I'm starting to see lots of publications and such about mission trips for 2005. If you are putting that together, I don't think you are too early. In fact, I know that I am late.
I thought I might be helpful to some if I shared how I go about it and what kind of information I publish.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Know your audience
All the information I publish almost always gets in an adult's hand. Trying to be witty because you are a wild and crazy youthworker seldom works, even in fun.
- Be professional
The information you give out is a big reflection on who you are. You are a professional, make sure your info packs reflect it.
- Error on more detail
When I put together packets for a NYC team in 2002, I included every possible task that the coordinating mission agency gave me. One of them was 'ministry to prostitutes.' Oh, did I mention it was a trip limited to high school guys? There were some fun interchanges there. Seriously though, a few parents had some very legitimate concerns about that, which forced me to call the mission agency and get some things clarified. The clarification was totally what was needed between me as the team leader, and the parents who were entrusting me with their kids. Very healthy. Most people will appreciate knowing more information, and if they have concerns, will approach you with them. It is a good thing.
- Put yourself in the other person's shoes
Just remember that, most of the time, we are asking parents to do a big thing - send your kid with me, to a new place, far away, doing new experiences, with a team of people that are all new. It's a big deal. Don't act like they are demanding the world of you just to get some more information or some clarity.
And you know, if they take the risk and send their child, if you have done your legwork and lived up to your part of the deal, their child will grow in phenomenal ways.
Things You Must Have:
- Why are we doing this?
Always, always, always. Hopefully, your mission trip is not based on your own personal travel whim. If it is, please stop. Talk about the need, the demographic, the background, what the calling is about.
- What ministry skills or tasks?
What does the actual ministry look like? I've been talking to a church planter about a team coming to help him a few years down the road. He was a bit worried that prayerwalking would be too boring for students. I told him no way, that they would love it, which is a truth. But be honest in your information packet.
- How to get in on the deal and when?
Give people specific things they must do with specific timelines. For our trips, we always have them fill out an application. It's a good formal step for students, a good sign of commitment for the rest of the process. I'm thinking about making interviews for overseas trips mandatory.
- Any required other meetings or training?
All of our teams go through some team preparation and we tell them those dates right in the packet. We also tell them that if they can't make the meetings, they need to seriously contemplate their involvement in the trip. I've also been thinking about a weekend retreat context instead of these periodic meetings.
We collect a deposit and we tell people that the cash guarantees a spot. Hey, money talks.
A few of the really good examples that I have found so far:
- Mexico Missions, Los Altos UMC, Los Altos, CA, April 2005, including lots of links to downloadable forms
- Jonny Baker's trip to India
- First Pres of Nashville's listing of trips, with links for applications. (This is also Mark DeVries' youth ministry, the guy that wrote Family Based Youth Ministry.)
I'm sure there are way more and better ones. If you know of one, send or comment and I will collect into another later post.