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Why You Need to Have Pre Mission Trip Meetings
By Josh Schack
Ah, the summer mission trip. A week-long getaway with your students to love, serve, and bless people. Given all the great things that happen on a mission trip, it’s no surprise that a week-long mission is commonplace in student ministries nation-wide. But have you ever considered that some of the most important work on mission trips can happen before your team ever leaves town? With all of the time, effort, and energy that goes into your mission trip don’t overlook the significance of good pre-trip training.
Solomon writes: “Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest” (Proverbs 20:4). We go on mission trips because we know that the spiritual ‘harvest’ can be great. But as you prepare for the harvest, is your preparation more like scattering random seed? Or putting your hand intentionally to the plow?
This intentional time, if used well, can reap incredible benefits well beyond your trip! Here are four that you may want to consider as you begin planning for your mission trips.
Pre-Trip Training provides a space for theological thinking
Do your students see your annual mission trip as a summer retreat, or do they see themselves as part of Jesus’ ongoing redemption of the world? Pre-trip training with a focus on good theology can help your team see their trip as part of God’s larger work in the world. At your next pre-trip training, consider incorporating time for a study on Revelation 21:1-7 or any other Biblical text that connects your work on the mission to the broader work of Redemption. Don’t limit this to just one pre-trip meeting. Make theological groundwork part of every pre-trip conversation you have with the group.
Pre-Trip Training provides a space for your team to bond
As an adult, it’s still difficult for me to walk into an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. Imagine how much more difficult this must be for teenagers! If the first time your mission team interacts with each other as a group is at the departure terminal at the airport, you’ve missed a giant opportunity. Pre-trip training can bring your team together ahead of departure day to break down walls, build relationships and trust, and create a sense of team unity before the stresses of the uncomfortable and unfamiliar hit on day one of the mission trip. At your next pre-trip training, consider incorporating a meal and/or a group activity to help get a step ahead on team bonding.
Pre-Trip Training gives your team a chance to sharpen their practical skills
While I have no idea what your week on a mission will look like, I do know that not everyone coming with your team possesses the skills necessary to “knock it out of the park” while you’re on a mission. How do I know? Because God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called to do His work. As the trip leader, it is your job to help put the tools God has given you in the hands of the people He has given you. Going to put on a VBS? Spend some pre-trip training time learning through experience…maybe your team should serve a few times in Children’s Ministry prior to your departure. Going to build something tangible? Invite a contractor from your congregation to come and show your team some of the skills they will need to know. Speaking from personal experience, I know that your team will feel much more confident in completing the work they’ve been called to if they already know how to swing a hammer when they arrive!
Pre-Trip Training sets your team up for successful re-entry
In the most loving way possible, if your team perceives that their call to mission has ended the day they get home, you’re doing something wrong. Mission trips have great potential to be the catalyst, the spark that ignites a desire for Jesus’ restoration of the world in your team. Coming home has the chance to be day 1 of your peoples’ renewed perspective on serving the world for Jesus. This shift of view from “last day” to “first day” is all in the way you, the trip leader, frame the experience & the opportunities you provide upon arriving home. In your next pre-trip training, consider asking your team to commit to some post-trip investment in the local community. You are not overstepping if you require your team members to make a commitment to serving locally as part of their mission trip. A sign-up for the trip to inner-city Chicago means a sign-up to the local homeless shelter upon their arrival home.
All in all, it’s fair to say that your trip can, of course, be accomplished without intentional pre-trip training in place. However, a thoughtful pre-trip training ‘curriculum’ can put your team ahead of the curve and help you leverage this week of Kingdom work to its maximum potential. Sure, you could grow a vineyard by simply scattering seed…but the best fruit is often picked from the vineyard with the most intentional farmers. Plant those seeds well, and you will reap a harvest.