Mission trips are some of the hardest, most rewarding things I remember doing as a youth pastor.
Taking students out of their elements to not only experience other cultures and showing them that their experience in the world isn’t uniform, but teaching them to take pride in their work as well as grasp the fact that the Gospel is more important than our discomfort.
I’ll never forget seeing one student take a broom and, while holding the very end of the stick with one hand, pushed this common kitchen broom across the floor. Oh, it wasn’t a push broom, but she treated it like that. That day, I taught a 9th grader how to sweep. I felt like this a little…
It’s fulfilling to see them grow spiritually, hoping that they take these lessons home and continue applying them to their daily lives.
However, great trips like that aren’t random, they are planned. In my opinion, the quality of your mission trip begins months before you leave with your prep work…and I don’t mean logistic prep, either (but yes, still do that part!).
It is helpful and wise to interview every person who goes on a trip with you before you leave. If interviewing students, conduct the interview with one parent present; if interviewing adults or families, do the interview with spouses or kids present.
I also suggest sending them the questions you’re going to ask to them ahead of time. If they will fill out the questionnaire and turn it in before your face to face interview, you will be able to ask better follow-up questions in the interview and not waste any time. Then your interview becomes more about any red flags or clarification points instead of a haphazard free-for-all.
But I digress. You can come up with your own questions, but before I get too far ahead of myself, here are a few of my reasons for conducting a thorough missions interview with every single person going on the trip.
Mission Trip Interviews Foster Spiritual Conversations in Families
There’s a reason to do this with others present. I’ll never forget an interview with a student and her mom for a trip we were taking where I had asked about how the student was growing spiritually. Her answer? She prays with her team before sports. She didn’t come to church, read her Bible, come to youth…she just prayed with the team.
Prayer is good, but I had the chance to speak directly to this student and her mother and say “I’m having a hard time understanding how you can be growing spiritually at all.”
Now, I knew this family, and I knew that they knew better than to let sports dominate them like they had. So mom nodded along and agreed and we were able to talk about some action steps to change the trend.
Without that interview process, I may have never had an opportunity to naturally bring the fact up at all. In a spouse or family situation, group interviews will allow the same kind of space to talk.
Mission Trip Interviews Help You Know Your People
There is a straight up relational side to interviewing your potential mission trippers. You will learn things in the interview about them you may have never known. You’ll learn about their hobbies and their strengths/weaknesses as well as hear the parents/spouse/kids impressions of potential trippers too.
One of my favorite questions to ask was “Parent, what do you think is your child’s greatest strength?” and then “Where do they need to grow?” I also liked asking “What do you hope your student gets out of this trip?”
Outside perspective is valuable and often we don’t get it unless someone asks for it.
Mission Trip Interviews Tell You About Their Relationship with Jesus
This is a stickler for me, so first, let me say that I think God can do a lot with anyone who goes on a trip, whether they believe in Jesus’ resurrection or not.
If you have a work-only kind of trip, believers and non-believers alike can do a lot of good and learn a lot on those kinds of trips. But if you’re asking a non-believer to share the Gospel, that’s like asking me to pour you a Coke from an empty Coke can.
So, whatever you’re preference here, I think having the conversation before you leave about where they stand with Jesus is the most important question you can ask in an interview.
Think about it…they KNOW this question is coming, so it’s a forum to openly and bluntly talk about faith with everyone. You might even lead someone to Christ during the interview process! How cool would that be?
Mission Trip Interviews Show You How They Can Contribute
Last, there’s a practical side to the interview. If you’re doing a program for kids or building a home for an elderly person, it’s nice to know who can swing a hammer or work a puppet. Anyone else kinda terrified of puppets? No? Just me?
In your pre-planning, knowing your group’s skill sets will help you organize teams and assign work projects to those who can actually accomplish them.
It’s also a chance to stretch them.
I took my students to a “barely-any-work-but-loads-of-relationships-and-gospel-sharing” mission trip once. They had never done anything like it and several were very upset when we arrived and they found out what they were doing.
My group had become content to swoop in, build a fence, and leave, patting themselves on the back for doing “evangelism.”
I’ve always thought that mission trips should involve a concerted effort to share the Gospel, but hey, I’m old-fashioned.
Anyone can build a fence, not everyone can save a soul. Without Jesus, we’re just some humanitarian group providing relief and anyone can do that.
So, by the end of the trip, they loved it and couldn’t wait to go back. They needed to be stretched spiritually, not just physically or emotionally.
So, I’m sure you’ll disagree with me on a few things, but I’m a big boy, so let me know what you think in the comments! I’d love it if we could suggest questions for the interview process. How would you do it?
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