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Five Tips for Recruiting Adult Leaders for Mission Trips

Many of us have been privileged to see young people on summer mission trips. These trips can be life-changing—challenging the youth to simplify their lifestyles, reach out in service back home on an ongoing basis, and say yes to their baptismal call to make the world a better place. There are many factors that contribute to making a mission trip more or less powerful. But I am convinced that one of the most significant influences on these young missionary disciples is the adult role modeling they experience. In Young Neighbors in Action (a high school service learning experience) and Just5Days (a middle school service learning experience), we often say, "As go the adults, so go the young people!"

The team leaders and chaperones who accompany youth on mission trips make all the difference. If they see a long drive to a work site as an opportunity for reflection, prayer, or faith sharing, the youth see it that way, too. If they show openness to the Holy Spirit in the type of work to which their team is assigned, the young people are equally open. If they engage in conversations with the victims of injustice whom they are serving, the youth are much more likely to form that relationship as well. So the question for many youth and campus ministers is, "How do we recruit adult leaders for our mission trip?"

Here are my top five tips for recruiting adult leaders:

  1. Make a personal invitation to the parents of youth who are participating. I have heard so many testimonials from parents about how the shared experience deepened their relationship with their adolescent children. Encourage parents to lead the way for the family in being missionary disciples.
  2. Invite young adults to lead or chaperone. I love young adults on youth mission trips. Teens look up to them, and they are so willing to jump in and fully engage in the whole experience. This has to be done on a one-on-one basis. Let the young adults you ask know that you chose them because of their passion for justice, their care for others, or other gifts they have which will enrich the experience for the youth.
  3. Think of recently retired older adults. They have time on their hands, and studies show Baby Boomers are looking for ways to make a difference in retirement.
  4. Think of local teachers, most of whom have the summer off. They are obviously committed to young people, and won't have to take a week off work to be part of the team.
  5. Personal invitation is always the best method of recruiting volunteers. But there are people out there in the community, people you may not know, who would love to lead or chaperone a mission trip. To reach them, place "Want Ads" in the bulletin, on your parish or school Facebook page and website, or in the gathering space at the parish. If you are a campus minister, send the Want Ad home with your students. Have fun with this. Include the qualities needed in a leader or chaperone—a happy person, one willing to serve in any way, someone who says YES to their baptismal call, a person who loved young people and their energy, etc.

Preparing for a mission trip is not the easiest part of your job, but it's worth every minute you spend recruiting youth, finding leaders and chaperones, fund-raising, and doing all the logistics. I've been doing Young Neighbors in Action for 23 years, and I fall in love with it all over again each summer because of its mission—to serve the most vulnerable—and the effect it has on both youth and adult participants. Hope to see you this summer! God bless.

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