your team to help with preparation. Not everyone can go on the mission trip, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to get involved. If you don’t have professional educators on the team, let those in your church help plan the lessons (teaching your group how to plan a great lesson in the process, hopefully). Have a painter (or whomever has the skill set your team needs) teach your group how to paint a wall well. Have someone who is from or lived in the culture teach your team proper etiquette and some basic language skills. Have those with willing hands help cut things out or do some of the other prep work. Extra hands involved mean extra hearts involved. Who knows? They may even become future team members or financial supporters.
- Everyone knows basic safety rules and will follow them. This includes (but is not limited to) helping keep safe the people you will be serving while you are interacting with them. Do criminal background checks and references on all adult team members (if your church doesn’t already have that on file). While our safety standards may not be requested or required by the group you are serving, it is important you do your own due diligence. Don’t forget basics like water safety, safely walking down a street and other situations you may encounter (like safe drinking water and food).
- Everyone will experience long term spiritual growth from the experience. This will only happen in most cases with intentionality and preparation. There should be scripture reading and prayer for personal spiritual growth through out the process. Books should be read to develop knowledge and understanding (and empathy) of those you will be serving. Discussions should be had about ways to grow spiritually on the trip. Team members should be encouraged to have individual spiritual growth goals for the trip and regular check-ins should encourage spending time each day reflecting upon that growth or the lack thereof and ways to enhance their personal spiritual growth each day. Reflection experiences each day and at the end of the trip should spend some time focusing on how to continue or maintain any spiritual growth from the trip.
Want more help planning your next mission trip? We have several free ebooks with everything you need to know – including how to specifically prepare for mission trips when your group will be working with local children and/or teens. Just click on the resources tab on our website and choose the books you need. www.teachonereachone.org