Among other things, summer time is prime time for service projects and missions trips. Often, those trips will include working with children through Vacation Bible Schools, summer camps, outreach programs, orphanages, etc. Whether you’ve got trips planned for the inner city, a different place in the US, or an international mission trip planned, an essential component of that trip is the planning that takes place before you even buckle your seatbelt to go anywhere.
If you do have a mission trip or service project planned for this summer, here are some preparatory steps you can take to ensure that your trip goes as smoothly as possible (keeping in mind to leave room for lots of flexibility)!
10 Steps to Prepare for Cross-Cultural Kids Ministry
1. Establish a good working relationship with the missionary family or organization that you’ll be supporting: Communicate with them regularly concerning the trip details. Define expectations and responsibilities. Consider blessing them with a summertime Christmas celebration. This may include asking them for a needs/want list, providing those items, making decorations, singing carols, etc. If the family has children, make a point to encourage their kids. Overall, make sure that team members work to support the existing long-term ministry.
2. Be Detail Oriented: Cover all of your bases from passports, clearances, and visas, to travel and itinerary plans, to accurate cost estimation, to meal planning and dietary considerations, to safe housing, to team contact and emergency information. Communicate regularly with your team.
3. Provide Team Unity Activities: The strength of the team will depend heavily on the strength and devotion of the individuals. However, provide team building activities beforehand to form a cohesive bond. These could include raising funds for the trip through car washes, flamingo attacks, and garage sales, working together to prepare a dinner (without talking to learn to overcome language barriers), watching an appropriate documentary/movie relating to the culture, and hosting prayer, planning, worship, and/or game nights.
4. Consider the Language: Most likely, the missionaries or organization will take care of translation for you, but confirm that you will have considerable translation support. What you can do is provide thank-you gifts for the translators. Also, though translation will be provided, it is essential that you know as many phrases and words as you can. It will allow you relate to the children better. Take a class at a local community school/college, work with an individual fluent in the language, and/or study with CD’s and books.
5. Teach Specific Cultural Differences: This includes clothing choices, hand motions or gestures, and manners. While it is probably deemed okay to wear shorts for hot weather children’s programs in America, it may not be appropriate elsewhere. Likewise, each country has particular behavioral norms and manners that need to be adhered. Not knowing or following these differences could communicate entirely the wrong message.
6. Practice Humility: God will work through humble hearts. Seek Him with prayer, fasting, confession, and Bible study. Practice humility before you get on the field by daily looking for ways that you can quietly serve without recognition, notice, or praise.
7. Establish Early Contacts with the Children: Ask the local missionaries if there are specific children that you can be encouraging and praying for ahead of time. Consider pairing up team members with children and writing them letters. Include missionary children as well. In the good chance that you’ll not be able to establish contacts ahead of time (if you’ll be conducting outreach events) pray for the unnamed children who will be attending and for their families.
8. Pack Well: Consider the climate, work projects you’ll be participating in, and cultural dress while packing clothes. Bring more shirts than pants/skirts and comfortable shoes. Pack small hygiene samples, as needed medications, and other items that the missionary or organization recommends. Remember your Bible and journal to record daily thoughts, as well as your camera. Pack quick food items like granola bars or peanut butter and crackers, just in case. Leave plenty of room for many items to donate and for small souvenirs/thank you items (for supporters) in your return luggage.
9. Shop for Supplies to Donate: Consult the long-term missionaries, who will know best, in terms of what to bring. Candy may seem like a perfect gift, but if toothbrushes and paste isn’t included, you may want to steer clear of that. Think of items that are practical, age-appropriate, and have long-term play value. Also bring items that you can utilize in your ministry there. Great toys would include: art supplies, a parachute, sidewalk chalk, face paint, bubbles, balloons (for balloon animals), playground/soccer balls, etc. Whatever you bring, leave it there as a donation.
10. Build Your Support Base: Outside of raising financial support, a strong prayer team is essential. Make string bracelets with the colors of the country that you are visiting and send one in each fundraising/prayer letter. Have supporters wear the bracelet to remember to pray for the team each morning. Do not allow them to take the bracelet off until your team has returned. In addition, set up a blog to communicate with supporters about the trip. Post pictures and write updates of the team before, during, and after the trip.
Click here to leave a comment. What preparatory steps have you taken in organizing a cross cultural mission trip or service project? For sisters and brothers in other countries, what steps can we take to support you and the children in your ministries? You can also read my follow-up article that details 10 suggestions for while you’re on the mission field.