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Mistakes I made on our summer missions trip

Last week (June 18-30, 2008) was our youth group missions trip to Belize and man, it was an amazing time! Many more people will one day worship with us at the throne in heaven as a result of the Lord’s work through us there.

I updated our youth group website as regularly as possible with updates and pictures for parents back home. If you’re interested, you can see them at AlexandriaYouth.com.

The trip was a HUGE growing and learning experience for me. Not only in the year-long preparations leading up to the trip, but on the field, as well. Here are some of the biggies that I should have done differently.

My Mistakes

1. I failed to meet daily with the adult leaders. Now that I think back on it, I feel like slapping my forehead and saying, “No duh!” I do this on every other trip, why not this one? Somehow it slipped my mind. The result was a disunified team of adult leaders (6 of us total) that led to a lot of frustration and communication issues.

2. I failed to listen to the advice of someone older and wiser. Ouch. Yeah, I did, and found out later that the adult was absolutely correct. The consequences meant that two girls got sick the next evening and had to miss out on ministry opportunities. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I learned the lesson even though I originally felt 100% confident that my decision.

3. I failed to keep careful track of finances. I tracked them, but not nearly as closely as I should have. It got confusing because I had to use a lot of cash, villages don’t usually give receipts, factoring the exchange rate, a couple big Visa expenses and the fact that the cash was spread out among several adult leaders. Fortunately God made sure there was enough money for everything, including an unexpected fee to exit Belize, but it still added a level of unnecessary stress to the trip.

4. I went to bed too early. The last couple nights on the trip most of the teenagers stayed up late talking and hanging out with each other, which was fine. However, I was physically and emotionally drained and just wanted to go to sleep, so I did. Looking back on it, though, those were probably the most opportune times to really connect with the teens on a personal level. Sacrificing an hour or two of sleep those final nights to stay up with them would’ve been worth it.

My “Corrects”

Although I made some mistakes and would change some things if I could go back and do it again, I didn’t do everything wrong. Some things I actually did really well.

1. I was able to stretch kids out of their comfort zone without making them snap. That’s a hard balance to achieve sometimes — knowing when to push them and how far without pushing them over the edge. I feel that the adult leaders and myself found that balance and did a good job of pushing when appropriate and easing up when it was too much.

2. I spent an hour in quiet time with the Lord every day. So did our teenagers, not just me, and man, it makes all the difference in the world.

3. I utilized the gifts and talents of each teenager. It’s temping to try to fit teenagers into our agenda because it makes the agenda so much easier to lead and to follow, but instead we determined the strength of most of the teenagers and made assignments based on that. The result was that each student excelled personally and thus the team worked together like oiled gears in a clock.

4. I remained calm and steady despite emotional stress. Most people don’t realize the emotional toll a trip like this can have on the leader until they’ve actually been in that position themselves. It can be pretty intense at times, but throughout it all the Lord enabled me to remain calm and level-headed. One teenager noticed and even commented on it in front of the group.

Pics and Vids


Posted on July 7, 2008

  • Great stuff, Tim. We’re leaving for our Mission Trip on Friday, and this post made me stop and think about what is really important.

    Great vid, by the way. What songs did you use?

  • Both of the songs in the video are by Starfield, “I will go” and “From the corners of the earth.”

  • @ Jeremy: No, we didn't go with an organization or anything. A friend of mine is pretty active with a couple churches down there, so we planned and organized the whole trip ourselves. It makes it a lot cheaper and allows us to create a customized missions experience for our teens. Although, it's a TON more work that way, too, but I think it was worth it.

  • did you go with STEM?
    Right now my wife is co-leading a youth team there in Belize with STEM.
    Her name is Mikaela.

  • Jamie

    I just got back from Belize as well!!! We did VBS and village ministry in Maskall village. (2 hours from Belize city) Where were y’all??

  • @ Jamie: We were in Hattieville and Caye Caulker.

  • I’m off to Mexico next week, Wednesday to be specific. Thanks for the tips.

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