In leading a great group of 14 students and 7 adults to Nicaragua this summer, I learned a lot how to have a successful mission trip.  I also learned a lot about how not to have a successful trip.  Overall, the trip exceeded our expectations.  Let’s continue with some things I deemed essential to our success this summer.  Check out the first 3 here.

4) Train your team.  
Our training started in February, and we met once a month for about 90 minutes each time.  It was invaluable for all of us to be comfortable with each other before we left on the trip.  The first four meetings we had a designated time where team members had to sit down with 3 people they didn’t know and fix that.

We also used this time to educate them on what was expected of them during the trip (see point 5 below), and answer any and all questions that came up.  On our last training meeting, they were out of questions!  If you do a trip, don’t neglect training your team before the trip!

Sorting

5) SUFA.
Did he just curse at me?  Now, now.  SUFA is the acronym for the expectations we had of every team member.  It was given to me by someone at the Concord First Assembly Leaders Summit, and it proved invaluable for our training.

Servanthood – Display a servant’s heart at all times. (Philippians 2:5-8, Matthew 20:26-28)
Unity – Strive towards team unity for maximum effectiveness. (Ephesians 4:3, Psalm 133:1)
Flexibility – Things will not go according to plan. Be flexible.  (Philippians 1:27, Romans 8:28)
Attitude – No matter what happens, you can always control your attitude.  (Philippians 2:5-8, Galatians 5:22)

I spoke on one of the points on each week of our training after introducing it the first week.  Pop quizzes all around!  The team picked up on it well and called each other out on it before and during the trip!

6) Support Letters
God provided for our team.  Big time.  That’s another post for another day, but the main way that students paid the cost of their trips was to humble themselves, write a letter, and ask for both prayer and financial support.  We required every team member to write one and send out at least 30-50 copies to people outside of the church.  (I didn’t actually verify the number, just that each person had written and sent one.)

Aside from getting financial backing, the support letter let people know that we needed prayer.  I told our team that I was not going to go if we didn’t have people praying for us!  There’s just too much that can go wrong on a trip like this!  I firmly believe this was one of the factors that caused us to have a great trip.

Leaders

7) Welcome other adults.
You do not want to be leading a dozen or more students overseas by yourself.  If a sane, supportive parent shows interest, welcome them on board!  You will need their help along the way.  We had seven adults total, including myself, which allowed me to distribute quite a bit of the responsibilities and tasks in preparation and execution.

Stay tuned as I wrap up this series next week!

Have you been on a missions trip?  What was your favorite part of the experience?

Photos courtesy of Nancy Ray