Debriefing Summer Mission Trips

Summer is filled with opportunities for fun at every turn; family vacations, kids camps, hiking, boating, the beach, reunions, the list goes on and on. But for churches it’s also the time for service, with short-term mission trips overseas and/or in nearby cities and towns.

Short-term missions serve as a powerful catalyst to take youth (and adults) outside their natural environment and expose them to local and global realities that can empower their spiritual journey. These mission trips have become standard in many church calendars, but could the missions program at your church be improved? Returning Summer Mission’s teams can be a pastor’s best resource for answering that question.

Now is a great time to evaluate how you can improve your missions programs for next summer. Touch the World provides an excellent resource for evaluating the effectiveness of your short-term mission trips with a simple five-question test, STM Assessment: Are my trips effective? This is a great tool you can use immediately to start the evaluation process.

Good debriefing can help pastors turn hindsight into foresight for next year. Here’s an excerpt from the Pastor’s Toolbox outlining six things to consider when debriefing your team:

  1. Keep it laid back. Most teams are ready for a “vacation” when they return, especially if they had a good trip. Debriefing is part of the adjustment process in returning to their normal lives or part of the process in deciding they don’t want their lives to be “normal” ever again.
  2. Keep outsiders to a minimum. Families and friends may not understand what your team went through on their trip. Later, team members may be ready to tell others about their experiences. But when they first return, they need people who will understand and sympathize.
  3. Verify logistic issues. Even the best-laid plans have room for improvement. Did the team have enough to do, or did they have to improvise? Did they perhaps have too much to do? Did everyone come back healthy or were there injuries on the trip?
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. What happened on the trip? Did God show up in a significant way or did the team see it as a glorified vacation?
  5. Give them a new challenge. If you are successful, be prepared for your young people to be fired up and ready to do almost anything to change the world.
  6. Check with other pastors on their summer missions successes and failures. Since summer missions are so common, fall is a good time to ask other pastors about their trips. What was their focus for their Summer Missions?

Reach Mission Trips also has a great list of 10 questions you can ask your team to reflect on during your debriefing.

Sharing the Mission with Others

Your ministry or mission trip can have an even greater impact when you share your activities with the world. Here are a few tips from YouthWorks about how to bring your trip home with you:

  • Plan a church gathering where you tell about the meaningful memories from your trip from the front of the room. You might incorporate some of the ideas below in your sharing.
  • Rather than a play-by-play of what happened, write about a significant event on your mission trip. How did you feel? What did you learn?
  • Write a collection of moments, perhaps posting on social media or maybe simply writing on small slips of paper. Make each memory really short – perhaps just a sentence beginning with “That moment when…” Over 30 days, write 30 memories, then compile them all in one place. OR you might do this with your entire group, each person writing a couple memories.
  • Draw, paint, design or create something that does less telling and more showing. Share what it means with the people around you.
  • Create a slideshow and share it in person or on social media.

When you share, remember it’s important to keep in mind that licensing is required to legally webcast Internet song performances of copyrighted music. While you are free to contact each individual song owner for each song use, many ministry leaders find this to be a time-consuming process. CCS’s WORSHIPCast License is a one-stop blanket license that gives you a simple way to be copyright compliant and includes more than 20 million songs from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC catalogs.

This also holds true for making CDs or DVDs. Just make sure you secure the appropriate licensing to legally use third party copyrights. Unless a song is in the Public Domain, you must secure a synchronization license to include it in your video, or a mechanical license for CD or MP3 recordings. In addition, if you use someone else’s sound recording, you must secure a master synchronization license. In both cases, you may contact the copyright holder directly for licensing. You can download CCS’s FREE “Copyright Checklist” Fact Sheet for detailed information on how to get these licenses.

About Christian Copyright Solutions: CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.” CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration, and advocacy for copyright owners. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.