Trip Planning Tips
World Prayer Tabernacle, Louisiana
With a call for missions on your life and zeal in your heart to share that burning passion with others, you began to dream of taking your church on the mission field. You envisioned praying and ministering to those needing to hear the gospel message for the first time, as well as feeding and providing the basic necessities of life to those without the means to do for themselves. But as you allowed those dreams to ruminate, you began to ask yourself-–Where do I go from here? How do I physically get my team from the US to a foreign destination? What information do I need to collect? How do I calculate trip costs? How do I keep track of trip receipts and trip expenses?
Do these thoughts sound familiar to you? If so, I can relate. This was me about a year ago. Even though I consider myself a rookie on the mission field, with three trips to Guatemala within a recent 15-month time period, I’ve learned a few things. I’d like to share a few tips with the hopes that they will help you successfully plan and execute your next mission trip.
Tip #1 SELF-ASSESSMENT
Planning a mission trip involves a lot of details and a decent amount of record keeping and paperwork. If you are not a detailed, administrative-type person, find someone with those gifts to help you.
Tip #2 PLAN
Plan and think through the logistics of the trip. Where are you going? What are the accommodations? How many team members can you take? How do you get there? Plain, train, submarine? Are there physical requirements in order to participate on the trip? How much does it cost to travel to the destination? Research all travel prices in order to set a trip cost. Preparation precedes blessing. All the details have to be thought through before asking others to join the trip.
Tip #3 ADVERTISE THE TRIP WAY IN ADVANCE
Participation in the mission trip often requires people to take time off work. And, if the destination is in a foreign country, a passport might have to be applied for. These things take time to plan. So, advertise the trip at least 6 months to a year in advance to give potential trip members the time needed to make these arrangements.
Tip #4 SET DEADLINES
Travel arrangements have to be made, information needs to be gathered, trip payments need to be collected--and people will procrastinate unless deadlines are set. Establish a deadline for each trip milestone, whether it is a payment due date or paperwork task. Deadlines are great for everyone.
Tip #5 APPLICATION APPROVAL PROCESS
A thorough application process is vital for collecting necessary team member information, but it is also an important tool to facilitate approval of the team member’s participation and acquiring signed liability waivers and financial agreements. Furthermore and this is where the mom in me kicks into high gear--make sure you have all the information you need to successfully care for that individual throughout the trip. Ask medical history questions. Ask about medications and allergies. Do not skimp on your attention to the application.
Tip #6 COMMUNICATION
This step cannot be over-emphasized. You cannot over-communicate when it comes to planning and executing a mission trip. Get trip participants’ email addresses, and bombard them with information! Send them a welcome email when their application is approved. Remind them of important deadlines. Send them flight itinerary info once airfare is booked. Send them info on what to pack and what not to pack (the latter is more important than you may think). The more information you send, the better. Have trip member meetings, demonstrating the type of luggage or other items they may need. Talk about climate and dress code. Communication and clarification are key to ensuring that the trip goes smoothly.
Tip #7 KEEP RECEIPTS OR AN EXPENSE JOURNAL WHEN TRAVELING
The accountant in me is showing with this one. It is very important that the money entrusted to the church for the trip is accounted for with excellence and integrity. A reconciliation of trip expenses should be submitted to the church office when the trip is over. When traveling to a foreign destination, there is often a certain amount of cash that is brought and exchanged for local currency. Keeping a record of how the cash is spent is of utmost importance. Keep receipts, if available. For tips and other purchases that do not have a receipt, write these disbursements in a journal. When traveling, I found it was best to record all the cash purchases in a journal each night when I returned to my hotel room. It is much easier to recount the day and account for how much was spent each night rather than trying to remember it all at the end of the trip.
Tip #8 PLAN TEAM MINISTRY AND DEBRIEFING TIME
I learned this one the hard way. I was so zealous for what we were going to accomplish on the trip, I forgot that God was using the trip experience to work in the trip members’ hearts. Take time throughout the trip to minister to the team members and to allow them to share what God is doing in their hearts. A debriefing session the night before you return home is also a great way to help the team members process everything that God did in and through them during the trip.
Keep in mind that mission trips are as unique as the destinations themselves. Each one has a different ministry focus, different culture to consider, and different team members participating. But each trip will only be successful and help generate excitement for future trips if it is planned carefully.