Caring for Your Volunteers DURING the Mission Trip
It’s no secret that leaders are an important factor in your upcoming mission trip experience. Whether you’ve put together a dream team or begged for whatever adults would say yes, there are things you can do to walk alongside your leaders during the trip to help care for them.
Here are three simple things you can do to care for your volunteers during your next mission trip:
Entering a new context, getting on a new schedule, leading lots of teenagers all week—these can combine to form a really amazing week for adults on your trip. For these same reasons, of course, mission trips can also be demanding for the leaders you bring. That’s why your encouragement is vital to a positive experience for your volunteers.
Finding opportunities to encourage other adults on the trip can make all the difference! Look for the little things you can do as you serve alongside leaders. Let them know how much you appreciate them, both one-on-one and in front of the group. Offer affirmation when you see them doing things well. Acknowledge when things are hard. Check in to see if there’s anything you can do to help them have a great week. Even before the trip, plan on a few affirming things you can do, like getting them their favorite snack or bringing along some thank you cards to slide them during the week.
Don’t miss valuable opportunities to encourage your leaders during your mission trip. When you do, you’ll be strengthening your relationship with them and giving them a more positive mission trip experience.
Mission trips can be big in the faith development of students, but it doesn’t stop there. Time and again, leaders also gain a bigger perspective of God’s kingdom through their involvement in service experiences. That means they need some of the same conversational care as students. You can help do this!
Take time during the week to step aside with leaders and talk about what’s going on with them. Ask intentional questions and dig into their experience each day. Ask what was new, what was surprising, what was good and what was difficult. Listen carefully and ask follow-up questions.
When you process with leaders, you just might help them open their eyes to the things God is doing in and through them during the week. At very least, though, you’ll be showing them an example of what it looks like to process with the students they are helping lead.
As your group engages with the community, they will likely encounter situations that they don’t completely understand, especially if the culture of the community is different than their own. The danger is that what is unexpected can quickly be categorized as negative. When unexpected interactions occur, you can help your leaders know how to respond by contextualizing those experiences.
Contextualizing goes beyond processing. Whereas processing helps a person name what happened, contextualizing exposes the bigger picture of what’s going on. For example, imagine your group meets a man in a homeless shelter who doesn’t seem at all thankful for your help organizing food. Leaders are disheartened by the way he speaks to some of the students, and they tell you that this put a damper on the entire day. Processing will help leaders name what happened and affirm their feelings along the way. Contextualizing, though, moves toward understanding. You can ask questions like, “Why do you think the man responded that way?” and “What can we learn from this situation?” These will move the conversation past the experience toward deepened understanding.
Contextualization doesn’t require you to have all the answers. What it does require is curiosity, teachability, and positivity. When you positively engage as a learner with unexpected situations that arise, you give your leaders permission to do the same.
Your intentionality with volunteers during the trip can make their experience great! But pan out a little and it’s easy to see that a great experience for leaders trickles down to a great experience for students. So take care of your students by taking great care of the leaders who have sacrificed their time and energy to join you on your mission trip!