Okay, if you’ve read my piece on getting the support of your Pastor you may think your work is done. Not so fast, my friend! While the support of your Pastor is vital to a successful mission trip never underestimate the other leaders who hold keys to your trip vehicle. That’s not only a bit of clever imagery. In some cases there are those in the church who literally hold the keys. Our church required every adult to pass an online driver’s test in order to qualify to drive teens anywhere in church vehicles or rented vehicles. If you didn’t pass you didn’t go.
More important are the figurative key holders. These would be your church council, board of elders or other governing body. While a Pastor may be enthusiastically supportive for ministry reasons, board members are often driven by business interests and failing to pay close attention to those details could cause trouble for your trip. In my experience it’s the council members or elders (often business men and women) who bring up things like budget concerns, liability coverage, medical release forms, etc.
When it comes time to gain the wholehearted support of your church’s key leadership pay attention to these five keys:
- Budget – Have a sensible and transparent financial budget for your youth ministry in general and for the mission trip in particular. My rule of thumb was that the costs of major events in our youth ministry were split three ways; one third from the church budget, one third from fundraising and one third paid by students. That meant a $600 mission trip for 30 youth would have a $6000 line in the budget. A clear formula and a firm number helps show business type leaders you know what you’re doing.
- Liability Coverage – Know what kind of insurance coverage your church carries and what, if any, additional waivers need to be added to protect the church as the sponsor of your trip. Include any costs for additional coverage in the trip cost and the budget.
- Permission Forms – This is the oldest and most widely accepted practice so it shouldn’t be a surprise. Make sure there is a comprehensive trip permission form filled out by every participant.
- Risk Management Plan – When we traveled on our big annual mission trip each van (there were usually six or seven) had a trip book complete with maps, emergency numbers, itinerary, copies of permission forms and first aid kits. Beyond that, parents had the cell phone numbers for each adult chaperone. There’s a whole article on risk management in our archives. Check it out.
- Philosophy of Ministry – You should be able to clearly and succinctly explain to any leader or group of leaders your philosophy of youth ministry and how mission trips fit into that. If you can speak with authority about why you do what you do in all areas of youth ministry you’ll gain the confidence of leaders (except for those who disagree with your philosophy, but that’s a topic for another article).
There you go. Keep these five keys with you and it’ll be much easier to answer the questions that come your way from church leaders.