Engaging Parents DURING Mission Trips
Parents have a HUGE role in the lives of students and their influence will typically far outweigh that of any youth worker. Even so, you don’t really want to take every parent on your next mission trip—which works out, because you probably don’t have enough van seats anyhow!
So how do we as youth workers help parents engage in the mission trip in meaningful ways?
Here are three simple ways you can help parents engage during your next mission trip:
Equip parents for prayer.
It’s simple but big. Ask parents to pray for the trip! But go one step further than asking: Equip them to pray! There are a couple ways you can do this.
Before the trip begins, send parents a list of prayer concerns. Include prompts like team dynamics, safety, good connections with the community, and opened eyes and hearts of students. You might even get creative and invite parents to pray for different things each day.
During the trip, you could send out prayer requests, asking parents to pray for specific concerns that arise. Of course, be careful that you don’t create concern on the part of parents. Be wise about what you share and how you share it with people back home during the trip.
Engage parents with updates.
Whether it’s a Facebook page, a text group, or an email list, get parents’ info and send them occasional updates during the trip. Be creative and strategic with what you share. Include pictures, a quick summary, and prayer requests.
This is a great task to delegate to a student or another leader, but take the time to read messages before they are posted or sent to parents. This can be a great opportunity to practice respectful story-sharing that promotes the dignity of those you serve in the community. If you are planning on sharing updates during the trip, make sure you have a solid plan in place before heading out.
The great part of sharing stories with parents and other supporters is that they’ll be able to experience a small piece of what happens in real time. This will encourage better questions and deeper processing after the trip.
Challenge parents with parallel experiences.
Although parents won’t come on the trip, you can encourage them to stretch, grow, and engage during the same timeframe as their teenagers. There are two big areas you can do this in:
First, give parents some of the same biblical material students will be engaging with during the trip. Invite parents to do the same devotions, read the same passages and answer the same questions as students each day. If you’re creating your own materials, it might mean taking a few minutes to tweak the content in ways that make sense for someone not on a mission trip.
The second area you can challenge parents in is service. Ask parents to step out of their comfort zones to serve at home while their student is serving away from home. It might be volunteering at a local organization or simply going out of their way to serve in their daily context.
When you challenge parents to learn and serve in parallel ways to their students, you enable mutual processing between parents and teenagers after the trip.
And here’s some good news:
If you’re going on a YouthWorks trip, there’s already a Parent Processing Guide ready to go! After signing into the dashboard as a Trip Leader, you can find it on the “Prepare Your Church” page under the “Preparing Your Parents” section.
While you probably won’t invite all your students’ parents on your next mission trip, you can equip, engage and challenge them with just a little intentionality and preparation. Don’t miss the opportunity to expand the reach of your next service experience and deepen its impact by engaging parents.