For the fist several years of leading youth mission trips, I leaned heavily on the pre-trip meeting(s). I shared all the information about the trip with parents, answered questions, and started to build some community among participants. Even when these trips involved multiple churches spread out over two counties, I still insisted on the meeting.
But man does that feel difficult now. I’ve scheduled youth trips for late June and mid-July this summer, and either people can’t get to a pre-trip meeting or I’m simply not scheduling one. People are busy with the end of the school year, and I’m working on more than these trips, so the meeting has ended up something of an assumption, if not a complete afterthought.
That’s not working.
It’s still important to get young people and adult leaders together with parents and staff for some face time before embarking on a week-long service trip. You can share the schedule and gather all the medical and consent forms without a meeting, but you can’t really allay a parents’ concerns about power tools or stoke a students’ excitement about using them without one. You need to be able to tell the story of the trip in this preparation stage. It’s about more than firing off information and collecting forms.
For two consecutive summers our high school youth went to Cuba, and those teams met at least three times together prior to wheels-up. It felt critical that they learn some things about the context and the partner church they would be working with. Also, it’s a big commitment on the church’s part, and those meetings are reliable indicators of students’ comparative commitment.
We make participation in those meetings pretty easy, because they’re on Sundays after youth group and they are scheduled and publicized weeks out. This is basic work we should have lined up for all our trips, no matter where they’re going. I need to do better.