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Essential elements for any missions trip

PuzzleThe other week I mentioned that missions trips, when done well, have a tendency to stretch people and bring them to a personal place of vulnerability. Of course that begs the question, “What does it take to do a missions trip well?”

Since I’ve already established that there’s a difference between a missions trip and a work project, this would apply specifically to a missions trip, although obviously these would be good things to do on a work project, as well

Covering Prayer — Set aside a rotating group of people to stay back at the base all morning while the rest of the team goes out and does ministry. This group is to pray all morning for the people who are serving and cover the ministry in prayer for the opportunities they’re encountering. Likewise, do the same in the afternoon or whenever there is intentional ministry taking place on the trip. Spending hours in prayer is one of the most life-transformational things we’ve experienced on missions trips.

Morning Devotions — Make it a requirement for everyone to spend a good chunk of time personally in God’s Word and in prayer every morning. This time is free from other distractions, including other people, and is just time alone spend with God. When people see the value of this on the mission field, often it follows them home.

Worship — If possible, incorporate a time of regular worship together. Whether it’s by music, prayer, testimonies, or something else, remembering to give honor and glory to God for everything that’s happened and is going to happen is important. It’s so important for everyone to keep their focus on Him throughout the trip.

Debrief — How often and for how long you do this is pretty flexible, but there needs to be a time of reflection and story telling built-in to the experience together. By no means should you spend all afternoon debriefing about what you did in the morning, but a good balance here in necessary for people to learn from each other, look past the surface of their experiences, and integrate it deeper into their lives.

Rest — We all have limits and we definitely need to remember that when we’re being stretched and pushed outside our comfort zones. While it’s possible to push hard through an entire week, periods of rest are helpful not only for the obvious reasons like staying healthy and getting more out of the experience, but it lets you process and think critically about what you’re seeing and hearing, as well.

Prayer Walks/Evangelism — Go out and be a part of the community wherever you are. As you walk around, pray for the people you see. And, as the Holy Spirit prompts, stop and talk with people. Ask how you can pray for them and engage in spiritual conversations.

Pre-Trip Training — Every good missions trip has training that takes place beforehand. In fact, the training that AIM provided for us was 7-weeks long! It was all really solid material, so I assigned each of the 7 chapters to someone else in the group to teach to the rest of us. It really helped a lot of them take ownership and prepared us spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually for what was ahead.

Shared Responsibilites — This is great for helping participants take ownership of the trip and play a significant role in the ministry that takes place. Check out this list of responsibility ideas to assign to teenagers on a missions trip.

Also check out this video on 8 tips to maximize your mission trip’s effectiveness.

As my own personal recommendation, I’ve done several missions trips through Adventures In Missions. They do a great job at it! See more about my experience with their custom trips in this fun video I made, “Choose my adventure, and then your own!

QUESTION — What other elements do you think are essential for any missions trip?


Posted on December 9, 2010

  • I like the idea of assigning pre-trip training to different people, and assigning different responsibilities to teenagers during the trip. There's something about a short-term mission trip with youth that really pushes some students to realize they have amazing God-given gifts that they can contribute to the group's work.

  • jay @ bethegospel

    I've got nothing to add, but i always have my students do morning devotions. I write my own for my students that correspond each day with what we are doing that day. And that way we all are learning and reading the same thing each day.

  • Alon Banks

    Tim,

    I totally agree, I believe a mission trip needs to be transferable to what can and should be practiced at home, so the before, during and after all need to be emphasized no matter what kind of mission and/or service project trip is taking place. Glad to see that AIM has that approach.

    After being involved in short-term missions for years, I have been impressed with what Youthmark is stressing through their Mission51 approach. Making sure the mission trip is emphasizing exactly what the students need to be equipped with to live on mission anywhere.

    I hope that more missions agencies and even groups working with missionaries make the trip count for more than just a week or two of missions.

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