Written by Lisa Sochacki
A mission trip is a big undertaking and can in fact be very overwhelming if you have never done it before. Rest assured that you do not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to taking your church group on a mission trip. We have been involved in this work for years and have many resources available and experts to walk alongside you to help make your trip a success.
Finding the right fit for my church (length of time, location, cost, project/ministry type):
Finding the right mission trip for your church is important to the participants as well as the field in which they will minister. In the initial planning stages of your trip you will want to think about some of the following areas:
Mission type: One of the first things you may want to consider is which missionaries are supported by your church. Might a team from your congregation go out to serve with them? Or perhaps, your congregation has a heart for a certain people group or geographical area around the world. Then think about the type of people you have in your congregation. Do you have a lot of construction workers, doctors or children’s workers? Also, begin to pray and ask God to show you what ministry He would like your congregation to be part of.
Length of time: How long of a trip do you want to take? How much time can people take off from work or school? Consider actual travel time, jet lag and cost. For example, it’s hard to go to Africa for a week when at least three of those days are spent in travel.
Dates: When starting the initial planning, think of date ranges rather than specifics. Also try to plan your trip at least 9-12 months in advance. In the second phase of planning dates, thoroughly think through airline prices during certain times of year to certain countries. Other issues to consider are school schedules, weather issues, and holidays. Don’t forget about the host country as they may have different weather, holiday and school schedules that may impact your timing.
Location & Costs: If your church is struggling financially, you may want to consider doing a trip in North America and somewhere closer to home. There are many wonderful cross-cultural ministries that your church can participate in right here in North America. But if you are from a larger church and fundraising isn’t a major issue, you may want to consider taking an international trip.
Objectives: Work with your team leaders to set objectives for your trip. What is the purpose for taking on such a project? Do they fit with your church’s vision and mission? How can this trip impact the rest of your congregation and its ministries? Once you have some thoughts and ideas on the areas mentioned above, you can contact the ServiceLink office for your next steps. We will help you with choosing the right location and ministry for you and your church.
How to choose your team: Once you have an idea of location and dates, you will want to begin recruiting your team. ServiceLink will send you group applications and request other pertinent information from your team members. You may want to follow some kind of interview process with those interested in participating and suggest you not just accept “anyone” on the team but make a list of what qualities you are looking for in team members. Find out what their motivation may be for going on the trip. You may also want to consider age, health condition, Christian maturity, skills set, church membership etc.
Number of participants: When setting this number, work with your ServiceLink office contact. Agency field staff will determine the set number of people they are able to accommodate while in country, mostly because of transportation logistics, but also so that a North American group not overwhelm a local community.
Advertising/Imparting the vision: Advertising is an important part of recruiting your team. Making sure your church is well informed of the opportunity is vital. This may mean advertisement on the church website, bulletin or special brochures. Advertising pieces should have colorful photos, accurate information about the trip, qualifications and well defined instructions on how to apply. To impart vision for the trip, you may want to consider inviting a guest speaker or missionary from that country or ministry in which you will be involved. This may help to get people excited and encourage them to apply.
Budget: You will need to work with CRC agency staff to create a budget for your trip. Preliminary budgets should be created before advertising pieces are posted. There are many details to creating a trip budget. Initially you may not think about things like paying for a translator, country exit taxes or exchange rates. This is why it is important to work closely with staff to make sure all details are covered. Click here for a sample budget.
Fundraising: Once a budget has been set, you will need to begin encouraging your team to fund raise. You will want to be clear about how much participants are to raise on their own and how much you hope your church will contribute through fundraising. Participants may have their faith stretched during this time in believing God for what may seem impossible. Prayer and encouragement is vital and this is where the whole church can really feel part of sending the mission team.
Money and tax issues: Check with your church accounting department to see if they would be willing to give donation receipts to those contributing to your team’s endeavor. If your church is not set up for this or is unwilling, donations for team members may also be sent to the CRCNA agency you are working with.
Logistics: Agency personnel will have the expertise on transportation and travel documents necessary for your group. Individual country entry requirements may change from time to time, so it is best to work closely with us to make sure all of the logistics are current.
Check out either the local Embassy website or either one of these two sites:
Note that there may be different procedures for Americans than for Canadians.
Security: In today’s unstable world, security is an important issue when planning a mission trip. Yes, we trust God for our safety and protection, however he also gives us wisdom to make good decisions.
- Background checks: To ensure the safety of those you’ll be meeting on your ministry site, as well as yourself, our overseas staff and ministry partners, the CRCNA requires that all volunteers provide a current police background check (within 2 years).
- Travel: Team leaders should be current on TSA regulations in regards to airline travel safety. Pre-trip orientation will cover specifics on travel safety. Check the TSA website for up to date information: http://www.tsa.gov/
- In-country government: While newspapers and TV give some news regarding the political situation in foreign countries, it is important to listen to our country staff in regards to the safety of your team. The CRCNA has a crisis management team that will make decisions regarding the evacuation of staff or mission teams in the case of political upheaval.
- Embassy registration: Prior to departure, all teams are encouraged to register their participants on-line with the US or Canadian embassy of their citizenship. This is very important in the case of an emergency or evacuation.
Americans register at: https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/
Canadians register at: https://www.voyage2.gc.ca/Registration_inscription/Register_Inscrire//Login_ouvrir-une-session-eng.aspx?fwd=true&hash=am8gdZDibHxsTZN4AF7lqA6161
Insurance: Groups should make sure their team members are properly covered by medical, evacuation and trip insurance prior to departure. While most US and Canadian plans may say you are covered outside your home country, an evacuation due to even a minor medical issue could cost over $40,000. ServiceLink has negotiated rates with agencies that specialize in short-term mission trips. This is not a budget item you can cut. Don’t leave home without it!
Timelines: Timelines are beneficial to help you and your team get organized. Once the dates for your trip have been finalized a timeline should be made and given to team members. Make sure to include deposits, due dates for airline tickets, orientation dates as well as when immunizations need to be completed. Your agency staff can assist you with this.
Training your team leaders: Team leaders should plan to attend the CRCNA orientation workshops prior to departure. These will provide important information to be used in training the rest of your team members. Additionally, teams may request a staff member to come to their church to conduct an orientation session. All team members should then be required to attend.
Health: Your team’s health is a very important aspect of your mission trip. One small bug shared among team members can be the pitfall for the whole trip. In orientation we’ll cover the simple things that can make the difference in your health while travelling overseas.
- Immunizations: Immunizations should be planned a few months prior to departure. Some immunizations need to be taken in a series and therefore need plenty of time to arrange. It is recommended you consult your local travel health clinic as they would have the most up to date information on the country you are
planning to visit. Good information can be found at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/
- Pre-trip health conditions: It is important that team leaders know the health conditions of participants on the trip. Health forms should be completed which provide information on medications people are on as well as health history and allergies. Health conditions may need to be a factor in the selection of team members depending upon the nature of the trip.
Training your team: Training and proper orientation for your team is vital to the success of any trip.
- Spiritual preparation: team members need to prepare their hearts spiritually for the ministry ahead. It’s a good idea to begin praying for each other, your host country, staff and leaders from the beginning of your preparations.
See: Prepare Yourself Spiritually for your Mission Trip
- Devotions: A team devotion book could be created for your group. This could be used both for personal devotions as well as team devotions. We suggest that your devotions begin pre-trip, continue through the trip and for a period of time after the trip has ended.
See: The Spiritual Side of Service & Learning Teams
- Language training: While language training may not seem important for a short-term trip, it is very helpful for team members to connect with the nationals. Any effort given is appreciated - at the very least, people should be able to give greetings, say thank you and God bless you.
- Team Building: During your time of pre-trip orientation, groups can participate in some fun and educational team building exercises. These exercises are particularly helpful for a team that doesn’t know each other very well or who have never worked together.
- Resources for preparing your team: There are lots of great resources available for short term mission teams. The ones we recommend are as follows:
“Serving with Eyes Wide Open” by David Livermore http://www.amazon.com/Serving-Eyes-Wide-Open-Intelligence/dp/0801066166
“Foreign to Familiar” by Sarah Lanier http://www.amazon.com/Foreign-Familiar-Understanding-Climate-Cultures/dp/1581580223
“Round Trip” by Andy Crouch and available through Christianity Today http://www.christianitytoday.com/roundtrip/
“Short Term Missions Workbook” by Tim Dearborn http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=32337&p=1013347
“Deep Justice Journeys” by Kara Powell and Brad Griffin from Fuller Youth Institute http://fulleryouthinstitute.org/articles/deep-justice-journeys-live