By Brian Frye
National Collegiate Strategist, North American Mission Board
If you’ve grown up in the church, you’ve likely been on and heard about all kinds of missions trips. If you’re new to following Christ, missions trips are a great way to grow in your faith, to develop confidence in sharing Christ, and to grow deeper in community with other believers. Here are a few pointers on planning and leading a high-impact missions trip.
(1) Do a pre-trip visit. Before you go on a missions trip, be sure to have leaders in your church or ministry do homework on the ministry you’ll be working with and the “mission” you’ll be doing. Whether you are working with a ministry, a church plant, an agency, or just doing your own trip, send a scout team to the missions trip destination will be extremely helpful. During the visit, meet as many people as you can. Ask questions of any ministry leaders you’ll be working with in the field, and work through the logistics for the trip. Most importantly, spend some time prayerwalking the areas where you’ll be doing your work.
(2) Cultivate the team in the gospel before departure. Way too many missions trips happen with little focus on team building and even less focus on gospel preparation. Plan around two to three times, before the trip, to get to know each other. Personality tests and problem-solving scenarios help the individuals move from a “me-based” toward a “we-based” mindset. It is also critical to teach the gospel to the group, and teach them how to share the gospel. Our recommendation is that you share the gospel, have them share the gospel with family and friends, and then take them out sharing before you make the trip. Team connect and gospel reps equals missional success.
(3) Pre-plan the trip as a team. Two to four weeks before the trip begins, bring the team together for a trip-planning meeting. During the meeting, create a play-by-play for the trip. Have key activities mapped and field contacts available (e.g., housing, ministry leaders, rental companies, meal planning) so team members can own the process of planning and orchestrating a trip.
(4) Do a devotion time with focused content each morning. Devotions times should be the most valuable and deliberate times of every missions trip, and held every morning. They give clarity to the mission, and serve as the catalyst for spiritual development in your team and fuel for gospel expansion.
(5) Share the gospel at least three times daily. Missions trips are about “the mission” and the mission is about sharing the gospel. If we don’t model, teach, and require missions trip participants to share the gospel regularly during trips, can we expect them to be a fruit-bearing, disciple-making believer back home?
(6) End the day with group time. If you are doing devotions in the morning and sharing Christ throughout the day, there will be much to talk about that night. Take an hour each night to allow the group to discuss their daily highlights and lowlights and how they saw God at work. Leading a group to process their experience verbally draws the team closer, guides them to rely upon the Father, and provides the leader prime opportunities for affirmation and instruction. Have the team pray (1) for God to guide the next day’s activity, (2) for an awareness/readiness to obey God’s prompting, and (3) for divine appointments where people can hear and accept Christ.
(7) Select a daily team leader. In all that we do, especially in leading missions trips, leaders should be led with a “next man (or woman) up” mindset. You should ask: “What can I do now to ensure every person on this team leads a missions team of their own in the future?” We have found the best way to make this happen is assigning one person to be the point person for the team each day. While the missions team leader maintains overall leadership of the trip, the point person calls all the shots for the day (e.g., where to eat, what to do, where to share Christ, when to pray, etc.). When problems arise or decisions need to be made, the team also goes to the point person for answers.
(8) Select strategic trip locations where you can plant. Most churches and ministries choose missions trip locations with minimal strategic thinking involved. What if you choose missions trips based on where your church could support, sponsor, or send people to help start or accelerate church planting? The natural outcome of sharing Christ is seeing people accept Christ and become disciples. The outcome of making disciples is starting new groups. Ultimately, the outcome of new believers making disciples and building new groups is starting new churches. Nothing will invigorate your church and students more than seeing this type of kingdom expansion take place.
— Adapted from an article from the NAMB website.