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How to Prepare Your Mission Trip Team to Serve

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D.J. Morgan D.J. is the Creative & Marketing Director for Experience Mission. He loves helping volunteers navigate their approach to serving others and loving their neighbors in order to serve in a healthy way.

“How do we prepare for a mission trip?”

Most mission trips are short. 1-2 weeks of intense serving, learning, and growing together as a group. That means the prep we put into our trips has a lot of influence over how well the experience goes. Below are 4 things we think are vital when preparing your mission trip team to serve on a short-term mission trip!

1. Bond as a Team

We serve others better when we're practicing loving, self-sacrificial, mutual relationships among each other. But this can be hard to do if you don't know your team members very well, or only have a surface-level relationship. So, as you prepare for your mission trip, it's important to set aside time to get to know each other on a deeper level before you go.

The best way to bond is through shared experiences, whether fun or tough, organic or manufactured—and you may have to manufacture some early on! This could look like fun ice-breaker activities at the start of each team meeting. (Side note: If you aren't planning to have Team Meetings, you should! View our EM's Pre-Trip Training & Team Meetings Outline for a detailed outline.) It could also look like serving together locally or at church on a Sunday morning to learn how your group functions in that environment. It's important that your bonding time include the opportunity to personally get to know each other, whether through wacky games or standing shoulder-to-shoulder on a service project.

2. Learn Together

One of the biggest mistakes we can make preparing for a mission trip is not taking the time to learn a little more about the community, culture, and struggle we're stepping into. Spend part of your pre-trip meetings asking and seeking answers to big questions related to your trip. Like, What is the historical context of the place we're going? What needs are present and what factors have created those needs? In what ways have people like ourselves been helpful or harmful in this setting in the past?

This is so critical to serving well! We are able to empathize and dignify others better when we know more of the story. We are humbled when a story is more complex than the simple stories we have heard in the past. We come ready to listen and learn more about what we don't already know, one of the best postures of service to others.

3. Pray Together

One of the best ways to prepare your heart and mind to serve is to invite God into this experience. Whether you pray as a group or provide guided prayer meditations for your team members on their own, prayer has a way of reminding us why we're embarking on this trip in the first place.

As you pray, invite God into this experience. Ask God to soften your heart to whatever this experience will be. Ask God to open your hands to give and also receive through the experience. Practice gratitude for the privilege to even take part in an experience like this. Ask God to open your eyes to what he is already doing in this community and how you might join in.

4. Focus on the “How”

When we set out to prepare for a mission trip, It can be so easy to spend our mental energy on the “what”—Where are we going? What is our project? Who are our partners? What will make this feel worthwhile? But, in doing so, we neglect to think about the “how”—our approach and posture toward this experience, the community we're entering, and the people whose homes we're being invited into. We invite all Short-Term Mission Trip teams to consider this:

How you serve others—not what you accomplish—is the actual legacy of your missions experience.

Ahead of your trip, engage your group in discussions about your posture, your biases, your mentality, and your agenda (whether overt or subconscious). Is this trip about what you've decided you're going to accomplish? Or is it about what God will do in the growing and meeting of his children?

Check out EM's Pre-Trip Training & Team Meetings Outline for meeting outlines and videos that encompass all of these things, and share our heart for missions and philosophy of serving, whether as a team or on your own. A meaningful mission trip experience awaits!


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