Although mission trips can be valuable experiences, there are potential challenges and risks involved that church leaders need to be prepared for. Consider the following recommendations to make your trips safer.
The first step is to get a committee together to evaluate opportunities and begin planning the trip. There are many details to keep in mind when traveling with a group, particularly overseas. Therefore, it is helpful for your organization to have written guidelines that church leaders can follow. The more time spent planning, the less chance there will be of avoidable issues. Click here to download a mission trip checklist.
Create concrete guidelines for who can participate in mission trips. This includes age, health, and experience. The committee should also outline the expectations of the participants during the trip. Click here to download free templates of a domestic travel Code of Conduct and an international travel Code of Conduct.
Additionally, it’s imperative that all participants get a physical exam at least six weeks before departure. This may include immunizations or vaccinations depending on where you’re traveling to. If any volunteers take prescription medication, they should ensure they have enough to last the entirety of the trip. Prior to departure, each volunteer should sign a consent and release form, click here to download free templates of the domestic and international travel consent and release form templates.
Traveling to an unfamiliar location always comes with risks. When selecting a destination, it is important to do your research. Consider health risks, cultural norms, economic and political dangers, immunizations, and laws and customs. If traveling abroad, find the location of the U.S. Embassy, and speak to a representative about safety concerns. In addition, check the State Department Travel Advisories, which provide information on terrorism, crime, civil unrest, health, natural disasters, and more.
Another factor to consider is mode of transportation. All drivers must have a current drivers license and clean motor vehicle record. Overseas, license requirements, driving rules and customs may vary, so research must be done ahead of time. Additionally, you must decide what type of vehicle will be utilized; personal vehicles, a church owned van, a mini-bus, or a coach bus? If driving for an extended period of time, ensure the driver has time to rest or have another driver takeover. When taking a flight, book non-stop if possible.
Have a solid emergency plan in place. Designate a point person who is not on the trip who can be contacted in the case of an emergency. This person will communicate between the church, the volunteers, and their family members. Make sure you’re prepared for natural disasters, security or terrorism, medical emergencies, missing participants, etc. Each volunteer should create an emergency ID kit incase their passport is lost or stolen during travel. To do this, gather a photocopy of the data page of your passport, two recent passport photos, and the U.S. embassy information in a safe location.
Consider purchasing short-term travel insurance to cover your mission team during trips, since many domestic insurance coverages do not apply in foreign countries. This will ensure you have proper coverage from any potential accidents, medical emergencies, and other events that may occur.
To view our complete risk management library of articles for churches and non-profits, click here.
John Keller, CRM ARM CIC AAI is Client Advisor & Risk Manager at Gulfshore Insurance specializing in non-profit and religious organizations. John works with a wide range of business clients to deliver strategic risk analysis and guidance. Comments and questions are welcome at email@example.com