Have you been the person in charge of planning a mission trip? It takes rather a lot of work to plan a mission trip. Sometimes planning a mission trip begins with someone suggesting a destination.
How does your group choose a destination? Many years ago I worked as a Christian Education director, and our youth group asked to go on a mission trip. The Texas Annual Conference (UMC) had a very active youth mission trip program, so when flyers arrived in the mail (yes, this was in the 90s, before they sent things via e-mail or had websites) I shared them with the youth group and we decided to go to U.M. ARMY (United Methodist Action Reach-out Mission by Youth). We sent in our forms, went to the training day, collected tools, and I learned how to drive a 15 passenger van with a fully loaded trailer. Our destination was about three hours from home. We arrived and everything had been prepared for our arrival. Honestly, the only preparation we had to do is what I listed: fill out forms, gather tools, attend training, drive ourselves to the host church.
Sometimes the destination is obvious. In the South Central Jurisdiction (for non-United Methodists, that’s the UM churches in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana) their Volunteers in Mission webpage is titled “VIM/Disaster Response”. The people who volunteer for mission projects in this region have disaster recovery as a main focus of their work. I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Texas and have lived through about ten tropical storms/hurricanes, so I have a deep appreciation for mission teams who do disaster recovery. The dedicated mission teams of the United Methodist Church are often those groups that are “first in, last out” when it comes to disaster recovery.
Heading Beyond our Borders
Some mission teams decide to plan a mission trip outside the U.S. Often these destinations are chosen because someone in the church knows someone in another country, or because they have visited another country and want to go back on a mission trip. People talk about their previous mission trips – “have you all been to Honduras? You should check out such-and-such place for your next mission.” Or “we went to Costa Rica last year to help Amistad Church, you should think about going and helping them finish up construction.” Sharing information like this is one key way people learn about mission trip destinations.
The United Methodist Church is a “connectional” church, meaning we have a network of churches that share information and resources with each other. Our mission work is organized by the General Board of Global Ministries, and they maintain a list of places that have requested mission teams to come and help with ministries in a particular way. On their guide for “how to volunteer” finding a destination isn’t actually one of the key criteria – more importantly is finding a volunteer opportunity that best suits your team’s skills.
Team Building Before Destination
One way to approach planning an overseas mission trip is to begin planning a year and a half (or more) in advance. Work together as a group on local projects. This allows time to get to know each other and to discover or develop your group’s skills. It also allows time for your mission team to get to know each other well, to pray and study together.
Sister of Hope Ministries is available to help your church or mission committee work through the mission trip planning process. Contact us to schedule a consultation or training event for your next mission trip!