More Than a Vacation

June 5, 2017



Written By: Jim Mellor

By Jim Mellor

This summer, the Donor By Design Team is considering new ways to look at stewardship… going beyond the thank you note to forming deeper relationships. Today’s topic: connecting with those who give generously of their time. 

It seems like everyone is traveling this summer! If you have been an airport in the last few weeks, you will see young people, couples, and families all on their way to somewhere. Besides the normal army of business travelers, the summer always adds that extra layer of travelers that just make traveling a slightly more crowded experience.

You will see those traveling already wearing their beach attire complete with hats, sun glasses, Hawaiian shirts, and wearing flip flops ready to instantly hit the beach. And then there are those heading to Europe loaded with bags of extra clothes, cameras, guide books, foreign currency, clutching their passports. Obviously, each of these groups have researched and planned their once-in-a-lifetime vacation.

But almost certainly, you will notice another type of group at the airport this summer: a group of travelers, usually all wearing an identifying T-shirt, gathered by the board gate, excited because they are going on a “mission trip” as volunteers. Many times, this is a group of young people who have decided that forgo the usual summer at the pool, or the beach, and to do something meaningful with their time off. These can be church trips, eco-tourism or professionals sharing their expertise with others in developing nations.

As one who has gone on several mission trips, you usually believe that you are only going for the purpose to make a difference in someone else’s life; but return home realizing that besides that goal, you are also very much changed.

These trips, and these experiences, don’t just happen. They are the result of much planning, coordination, and many times fundraising to assist the expenses. They have been in planning stage for over a year. Not only are the young people volunteering their summer, but there is a dedicated group of adult volunteers, who have assisted in every aspect of the trip. It is truly an effort of love and stewardship.

Does your organization have groups that come together to do a major volunteer trip? If so, how are you stewarding those volunteers? It can be tricky, as many of them are young people, but it is well worth the effort to maintain the connection to those dedicated volunteers as they move forward in college, career and life. Here are some suggestions:

  • Create an alumni group for these volunteers. Maybe it’s as simple as a private Facebook group, but by helping to encourage these volunteers to stay in touch, you can also share with them the latest program updates and needs, keeping them connected to you long after the trip is over.
  • Measure the value you can measure. So much of what is valuable about a mission trip is simply beyond measurement… but some things aren’t. Keep track of the number of hours served, the people helped, the projects finished. All of these help volunteers and other supporters of your organization understand the impact and importance of mission volunteers beyond the feel-good stories.
  • Say thank you. Treat your mission volunteers with the same care and consideration that you would other volunteers and leaders. Send thank you notes. Share information about your organization. Invite them to attend other events or activities. Cultivate these young people as potential leaders, by helping them to grow in their interest and abilities.

One thing that is certain: those that return, and all those that are involved, in these mission trips, never come back home the same person as they left. Now that is a summer to remember, and a changed world, one person at a time.

What is your favorite mission trip story? Share in the comments below.

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3 responses to “More Than a Vacation”

  1. Danny Danny says:

    Great ideas Jim. My group does mission trips right at home. Still very life changing. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Mike Mike Bussey says:

    Great message Jim! It was two years ago next month that you and I returned to Jerusalem on a mission trip to connect with Simon – one of the most significant journeys I’ve taken!

  3. James Watts says:

    Hi Jim – you are so right – there is a definite power in these experiences that in and of themselves
    can be life-changing. You got me thinking about our Teen Achievers program now!