Ten Commandments for a Successful Mission Trip
Some practical policies for maximizing safety and spiritual connection
BY: Paul Raushenbush
Most arrangements take longer than expected. Having extra time allows for closer attention to details and a safer, more enjoyable trip.
II. Choose your program with care.
Make it your business to know the mission statement of the program and find out who runs the operation. You want to be working with an institution that shares the values and principles of your group.
III. Get your group involved in the planning.
Build excitement and commitment by allowing some basic decisions to be made by the group. Responsibility is then shared by everyone.
IV. Fundraise. Fundraise. Fundraise.
Not only does raising money help lower the cost to each group member, it helps the group bond. Asking for support forces your group to articulate what they are going to do and why it is important. Hold a bake sale, ask colleagues, convince your service organization or religious institution that these kinds of programs deserve consideration in the budget-be creative!
V. Know the climate and demographics of the place you are going.
Nothing ruins a trip like being unprepared for cold nights or rainy days. Make sure your group is equipped to endure temperature and weather shifts. Sensitize your group to potential cultural differences between your group and the local people. Some understanding of basic religious and cultural traditions avoids serious miscommunication and promotes good will.
VI. Create a waiver.
It is absolutely necessary that every member of the group sign a waiver relieving the leader and the institution he or she represents from responsibility in the event of an accident. Don't be shy or embarrassed about requiring participants to sign this form. It is a common and necessary procedure. Remember, young people under the age of 18 must have parental consent.
VII. Make a list of necessities.
Make group members responsible for bringing their own work gloves, work boots, hat, suntan lotion etc. Tell them what you will provide as the leader: First Aid kit, emergency cash, etc. Each member of the group should pack one bag that is light enough to carry, and be responsible for all handling of that bag.
VIII. Set ground rules.
Tell your group what kind of behavior you expect of them (including a drug and alcohol policy). Anyone who can't agree to the rules cannot participate. Decide upon the consequences of unacceptable behavior ahead of time and make them known to the group.
IX. Set aside a time each day for reflection.
This trip may be one of the most important events in the lives of the group. Make sure there is an opportunity for sharing of experience, religious or spiritual reflection, and prayer or meditation. Challenge your group to go deep.
X. Have fun, maintain good humor, love your group!
Your attitude will be reflected by the group.