With the COVID-19 vaccine rolling out, churches may be thinking hopefully ahead to 2022 and beyond about ways to serve others across the miles for Jesus Christ. A mission trip is an ideal opportunity for the church to come together after spending so much time apart — given that the health and safety of all participants is fully vetted prior to in-person meetings and the trip itself.
We have entered a new time in our culture that we must be prepared to take extra steps going forward to mitigate any negative impact on the trip for all involved. It's always safe to brainstorm, but it's essential that we look into various factors before making firm plans. You'll need to research to see how issues will impact your mission ideas, such as the uncertainty of the vaccine rollout globally, travel bans, health concerns at your intended destination and visa needs and fees.
The following are tips for planning when it's safe to make your brainstormed trip a reality.
Drive awareness of the mission
Build awareness and excitement by announcing a mission trip with a short video recorded on a mobile phone and embedded into a presentation. (Tools like Canva can help bring polish to a presentation.) Talk about the goal, why the mission is important and how people can become involved. Announce it in the church blog. Build a landing page that provides an overview, including a strong call to action for next steps.
Everyone can be involved
Create levels of involvement that make it easy for all members and other interested people to participate immediately through...
- Engaging in prayer
Invite people to join a private Facebook group or receive reminders via email or text to regularly pray for the mission. Provide a weekly prompt on what to pray for during the week and set a specific time for people to pray for each day. (Consider setting a unique time for prayer, i.e. 7:12 a.m. or 7:12 p.m. each day for a mission that departs on July 12 or 7/12.) Ask people, including church staff, to pledge to pray for five minutes. At the appointed time, lead by example with your staff and members by stopping committee meetings or bible studies to pray for the mission to reinforce the church’s commitment.
- Collecting items
Most mission trips need material support. Create easy ways for people to donate what’s needed for the missioners. Create a signup list on Google Sheets or another tool so the team can track the commitments as received and to allow for easy follow up on pending donations. Also, consider setting up on site donation bins with a list of needed items posted above it in your lobby to keep needs top of mind.
- Getting funds
People don’t give money to organizations; they give to support the vision or the effect represented. How you communicate the mission trip needs can make the difference between someone giving or not. Create compelling stories to show how contributions make a difference. For example, a church mission trip to build a school in Africa can promote a catalog of needed items and the funding equivalent for each: $10 provides school books for a student; $25 provides a school uniform; $40 provides a backpack with hand-charging desk light; $100 provides tuition for a student to attend for a year. Set larger fundraising goals (computers, etc.) by arranging donor matching. Publicize the mission income goal, and regularly announce progress at church services, on social media, in emails and texts.
- Recruiting volunteers
Every mission needs support from in-person and virtual volunteers. Break down the efforts by specific tasks that people can complete in an hour or two. Volunteers could shop for needed items, pack donated items for transport or provide food for the trip.
Create a signup process for people to join the team, including members and the community. Host regular meetings using tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom or a private Facebook group for the team to stay connected and engaged.
Sending the team off
Make the departure day an event. Hold a Sunday service to pray over the team as a church family. Ahead of the service, ask members to write notes of encouragement for the team that can be passed on to the team leader to be read to the team during the trip. Host a sendoff gathering to pray for the team before they leave the parking lot.
Keeping connected during the trip
Church staff and/or volunteers at home should post daily activity updates on Facebook posts or Facebook Live. Post photos on the church’s Instagram account. Ask missioners to record short videos on what they’ve seen, done or felt while on the trip and to reflect on how they experienced God at work. Post these testimonial videos on the church’s public social channels or in private Facebook groups with the creator’s approval.
Celebrating the return
Invite the church to gather for the return, and host a celebratory meal. Schedule a service where people can share their experiences from the trip. Highlight what was accomplished by creating a highlight video or slideshow. Consider broadcasting the service so others can join or watch later.
Creating a final or annual report
Consider creating a written report to provide a comprehensive story of the need met, what the church did and the impact of the mission trip. This will help tell the story to others, and reinforce the significance for the missioners and those being served.
Though we may not be certain when mission trips can resume, no matter the year we're facing it's essential to start planning mission trips far in advance. There's no time like the present to start dreaming and strategizing about what the next trip may look like.
Mission trips provide an opportunity for both the participants and the whole church to experience the power of God to change the world. Take the time to get the whole church involved.
Eric Seiberling is part of a husband-wife duo working to help the church embody "1 > 99" at brokensheep.com. He leverages his 20+ years of marketing and consulting experience to help churches "baptize" and use secular techniques to be more effective at reaching the lost, the least and the last for Jesus Christ.