BY TERRY L. BROWN original post Upstream Collective

Short-term mission trips can be exciting and life changing.

From navigating treacherous mountain roads to hearing the joyful sound of children singing, you never know what might be around the next corner.

This type of adventure may sound like just the thing you’re looking for. However, for others, the frequent changes and challenges can prove to be too much. Many who start out with good intentions quickly find themselves off track.

If you happen to be a team leader, you can help to ensure everyone fully appreciates their experience by discussing proper expectations. Do this early in the planning process by setting a preliminary meeting with your group.


Once you have determined where your team is going (and why), the next step is to assemble people with an interest. These will not be everyone who will go. Some are there to determine if this trip is for them.

You should make several things clear at this meeting:

  • Why are we going? Let the group know if they’re going to construct a building, help with vacation bible school, disaster relief, etc.

  • Where are we going? Let them know where they are going, with dates of departure and return - simple enough.

  • What are the total costs? Share the total costs involved with a timeline of initial deposits and final payment due dates. It's helpful to show costs of travel, food, lodging, etc.

  • What documents are necessary? Gather the documents necessary for the trip: passports, visa, birth certificates, etc. Make sure this meeting is far enough in advance to procure passports and visas. Always make sure documents extend past your departure date. I learned this the hard way when my visa in Moscow had to be renewed in an emergency with two days left - the cost was $150 to make sure I could leave as scheduled.

  • What’s your personal information? Submit trip applications to everyone. Include full contact information with emergency names and important numbers, including any prescription meds and physical limitations.

  • What will the conditions be like? Give a brief overview of the conditions you will be in. Some people cannot tolerate heat/humidity, or the lack of electricity or air conditioning. Some will not be able to eat local fare such as goat, snake, etc. I did not want to eat a fish with the head on (and eyes looking at me) while in Haiti. The family serving us did so at great cost and sacrifice. To decline would have hurt them, so I put on my big boys pants and thanked them for a great meal.

  • Are there any cultural differences? Explain any cultural difference. Offending your hosts unintentionally is not a good way to start. However, they will appreciate any sensitivity you extend to them by doing your homework ahead of time. The first time I entered an Orthodox church, I was not aware it was offensive to leave the church by turning around and walking out with my back to the icons. I did not make that mistake twice.

  • How do we stay in contact? Communication may be difficult or non-existent in the part of the world you are going. If you are one who will suffocate without a text or e-mail for a few days, then you may want to go on a different trip