Well, I’ve got some mission tips for mission trips for you but before I get into today’s post, I have to tell you how excited I am about our upcoming Women’s Conference in Nicaragua! We will be working with some dear friends from Costa Rica who are Word of Life Missionaries there and they are doing a great work for God!
This trip will be different than the Pastor’s conferences we typically hold in Costa Rica. It won’t be the kind of trip where we help build churches or do community wide evangelism.
We are going to minister to the women who minister to others in their various churches.
Mission trips are rarely ever the same. Like people, they have their own fingerprint. Yet, there seems to some similar threads found in all effective mission trips.
So for the next two posts, I’ll be writing to those who are involved in planning a mission trip, going on a trip or are a church leader interested in being involved in missions. I’ll be sharing from 2 perspectives. One as a missionary on the field who is well aware of the realities of what can make or brake a mission trip and, two, how the church can be actively involved in a hands-way to make the most impact.
More specifically, I’d like to take the next two posts to accomplish two things:
1. Help those who are planning a mission trip to be better prepared and organized, keeping in mind that all plans are subject to change.
2. Help church leaders and missions ministries plan the most effective trip possible and avoid making mistakes that are frequently seen on the mission field.
Today, let’s look at how to plan and prepare for a mission trip. Obviously, there are a variety of “types” of mission trips available for the taking, but there are certain “must do’s” needed in order to make each trip as effective as possible.
1. Be Flexible! If you don’t know already, that’s the number one rule for all missionaries and all mission trips. Plans rarely pan out as planned on foreign soil and your purpose often emerges into something different than you intended. When it seems like your plans are unraveling at the seams, begin looking for unexpected opportuntities to see God work in ways you had never anticipated. Trust me…it will be better than anything you can plan on your own. 🙂
2. Define Your Trip! First, let me give you a not so comprehensive list of trips that are effective. Medical Missions, Sports Evangelism, Video Evangelism, Outdoor Preaching Campaigns (Some may call this a Revival), Wordless Dramas or VBS Missions in the schools or in the community, Conferences, Construction Trips, Church Planting Trips, Orphan Care Trips, Street Evangelism…and the list goes on. Missions is very much like the local church. A church is one body, but has many ministries which funnel from that church. So too are missionaries’ ministries…so too are mission trips. Define your “tool.” But do so only after you have a keen awareness as to what the real needs are in that area and if what you want to do will actually work in that culture. But remember…BE FLEXIBLE! God may choose to use you, your team and your trip for purposes beyond your wildest dreams.
3. Be Prepared! Mission trips don’t just happen. It takes a lot of planning and a lot of work to bring it all together…and definitely a lot of prayer. Begin your research early. Make a list of how you plan on accomplishing everything that needs to be done before you board the plane, while you’re on the field and when your return. Be sure everyone has a Passport and/or Visa. Find out if the country requires an Exit Tax. Determine the cost of the trip. Be sure your transportation and housing are in place. Make sure your dates work for the country…ie…Don’t plan a construction trip during rainy season…Don’t plan a VBS during the school year (other countries are not on our calendar), ect. God has gifted you with the privilege of potentially impacting a culture for Christ, so diligently prepare for your next mission trip.
4. Be Connected! We’ve heard story after story of churches who planned mission trips with good intentions but never requested advice or information from the missionary or national on the field. Buildings built to code for snow in a country located on the equator. Windows placed on the side of the building where the wind never blows. VBS’s held in the middle of the country’s school year. Medical mission trips during harvest time. Video evangelism where there is no electricity or access to a generator. Buildings left incomplete. You get the picture. Those who are planning a trip would be wise to seek out and listen carefully to the needs and advice of the missionaries on the field or the nationals who live there. Be connected. Be teachable. Be a servant.
5. Be Godly! O.K., I know this sounds like a no-brainer for a Christian mission trip, but it needs to be said. Many mission trips have been marked by complaining, unloving and even racist team members. By definition, a mission trip is an opportunity to show the love of Jesus to others. We serve a creative God who has made us very diverse. We don’t always think the same way, we don’t always worship the same way, we don’t always eat the same things, we don’t always live the same way…but we are all created by God and for God. Be sure that, as a leader, you make it a prerequisite for your team to have a clear understanding that they are there to serve. No complaining. Eat what is served. Love those who may look and live differently than you. If you can’t do that, then you don’t have any business going on the trip.
6. Pray! Pray alone, pray with the team, pray with your church, pray with the missionaries on the field or the nationals, send out prayer requests to your email list and to other churches. Pray and seek those who will pray for you. You may be able to accomplish a lot, but nothing will have any lasting effect without the hand of God devinely touching you and your endeavors each step of the way.
This list is obviously not as extensive as it could be, but I hope it helps those who are planning a trip think about how they can be most effective. Mission trips can be a great experience for those who go and have the potential to eternally make a difference in the lives of others. So let’s get busy…we’ve got a world to reach!
I’d love to hear about your expereinces on a mission trip and what you could add to this list. Your comments may also help others who are planning a trip right now.