Disclaimer: Short-term mission trips have been a key part of my spiritual journey. I have had the opportunity to participate as a teen and as an adult and have made them a key part of my ministry strategy at Grand Bay Baptist Church. I have been part of or led over 20 trips and I truly believe that they are incredible discipleship opportunities and well worth the time and financial investment. Tidal Impact is one of my favourites!  With that in mind, I thought I would offer these “tips” on how to lead a terrible mission trip. Just in case you’re not the best at sarcasm, these are not real pieces of advice… read them, laugh at the exaggeration and then seriously look at your mission trip strategy and see if there isn’t some truth in here… I know there is for me.  

  1. Don’t bother meeting regularly as a team before it’s time to go. I mean really… what is this going to accomplish? As if your evenings aren’t all booked up already with those committee meetings… am I right? Good news… this is one less thing for you to worry about. Just pull the team together at the last minute and everything will be ok. There is no need to take time for regular team-building, training, and biblical and theological reflection. Trust me.
  2. Focus on the Practical Training. If you insist (or are forced by your board) to get the team together before hand make sure you focus completely on the skills that your team is going to need while they away. Prepare that skit, children’s program, or maintenance skill and make sure it stops there. There is no need to spend time as a team looking at passages like Luke 4, Matthew 5, or Ephesians 2:8-10. And do not, I repeat do not, take time to pray together. You have more important things to get done before you leave right?
  3. Make Sure the Focus is on Doing and not on Learning. While you are away make sure that you get everything done that you planned on accomplishing. Prioritize this over everything else. Don’t bother wasting time each evening debriefing with your team and asking team members where they saw God at work or what He is teaching them. Instead, use that valuable time to paint that wall or build that thing. Remember, it is about doing, not about learning or discipleship.
  4. Remember that you know more than the people you are going to “serve.” Therefore, there is no reason to take time to learn about the context and culture that you are going to serve in or listen to their thoughts on how something should be done. Remember, you know best. Take charge and get it done. If this means that you have to be a jerk and hurt peoples’ feelings, so be it.
  5. When it is over, it is over. Ahhhh… the trip is done and now you don’t need to look at those smelly little pests again! You’ve done it! Whatever you do, don’t get them back together after you get home to debrief about what they’ve learned or experienced (If you’ve listened to my other advice this wont be much anyway). And most importantly, do not reflect with them on how to apply what they’ve learned to their own context and how to live missionally in their own neighbourhoods. The trip is over… your work is done. Now forget all about it and get back to life as usual.

– Adrian (@AdrianDGardner)