Having mission teams to help in our Colorado Baptists churches summer programing is a given. Whether it is a VBS group, sports Camp group, Day camp group or a construction group, your church could use the help. I am so thankful for the over one hundred groups that have ministered to churches where I have served over the years. For a while in my ministry we had 10 groups every summer. We did a day camp ministry (kind of like an outdoor VBS) for 10 weeks out of every summer. It was intense but very spiritually profitable. When a church is doing that many camps every summer they cannot use the same material. Neither can one group “drop the ball” ministry wise or the next groups will suffer. So we learned to prepare our teams so that they built on the ministry of the group prior to them and each had a sense of responsibility toward those coming after as well as those that set the stage before them. We did have the occasional mission group that did not prepare well or just did not do a good job on site but I attributed this more to my lack of preparation with them and adequate training for them.
Here are a few thoughts as you prepare to have a mission group assisting your church this summer.
1. Begin preparations early
Most Mission groups that will do a really good job for you will want to have a place and ministry already secured at least six to eight months in advance. Too many of our churches wait until May to think about getting a group in for the summer. By that time most of the best groups already have a place to go. Begin planning summer ministry no later than the January prior.
2. Have a Ministry Plan in place
Know where you will be doing VBS, Day Camp, Sports camp or whatever ministry it is. Be able to communicate the why of what you need done. Not all churches need to do VBS or Sports Camp but you need to decide what you need and not let it be dictated by the group coming in. Know the size group you will need, too large and they will overwhelm your resources, too small and they will not be able to adequately minister in the context. Have an idea of what it will cost the group to minister in your area. Will they be able to stay in a church, or will they need to rent camping spaces or even stay in a motel? Will they need to prepare their own food or will it be provided? What is the minimum age of the participants? What material will they need to provide? All of this should be in written form so that you can send it to prospective leaders.
3. Pre-Project Visit
This is one of the key elements in successful summer ministries! Have the leader or leaders of the group come out in March or April. Have a week end full of blessings for them. Take them to the site(s) where they will be serving, introduce them to key people in town and review the ministry plan with them. Let them show you what they have put together to meet your needs. Finalize all on site needs and expectations. If you have more than one team coming in for the summer get all of the team leaders to come in for this one pre-project visit. Build team, let each group explain how they will be meeting the needs of their particular week and how it dovetails with the other groups. I have found that the group leaders love this type of holistic planning instead of each group doing their own thing and then just leaving.
4. Communicate – Communicate – Communicate
We need to communicate often: with our church, so they know what to expect and how to participate; with the community, so that all the spaces are reserved, the needed supplies are on hand, the publicity is out, and all of the details are handled; with the group(s), so you know how they are coming along, how you can help, if there are any needs we did not talk about, something we missed, prayer needs and prayer partners.
5. Make sure everybody has fun
In addition to having fun in ministry, plan some fun activities with and for the group. Allow them some free time every day so that their ministry can be fresh every day. I usually divided the day into three sections morning, afternoon and evening. I planned for them to be busy two out of the three sections every day, but not always the same sections.
6. Follow up
Have a plan to follow up on the groups as they go back home. If they did a great job, see if you can get them booked for the next summer. Have honest dialogue about what you saw them do well and what they could improve on. Allow them the same privilege of helping you improve for future years. Let the groups know how your church did follow up with the program participants. Celebrate the results of the ministry with them.
This is just a very brief overview of some of the basics to utilizing one of the most precious resources we have…people!
Praying your summer ministries will be a blessing to you, your church, the groups and the Kingdom.
If I can help in anyway please don’t hesitate to touch base.