I started my 14th year in youth ministry this past summer and I've lead at least one foreign soil mission trip EVERY year of youth ministry. England, Mexico, Uganda & Costa Rica are all the locations we've been.
I LOVE THE EXPERIENCE WITH STUDENTS!
I have held to this conviction for a long time; if you want to see a students life changed allow them to see a close friend begins relationship with Jesus and take them on a missions trip.
Over the years I've found a system that works well for me in how we accomplish a healthy initiative led trip. Each trip brings a few adjustments but the base principles stay the same.
I have two blog posts to share these personal learnings that will hopefully help you with a new idea or encourage you to expand on your own process.
The key to any healthy trip is Organization. Youth Leaders you will save yourself hours of sleep, you'll gain parents confidence quicker, minimize tough conversations en route & allow students a better experience if you are organzied.
Take the time to gain as many details before the trip as possible. Be anal retentive about the details you need or think you'll need! Do you have all legal documents with you & at home? Do you have transportation covered? Do you have petty cash because that church credit card won't work overseas? Do you have a emergency contact system?
This organization factor is also have a backup plan to the "what if" scenario. What if you miss your flight? You are stopped & separated at an international border? A student or leader gets severely sick?
Give ample time to publicize all the "W's". The Where you are going? Why you are going there? When you leave? Who is leading the trip? What students can expect to experience before, during as well as after the trip?
Field questions ahead of time but thinking through the questions people will have and provide those during information & training meetings. Post it socially as well as through email updates to families.
Recruit well for Missions trips. You do not need nor do you want a leader on the trip who will add stress or be high maintenance for you. Your time and attention is critical and you need adult leaders you can trust and share the ministry with.
You also need to train, inform & include your leaders with as many internal conversations as possible. Be sure they know their boundaries of what is expected of them but also be sure to give them freedom. Care for them well on these trips as most of them are leaving family, taking vacation time & sacrifices the same thing you are for the sake of students. Take leaders with you who you can trust a peer leader.
I've always sorted students into teams with 1-2 leaders per team. This allows you as the youth pastor to leverage several possibilities. Your "team leaders" just became small group debriefing leaders. When teams need to own a specific event, serving function, through border customs, out to eat or anything else you now have the power of sending teams that you already have divided up.
Splitting up into teams also allows you & the other leaders to do a head count a whole lot easier which let's be honest seems to be a factor with every plane change, bus transfer, taxi cab ride from the moment you leave until you get home.
If you don't know it let me be the first to tell you, your trip will NOT go as planned. You need to talk through the serious what if factors.
For example: On a missions trip we had a motor vehicle accident that affected 3 of our leaders. Now the injuries were minor but they were still a factor. We didn't plan that.
On another trip I had a student make a poor judgement call that forced us to sit at a border crossing for almost 2 hours being inspected. I definitely did not plan nor want this issue!
These couple incidents as well as others were easily handled for the rest of the group to keep moving forward because of the pre-planning PLAN Z we had already in the group plan & strategy.
Take some time with your team before you leave to know what the plan is & the parameters of how to enact the plan if a issue arrises.
Next post we'll talk about some ideas to do while on the trip & post trip followup~
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