Preparing Parents BEFORE the Mission Trip

You’ve probably never heard of Clifford Charlesworth, Gerald Griffin and Gene Kranz. And even after finding out who they were, you probably won’t remember their names.

It’s because we shine a spotlight on the people who go! That’s why we know names like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin—because they went to the moon! And we forget Cliff, Gerry and Gene who were equally instrumental in the Apollo 11 mission, but stayed on the ground.

On your next mission trip, you’ll spend a lot of time with the people who go, but as you prepare, don’t forget your ground crew. Don’t forget parents! They are instrumental to the mission.

Here are three ways you can prepare parents to be great at their job of sending.

  1. Communicate Logistics Clearly

This is hopefully the one that you skim over, thinking, “Yes! I do that already!” It’s because you kinda need to communicate with parents if you want their students to join the trip. But even if you already communicate lots of details, consider if there are any details you’re missing.

Here are three logistical areas of the trip you want to make sure to include:

  • Times and Places: This is basic. Tell parents where you’re headed, when you’ll leave and when you’ll return.
  • Costs and Fundraising Opportunities: Whenever you communicate the cost, follow it quickly with info on any opportunities to raise funds. This will help keep parents and students from dismissing the trip because of the fee.
  • Meetings and Expectations: From the beginning, help parents and students understand that they aren’t just committing to the trip, but to the prep, follow-up and other expectations that go along with it.
  1. Cast Vision

There’s this great multiple-choice questions for youth leaders: If you are with your youth group and run out of gas on the side of the road, do you…

  1. Flag down a vehicle
  2. Call for help
  3. Cast vision

The answer is C. Always cast vision.

The reality, of course, is that casting vision does not replace a solid plan, but it certainly does augment it. So go ahead, make great mission trip plans, but don’t miss the important step of communicating that plan in a way that paints a picture that parents can follow.

To cast vision is to convey meaning and significance. Your job is to choose a really meaningful experience, then get parents onboard by telling them about it. Be creative and thoughtful in your approach. It isn’t hard, but it does take intentionality.

Here are three easy ways to cast vision with parents:

  • Share why. Think through the most meaningful aspects of your trip—the service, the learning, the team-building—and share the bigger picture of why those things will matter for their student.
  • Invite stories. If you have students who have been on this trip or similar trips, have them share stories about why those trips were meaningful. Whether it’s in person or in writing, help parents see why this trip mattered for another student.
  • Show pictures. They speak a thousand words, right? And nothing supports a good story like good pictures. Choose pictures that show the team-building and service you know students will experience. 
  1. Invite Parent Participation

From the very beginning, viewing parents as partners in the mission trip experience will strengthen your relationships with families and, potentially, ease some of the preparation pressure.

Let parents know that they are a welcome part of what’s going to happen with their students, even though they are staying home. Look at the opportunities you have to involve parents in what happens before the trip.

Here are three simple ways you might open the door for parent participation in mission trip prep:

  • Prayer support: Early on, provide a list of prayer requests parents can use to lift up the trip well before students load the vans.
  • Help with meetings: Beyond pickup and drop-off, ask parents to help you put on meetings by providing snacks or a home to meet in.
  • A strong send-off: Plan a send-off that involved parents’ participation and prayers. Potentially have each student and parent share their hopes for the trip.

A successful mission trip is one that doesn’t just prep the travelers, but gets the ground crew ready too. When we help parents prepare for the trip, we not only strengthen the experience for students but also expand the impact to those who send.

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Sam Townsend

Sam Townsend loves wooded trails on warm summer days, full conversations over half-price apps and puns that could make a grown man groan. He is a writer, a third-generation footlong hotdog salesman and the Senior High Ministry Pastor at Calvary Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. He’s also a big fan of YouthWorks, where he contributes to theme material creation and blog production.

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