I recently heard youth leaders on a podcast with a compelling reason from scripture for students to go on a mission trip to Haiti. During the one hour broadcast there was just one element missing. The Parent Factor!
Every mission trip that involves high school or middle school students never happens apart from a parents approval. Besides getting the church leadership behind you, every mission trip must have in it's plan how the trip will work for "a parent's child."
But regardless of the trip you intend to promote, parents and leadership need to know, to the best of your ability, the situation on the ground where you are traveling. I admire leaders who join Mission Discovery on a set up trip, to see first hand, before committing to a trip, exactly what those conditions are. That kind of "familiarization" trip is vital in understanding if the trip is 'right' for your youth group.
So here are a just few things parents want to know:
1. What are the current US State Department assessments of the area you will serve?
2. What security measures are taken at the place you will sleep?
3. What experience do those have who will be leading the trip?
4. Should evacuation be needed, what measures have been taken?
5. What is the requirement of adults to students?
6. Is the work project age appropriate?
7. What health measures insure team health?
8. What is the mode of transportation to and from ministry sites?
9. What specifically will the group be doing?
10. How will you insure that my child is "right" for this trip? (selection criteria)
When my children were with me on Mission Discovery trips they always hung with other church groups. I wanted to make sure that the leader of that church group knew that he/she was the boss of my child and I was trusting them to their leadership. At Mission Discovery we have put into place comprehensive rules that help teams stay healthy and physically safe. I know that at any point my child could have wandered away from the group and walked by themselves.
I know that there are times that "total" control is not possible. For that reason every effort must be made on the front end to ensure that a team is safe.
Most agencies leading short term mission trips select trip location that are age appropriate to the location. Let's take the current situation in Haiti. In Haiti there are currently 2,000 escaped prisoners along with the general population of "bad guys" that are a part of every culture. The police are distracted, the U.N. patrols with loaded weapons, the leadership of the country is disarrayed and good people are just angry about how little help they have received.
So some international destinations are a "no brainer" when it comes to deciding age and experience levels. Mission Discovery has teams on the ground now in Haiti, and they are ready for most everything that comes their way because of our selection process.
I spent some time with a church in Austin, Texas over the weekend who had scheduled a border trip to Reynosa, Mexico last summer. The church leadership was against the senior high students going because of the violence there, but left the trip up to the parents. The parents did research, invited experts to a meeting and decided it was not wise to go at that time. The youth leader joined the parents in the decision making process and went with their wishes.
By keeping in mind these top ten concerns, your next parents meeting will run much smoother!
Please take a minute to add to the list above. Thanks for your input and serve Him well!