The Mission Prep Retreat: Everything in a Day and a Half

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2 billion dollars are spent annually on short term missions According to to Dr. Robert Priest, Professor at Missiology Professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The purpose of this article is not to ask whether that is too much, too little, useless, or useful. I simply want to say what I say to my students on every mission trip: “You paid time and money for this experience. I want to encourage you now to get the most out of your investment.”

To live that advice out, we planned a mission prep retreat to begin building momentum and excitement in January for our summer mission trip and planned it all in a day and a half! This made for a tough schedule the first month of the year, but we reap benefits from the strong start that we hope will continue throughout the spring and summer. Here are a few tips for planning your own Missions Prep Retreat:

1) Name it.

We called this retreat, “Asking the Right Questions” because it seemed to our team issues in youth missions can be boiled down to four “root” questions.

  1. Who sets the agenda?
  2. What is the work?
  3. What are the resources?
  4. How can I make this last?

2) Organize it.

We have four missions teams headed to different locations, focusing on different issues, and made up of different people. In the past we have tried to run four distinct training times for these four teams. This year, we put all those teams together for “big group sessions” with each session consisting of worship, interactive questions, and teaching on one of the big questions. After each big group session, people broke into team specific groups to eat, debrief, pray and do team building exercises.

Organize your main topics, your schedule, your worship leader, your rooms, your food, and your adult leadership teams (ideally the adults who will be participating in youth missions this summer).

3) Promote it.

When you change the way you have historically done something, especially when that something is a prerequisite, promote, promote, promote! Promote and invite through website, postcards, hand-written invitations, phone calls, announcements, paint the side of a building, send up a blimp, but whatever you do, don’t assume people automatically know what is going on. (If you need some promotion help, check out “The Three Cs of Promotion.”

4) Follow it up.

The trips I am leading this year are in May and July. My teams will need to meet again before then. They will need to turn in forms, copies of passports, and any medications, and they will need to be reminded how to hang out with their fellow team members in constructive ways. The bulk of the prep is over (Whew!) so relax, but don’t forget to schedule a pre-trip BBQ or something to follow up what you started.

You’ve reserved the trip location and the vans, called your adult leaders, recruited your students, and talked and prayed through the big questions. Now take a deep breath and enjoy your spring!

Additional resources:

Seven Standards of Excellence
HuffPost on 2 billion dollars and short term teams
Fuller Youth Institute missions prep and follow up guide
Chalmers Center on poverty alleviation and the local church

Image attribution: Christopher Futcher / Thinkstock

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Rebekah got her start in youth ministry at Christ Church in Montevideo, Uruguay and is now the Minister of Youth Discipleship at First United Methodist Church in Tulsa, OK. She earned her B.S. in Organizational Management and Ethics from Oklahoma Wesleyan University. Rebekah is married to her soulmate, Philippe. Together they like to drink mate, play soccer with their dogs, and dream of traveling the world. Rebekah has read Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy six times.

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