With afternoon rains, blooming flowers, and rising temperatures, the spring is officially upon us. For ASP, this means that we’re deep into the process of planning for summer, filling our days with finalizing all of the small details that make up a successful program. With 2018 being ASP’s 50th summer of service, the entire team is focusing on developing an experience that celebrates the impact ASP has had on Central Appalachia, while looking forward to the next 50 years.

For our volunteer groups, whether this summer is your 1st trip of your 40th, we understand that this time of year is hectic. Coordinating all of the resources needed to pull off a successful mission trip, from recruiting participants to transportation to funding, requires a lot of time and effort, so we wanted to pull together a few tips & tricks from veterans in the ASP community to help throughout the process.

1. Start Team Bonding…Yesterday

Investing the time weeks (or even months) before a trip to build new relationships within your group can truly make or break a mission trip experience. It’s really easy for cliques to form between old friends, so having icebreakers, educational sessions, etc. that force (well, heavily encourage) youth to interact with unfamiliar youth and adult leaders pushes them outside of their comfort zone and starts building the foundation for relationships to blossom on the trip.

Each year ASP releases a “theme”, which guides our educational and spiritual programming before, during, and after the summer. This summer, our theme is Call(ed) To Action and focuses on Isaiah 6:8, and we’ve developed pre-trip sessions that include everything from learning about Appalachia to goofy mixers to construction training, which can be found here. Make sure to utilize this resource to provide structure to pre-trip bonding and help prepare your group for the trip.

2. Set Clear Expectations Within Your Group

As a former staffer that spent five summers serving with ASP, one of my favorite quotes that I shared with our team and volunteers was, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” We’d use this quote as a reminder to always meet the other person halfway and ensure that we’re speaking the same language, as sometimes the nomenclature each person was using (especially in construction) was different.

The same is true (and sometimes even more difficult) when preparing for a mission trip because groups can include participants from two, three, or four different generations. Starting with a session to clearly set expectations and include the input from all generations will ensure that everyone feels heard and valued within the group. A few questions and topics to cover are:

  • Why are we investing time before the trip to prepare?
  • What are the group’s goals for the week?
  • What are each person’s individual goals for the week?
  • How do we expect each group member to participate throughout the week?
  • How will we effectively communicate with one another?
  • If there are other groups at the center, how will we interact and communicate with them?
  • Since we’ll be in a “fish bowl” during the week, how do we act in the community we serve?
  • What are general behavior standards that our group will hold one another to?
  • How do we plan to process the experience after the week?

3. Don’t Forget About the “Why”

Preparing for a trip is extremely logistics-heavy, and between gathering payments, coordinating travel, and setting expectations, it can be easy to forget why your group has decided to embark on this journey together. During your pre-trip preparations, make sure that you’re including time to spark conversation amongst your group about the core reasons for going to Appalachia to serve. Serving others in this context, through an immersive mission trip, can be transformational for the individual participants and the families that are served, so it’s important to be able to discuss, prepare, and pray over this decision. A few questions and topics to cover could be:

  • With everything going on during the summer (vacations, camps, etc.), why did you decide to go on this trip?
  • How were you “Called to action” this summer to go on this trip?
  • Why do you think other people in our group decided to go on this trip?
  • How do you expect this trip to impact you?
  • How do you think this trip will impact the families that you serve?
  • Why is it important to serve alongside others?

What other tricks and tips would you give to groups embarking on a trip with ASP? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

  Kyle Ducharme, Head of Growth and Volunteer Experience