We’ve been here before… Our annual summer mission trip is just around the corner and we’re pulling leaders out of our….directories. How did this happen again this year? I was so good at planning ahead. Then badda bing, badda boom, it’s May!
Well, before you do anything you’ll end up regretting, pray. Right—I know you’ve already been praying, and “pray first” is a Christian cliche. But the truth is, when it’s crunch time, panic often takes over, and dependence on Jesus is the first thing to go. Jesus has studied your trip and knows all the in’s and out’s—but “you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4;2).
No matter how many adults I take on a trip, I always want these five somewhere in the mix if at all possible…Click to tweet
So, in the midst of your asking, try looking at your problem through a new lens. Consider the “types” of leaders you need before you scour through the names. Knowing what you need can better direct who you need to ask.
Depending on how robust your registration is, you may need more than five volunteers. If so, you’ll need to backfill with additional adults. If you find your registration doesn’t warrant five adult leaders, be judicious in your choices. Consider…
- What type of work will you be doing?
- How far will you be traveling from home?
- What types of personalities would lend additional cohesion to your adult leader team?
No matter how many adults I take on a trip, I always want these five somewhere in the mix if at all possible…
1. The Marginally Connected Parent: Find a parent you know…kind of. They’ve been on the fringe of your ministry for a while—amiable, but uninvolved. Mission trips are a great way to get reticent parents to connect with the ministry (and Jesus!) in a deeper way. And sometimes the fringe benefit is them getting to see their kid in a different light, and vice versa!
I had a dad who would always arrive early to pick up his freshman son. Not early like, “C’ mon kid, I got things to do,” but more like, “I kinda dig watching all this from a safe distance—it looks fun.” After building a relational foundation through conversation over a few weeks, and getting to know his faith story, I was confident he’d be a great trip leader. I invited him and he agreed. The next year, he was a small group leader. The mission trip was an easy onramp into something he was curious about, but a little afraid of!
2. The Medically Trained Adult: Someone is going to get hurt, throw up, suffer cramps, or maybe something more serious. Bringing someone along who can help identify how serious the problem is, and what next-level medical stuff needs to happen, is crucial. Most of us dread sitting in the ER when an ice pack and a few ibuprofen will do the trick.
After 30 years in youth ministry, I’ve had plenty of “this isn’t as bad as it seems” moments and a few “this is way worse than I realized” moments. I’ve never been more grateful for a nurse than the day a sophomore boy was passing a kidney stone (his first ever). We were three steps from the bus leaving for a day at the amusement park. She recognized his symptoms (which I thought were just a result of orange juice and Funyuns for breakfast) and directed one of the other leaders stay back with him. He ended up hospitalized for three days—the stone had to be “removed” for him. That would not have been fun on the top of the world’s highest roller coaster.
3. The Small Group Leader/Key Volunteer: We all have them. There is an adult in your ministry that you’re thinking of right now who can probably do your job as well, if not better, than you. That person loves Jesus, connects well with teenagers, knows how to serve, understands your blind spots and is generally a God-send.
I’ve had at least two in every ministry I’ve led. I always take them both. Someone has to be my brain! And I need someone who can lead a small group, read a spreadsheet, ask the right questions to help me see what’s missing, and then drive the church van to pick it up. This year, one of my key leaders is moving out of state. After I recovered from my panic attack, I asked her to start training some other folks on how to be her (something I should’ve started a while ago!).
Pouring into a younger generation of leaders is vital. And bringing them along on a mission trip is a phenomenal way to let them see “behind the veil” of what it takes to do ministry in the trenches.Click to tweet
4. The College Student: Pouring into a younger generation of leaders is vital. And bringing them along on a mission trip is a phenomenal way to let them see “behind the veil” of what it takes to do ministry in the trenches. Likely, this will be a former teenager in your ministry. I recommend a three-year gap between their senior year of high school and joining your volunteer team. It gives them a chance to mature a little and helps your current high schoolers to recognize the age gap.
Most of the college students I’ve invited to lead on mission trips with me have ended up in the mission field or serving in youth ministry down the line. All of them have said, “Wow, I had no idea how much work went into all of this.”
5. The Deacon/Elder/Board Member: Has anyone in your church’s leadership ever asked you what you do all day? Did you ever feel compelled to print out your calendar to justify your hours to the church secretary? Was it ever assumed that youth ministry trips would be vacation time for you? Take someone from your church leadership team on the next mission trip. It’ll never happen again!
Nothing feels better than watching a church leader rise to your defense when someone questions your work ethic or your ministry’s “degree of difficulty.” If they’ve seen it, they believe it. And they won’t mind telling others about it, packing the weight of their political “clout” when they do.
And while you’re at it, invite your senior pastor/leader. It’s never a bad idea for him or her to see you (and your team…and your teenagers) in action!