“I’m a youth leader who takes teams on mission trips each summer. How do I have new content each year that is different enough not to loose the interest of those who have been before.”

Good question. It is a challenge for a leader who consistently leads teams from his church to have current, relevant prep material. Here are some thoughts that might help.

First of all, every team provides a unique “dna” to the mission trip. Each team member has a unique story. At Mission Discovery we have never eliminated from our training and preparation the telling of each team member’s story. Hearing and understanding each other’s story never get’s old. Consider this as one of your first meeting topics-story telling. We let every participant know that they may have the opportunity to tell that unique story some time during the mission trip.

We have used several methods to help team members tell their story but a simple outline would be to describe your life before Christ and after giving your life to Christ, and some turning points in your journey. We’ve had team members draw pictures with the hand that they wouldn’t use to write (it looks more childlike) to illustrate their story or bend an 8 foot length of wire with shapes that illustrate their story. Team members are broken into small groups and told to share their story in just 5 minutes with others in the group.

The second part of preparing a team that never gets old is having the team experience problem solving. In our training and prep of team we create problems to be solved by the team, then discuss what gifts emerged from the exercise. Some problems are solved using no words, some are solved with the rule that no one can use their hands etc. Seeing problems solved through these lens help a team see the gifts of others.

The third most important component that never gets old and is different for each team, each year, is the preparation of a “Team Contract”. We call ours a “Team Covenant.” A TC is a document that is prepared by the team that sets team goals, strategy, and prepares a written mission statement for the trip. The contract contains the scriptural basis for the team’s activities. It also provides a structure for holding each other accountable.

Some leaders meet separately with team members who have attended the mission trip or trips in previous years to talk about their roll in helping first timers have the best possible experience. This is important. We’ve noticed in our experience that previous participants can be a real help or hindrance in your training. It’s important for the experienced group to remember their first mission trip.

I was in a team training session with a church group where a previous participant felt it important to explain that this year’s team “had it made.” He minimized their upcoming degree of difficulty based on how “difficult” he had it the previous year. You could spend an entire session helping previous mission trip participants enjoy the same pace of learning as they did the previous year.

There are many other components of team preparation. We would love to hear what you’ve found successful in preparing your group!