Top 10 Dos + Don'ts When Going on a Mission Trip
I am the Mission Director for World Missions Outreach.
I have attended and lead teams for over 17 years. Which means I have seen the great, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the really ugly side of mission trips.
This is a detailed guide from someone who is going to shoot it to you straight without the fluff.
Here are my "Top 10 Dos + Don'ts When Going on a Mission Trip" that will help you prepare for your trip and make the most of your experience.
The Glamorization of Poverty
-Don't: #DontDoItForTheGram If you find yourself thinking about how many likes you are going to get while holding this shoe-less kid, that you can’t even remember the name of, while perfectly placed by this trash pile…. You need to put the kid down. Step away from the child. Check yourself. Only return when you are ready to actually learn their name.
-Do: Be a voice for the voiceless and a face for the forgotten. It is important to share the stories of those who have lost hope and feel forgotten. It is important to give a voice to those who don’t have a way to be heard. It is important to put a name with a face and a face to a story. However; with telling someone else’s story there comes a great responsibility. If you are going to tell someone’s story then you need to be prepared to create a call to action and help be the change that turns the page into a new chapter.
1 Create a plan.
2. Find solutions.
3. Recruit supporters to help.
4. Combat the adversity.
5 Change the outcome of the story
2. Promises and Relationships
-Don’t: Make Promises you can’t keep. If you don’t mean it. Don’t Say it. Everyone can get caught up in the moment when you are in the middle of a program and experiencing extreme conditions for the first time. It Is easy to say, “yes”, when a child asks you if are coming back, or if you will bring them something they ask for next time you come. If you say, “yes”, but fail to do so then you are creating a distrust and barrier between the individual and the mission. When you have, what seems like nothing, trust becomes everything.
-Do: Create Relationships that have longevity. If you say it, mean it. If you mean it, do it! Hold yourself accountable and stand by your word. If you intend to build relationships that will continue even after your trip, then learn their names, learn their stories, listen to how you can help (not how you think you can help), take time to think about the information you have gathered before jumping into a resolution that you don’t know if it is even possible. Under promise, over-deliver.
3. Your goals is to eventually work yourself out of a job.
-Don’t: Be ok or complacent with just masking the symptoms of poverty or adversities. Masking the symptoms is only a temporary fix. Reality is, that is just a self-gratifying, feel good, and a pat yourself on the back moment. That mentality has more to do with you than it does with making an impact on the ones you are serving. With providing just a one-time hand out there is no longevity for changing the future or ending the cycle of poverty Yes, those get people by and help for the moment, but what about tomorrow? Next week? Next year? The rest of life? Do bring intentional items that people can use as an act of hospitality and not your reason for being there.
-Do: Focus on providing a hand up, not just a hand out. Your focus should be on combating the root or cause of the adversity. For World Missions Outreach we do that through self-sustainable education, spiritual development and providing nutrition. This will never be an overnight operation, but each day is a step to ending the cycle for the now and future generations to come. Providing the fundamental tools of education will last a life time.
4. Bringing your talents + wisdom to the trip!
-Don’t: Don’t be the elephant in the room. Don’t be afraid to jump in. If public speaking isn’t your thing – that’s ok! Just don’t stand off in the corner and be afraid to join in. Don’t wait for someone else to have to ask you to participate. Don’t let the fear of “serving wrong” hold you back!
-Do: Challenge yourself to bring your talents and skill set to the table. Be ready, prepared, and willing to participate with whatever your strengths are… or aren’t! Be available to jump in where there is help needed. Be ready to share your skill set or wisdom! Bring something of knowledgeable interest or benefit that you can equip people with when you have the opportunity. Prepare practical lessons that will leave an impact and be relevant even after your visit is finished and your trip is over.
5. The mission Is still running 365 days of the year – even after your trip is over.
-Don't: Just because your bags are packed and your trip is over, doesn’t mean that the missions is over. Don’t go home and share your experience to get the affirmation of doing a good thing and then forget about the mission that provided the opportunity for you. The mission is still running, with or without you.
-Do: When the team leaves, the relationship doesn’t have to end. Short term missions are developed to create relationships to run the mission and continue the work you personally invested your time into. Do continue to invest in the mission that provided you the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ. Do create relationships with the intent of maintaining them with longevity. Do continue to support the vision and goals of the missions by finding ways to stay involved, stay connected, and to allow it to continue to fulfill its purpose of ministry.
6. Be available to simply listen and Learn
-Don’t: be the know it all. You can research and prepare as much as you want too, but do not undermine the people with first-hand experience who spend their daily life running the mission. If you haven’t experienced it – then don’t try and tell them how to do their job.
-Do: Listen. Be open to learning new things. Try new things. Let yourself enjoy experiencing the culture. It is ok to share suggestions, insight, or ideas; but pick your timing wisely. If you are in the middle of an outreach program then it is probably not the appropriate time.
7. Flexibility without contingencies.
Don’t: Guess what? You are in a 3rd world country and things may not always go exactly as planned – and that has to be ok! Don’t get frustrated or upset because plans change. It happens. It is often out of anyone’s control. Do not be demanding. Don’t catch an attitude or be the Debbie downer of the group because of it.
Do: Be flexible without contingencies. Do have a positive attitude. Do be encouraging and supportive of what the alternative plans are. Do have a go with the flow mentality. Do volunteer to help create solutions. Do show up with the right heart of understanding this is not about you – but about sharing Christ’s love for others. Be humble. Be kind. Be a team player. You are here to serve.
8. Live in the moment.
Don’t: get so caught up in making sure you capture every moment of your camera, that you forget to experience the actual moment.
Do: Bring your camera or your phone! We don’t mind you having them or capturing moments. Just remember to always ask permission before you snap. Take in every part of the trip – cultural and ministry. The kids love being able to instantly see themselves on your camera! It is a great way to connect and communicate through smiles and giggles, especially when there is a language barrier. We get that you probably have sponsors or donors who helped fund your trip and want to see photos! We will help snap as many as you need. Remember to choose your timing wisely and be respectful of people’s homes and privacy while on location. We want you to remember their faces and share their stories. Telling someone about your trip is cool, but sharing a photo that speaks louder than any words is truly a powerful tool to help allocate more support and awareness for the mission.
9.. You are the gate keeper of your trip experience.
Don't: You are going to have highs and lows on your trip. How you handle them will reflect the outcome of your experience. If something goes wrong, don’t let it ruin yours or the rest of the groups remaining time and experience. If someone say’s something you don’t like, eats your last fiber bar without asking, your flights delayed, your luggage gets lost, a bug was spotted in your room, or you didn’t get your self-claimed seat on the bus – DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT let it get the best of you. We all have pet peeves, but suck it up buttercup. It’s a week long trip. You will survive. You will be ok. The world is not over. The world does not revolve around you. Please, do not get an attitude and make everyone around you feel tension, awkward, uncomfortable, or bad over it. This will tarnish your experience and ultimately you are the only one to blame if you choose to pout in the corner while everyone else is having fun.
We even had someone chop half their finger off… Shout out to Bruce! Bruce still supports and returns to World Missions Outreach to serve without contingencies! If he can, you can. There really are no excuses for ruining your own trip.
Do: Get over it! If you need a moment – take your moment. Then come back and join the group and let it go. You control your happiness. You control your attitude. How you decide to manage the two will reflect on how your trip goes. Breathe. Grow. Allow yourself to have fun. Again, you are here to serve – not be served. Lighten up. I promise, a mental shift to letting the little things go will turn your trip around. You might even learn something new, grow and discover that you are capable of more than you even know!
10. Communication is vital
Don't: If you have an issue with your food, room, toilet, water, health, etc., don’t complain behind closed doors to others and create a divide between the mission and the team. Do not get upset because we are not aware of the issue. We can’t read your mind. We are not here to be your babysitter or coddle you. We are here to be hospitable host who want you to enjoy and get the most out of your trip. Do not get an attitude, do not be rude, do not be disrespectful, undermining, or entitled. Do not yell or raise your voice at anyone. You will be asked to pack your bags and be provided an immediate ride to the airport. No excuses. No exceptions. This behavior will not be tolerated. Ever.
Do: If something is wrong, please tell us! Don’t be afraid to communicate your concerns, we want to know. We will do our very best to accommodate you and resolve any issue or concerns that may come up. Talk to us. We will listen. We will accommodate you. We will help you with making your experience the best it possibly can be! Heck, I will move mountains to find unicorn tears if you just ask nicely. Be kind. Be humble. After all, you are here to serve others – not to be a “vacationary”. #sorrynotsorry
World Missions Outreach is looking for a beneficiary partner to help us continue providing a future for students though education + the ability to keep our school doors open.
We are offering the opportunity to partner with 1 or all 3 of our schools for naming rights to recognize your dedication + financial support.
Together we can end the generational cycle of poverty through education. We want you to be part of the way we are revolutionizing missions through education.
Together we rise! So now the only question is, will you lend us your name?