Becoming a GL Magnet: 8 Ways to Recruit Adult Group Leaders for Your ASP Trip

By Butch Barton 

The ASP preparation materials give great advice on what to look for in potential group leaders, at this link.  

After reading these qualities, it might seem like finding good, compatible group leaders is one of the most difficult tasks associated with planning an ASP trip.  I do believe that getting good group leaders is one of the most important tasks in planning a successful trip. However, I don’t think it has to be overly daunting.  Here are some tips and tricks that I’ve found helpful over past years.

1. Lean on Your Community

Let your friends know that you are looking for just the right type of people to help chaperone a group of youth on a mission trip.  Remind them of your selection criteria and how critical these people are toward the overall success and experience of the trip. It isn’t always the most skilled carpenter, plumber, or electrician that makes a good group leader.  Remind the folks helping you recruit adult volunteers the importance of flexibility and patience. If your friends are like mine, they will see this as a sort of challenge, and will work even more diligently to help you find just the right folks.

2. Look toward parents  

I cannot think of any other method that has been as fruitful as this one.  Many times, a youth volunteer will attend one of these trips for their first time, then come back home a changed person.  Who notices this change more than anyone else? Their families. So many times I’ve heard parents tell me they wanted to experience firsthand what it was that caused such a change in their son’s or daughter’s way of thinking about money, material goods or service.

3. Consider people from retreat events

This is really helpful if you have a retreat coming up, or have just recently participated in one.  Oftentimes during the retreat, you will have the opportunity to share what mission experiences like ASP mean to you.  These retreats tend to have fewer distractions than our routine schedules, which allows for a more in depth way to share these experiences with potential group leaders.

4. Consider local teachers  

Some trip coordinators are reluctant to make this type of request of teachers.  Many people assume since teachers spend the majority of their time interfacing with youth, they will not want to spend a week of their summer break with youth.  I find this to be just the opposite. First, the environment that you spend with the youth is so far out of the norm, it’s a completely new experience for both teacher and student.  Second, I find teachers to be some of the most caring, patient, flexible, and teachable people on the face of this earth. What more could you ask for in a group leader?!

5. People with connections to the area

Story for another time, but this is how I got involved with ASP.  Within our group, and talking with other groups, I’ve found many people who were sold on the idea of attending ASP when they heard where they will be working.  Most people from Central Appalachia love the natural beauty of this area. People who have had to move out of the area for work, love the idea of coming back “home” to serve in some way.  This applies similarly to people who have relatives in the service area, or have lived in, attended school or visited here.

6. People who have done other mission trips

I’ve never met a person who has been on any mission trip that has said they would never do another one.  Some folks might need a little more rest in between trips than others, but the desire to serve in this way is consistently present with anyone who has been on a mission trip, regardless of the location.  The logistics will vary from organization to organization, but the heart is much the same.

7. Do a trial run

If you or the potential group leader has doubts, do a trial run by volunteering together over a weekend at one of the year-round locations.  This is a good way to ease into the experience.  It is a shorter duration, the facilities where you will stay are more known beforehand, which means bunk bed sleeping, rather than air mattresses, and indoor showers versus the possibility of outdoor showers.  Before the weekend is over, you and the potential chaperone have a feel for whether they are up for a weeklong version of a trip like this.

8. Play the long game

If you find someone that you are convinced would be a great leader, but that person isn’t quite as convinced, don’t give up on them just yet.  Perhaps, involve them with some of the pre-trip group activities, or especially, the construction prep sessions. Often, after getting their feet wet from these activities, they become convinced to take the plunge of a summer week.  The energy and enthusiasm of the youth during these sessions can be very contagious.

A one-week investment & a life-time of returns.

These methods have proven to be helpful for my groups in the past, but the “why” behind all of this is the same across the board.  Adult leaders going on ASP trips experience something amazing: youth learning to serve with their whole hearts while transforming the homes of another family.  Every leader I’ve brought on our ASP trips has come away transformed, whether they went just once, or if they’ve gone a dozen times. Every leader always seems to come back with a more meaningful relationship with the youth from their team, regardless of how well they knew the youth before the trip.  The memories of these shared experiences last way beyond the week working together.

Butch Barton, long-time ASP volunteer, Ambassador, Helping Hand, and Advocate