Do you remember your first mission trip experience as a teen or young adult? Your memories probably include the anticipation that led up to the day of departure, talking with your friends about what you thought the experience might be like, even recalling the events of the experience after returning home. There is nothing quite like knowing that you have been able to help or contribute in some way to those in need and share the love of Jesus with people all over the world.
What you might not remember is all of the planning and preparation your church leaders conducted for that trip. However, it is in large part thanks to that groundwork that your first mission trip experience was a positive one, filled with great moments and memories. As a church leader, it is now your turn to make sure those who attend your mission trips have that same positive experience and can focus on the purpose of their mission: sharing the love of Jesus.
What to Do Before the Trip
Several items should be taken care of before the trip. Start with researching your destination.
· How far will you travel?
· What kind of work will you do?
· Where will your church group stay?
· What kind of emergency services are nearby?
These are all essential questions to ask as you learn about and choose your destination. If you are traveling out of the country, it may be wise to check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for recommended immunizations and health concerns for your destination. Additionally, check the state department website for safety information on your travel spots.
Supervision is another essential element to determine before the trip. Make sure assigned staff and chaperones are fit to participate in the activities and the work scheduled. Additionally, each staff member must have a completed background check and proper training before the day of departure. If you do not have medically trained personnel as part of the staff, schedule a day for CPR, Basic First Aid, and concussion identification training. If an incident occurs during the trip, you will be equipped to immediately assist the affected person until they can be transported to an emergency facility.
Hold an orientation meeting with the staff, trip attendees, and parents. This session is your time to review trip details—including accommodations, activities, and work—and answer any questions the group may have. Address any specific items your group should be aware of, such as necessary vaccinations or whether it is safe to drink the water in that location. Remind parents and attendees that permission slips, waivers, consent to treatment forms, and all other forms of needed documentation must be submitted before departure. Review emergency plans with attendees as well during this meeting.
During Your Mission Trip
Once your church group has arrived at your destination and settled in, remind participants once again of the emergency plan, who to contact if an emergency occurs, and any other location-specific details needed. Review the importance of using the “buddy system” throughout the trip and to always alert a staff member of where they are going before they leave the group. Go over the trip itinerary and answer any questions attendees may have.
It may be wise to conduct a nightly check-in with your staff to take note of any minor incidents that occurred during the day. Make sure each staff member is comfortable with the number of volunteers they are responsible for supervising. This is also a chance to remind staff members of the itinerary for the following day and to answer any questions they may have.
As you head home at the end of your trip, remind trip attendees that the buddy system and emergency plan are still active until they are reunited with their parent or guardian. Supervision of trip attendees should continue throughout the traveling process as well. Make sure there are at least two staff members present at your church or designated meeting location. Staff members should make sure each trip attendee departs with their corresponding parent/guardian. Put away all equipment and before your fellow staff members head home set a date for a debriefing meeting to discuss the trip and plan improvements for the next trip.
Following these guidelines may not help you avoid every type of incident, but it willprepare you for potential emergencies and minimize the risk of accidents and injuries. For more church safety resources, visit ARM’s Church Safety page.
Elizabeth Camps is a writer and public relations specialist for Adventist Risk Management