Saturday, October 31, 2015

How to organize a mission trip : F.A.Q.

This question comes in from MacKenzie. She wants to know how to organize a mission trip. MacKenzie is a new youth minister, and it is falling to her to organize a mission trip for the students. She is asking about what to pack for a mission trip and about travel, as well as how to plan it all.

As you can see, MacKenzie has her work cut out for her. I'll start with one thing that she didn't ask about regarding mission trips and that is team leader training. It helps mission trips go smoother when leaders are up to date on insurance, paperwork requirements and are guided on trip details. 

I have taken the team leader training from my denomination and found it invaluable. If you aren't sure if this is available, talk with your church pastor to find out what you can tap into.

Start looking at possible work sites after investigating training opportunities. Going abroad with minors is complicated. I like to stay close to home with kids under 18. Some churches 
 travel abroad successfully, but I personally choose to stay in the U.S.

Airplane Here are some points to ponder when traveling abroad:
  • Are youth allowed in the chosen country without a parents?
  • Last minute flights are expensive. Do parents have the resources to get to their child in the event of injury or illness? 
  • Is there sufficient insurance? 
  • Is a visa required? Is there enough time to get passports?
A good travel agent can be a mission trip leader's best friend. Travel agents receive a commission and cost nothing. Agents can handle sleeping arrangements, make airline reservations, secure the best prices and act as an advocate if something goes wrong (like missing a flight connection).

Social media and team meetings help keep everyone on the same page. I used our Facebook group page to post forms, travel advisories, the budget and area information. It was also a good place to photos, flight status and keep everyone updated at home.

Truck with packed trailerPacking for mission trips means meeting group and site needs. Some personal items are a hassle to deal with on an airplane. We stuffed those in my van along with VBS supplies. (I drove, they flew.) It's 1,000 wonders that my vehicle didn't pop open on the interstate like an overstuffed closet. 

If you are a Tetris champ, this is your time to shine! Download sample packing lists online and pack as compactly as possible. I've found that rolled clothing needs less space than folded. Always check TSA guidelines when flying for the current size limits of personal care items. Socks and small clothing pieces are great for filling small spaces left in luggage or backpacks.

Forms may be available from your denomination and should include a behavior agreement, emergency medical consent and contact sheet. A missioner profile should include allergy, optional medical information and physician contact information. A "how to organize a mission trip" tip is to put all forms in a brightly colored folder. My theory is that bright colors are easier to spot and more difficult to lose.

This is a brief overview and is probably not exhaustive. What would you like to add? Join our conversation by leaving a comment below.

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