Many of you are getting ready to go out on your short-term mission (STM) trip in the next few weeks. I'm sure you have done a lot to prepare for your departure, but how much have you planned for your coming home? If you are like most people, the thought of preparing to come home hasn't crossed your mind. That's ok, that's why we're here! What is there to prepare for and how can we prepare? As always, I don't have all the answers, but I do have some ideas. Hopefully this will get you thinking:
- The final impression--I always say the only thing more important than a first impression is a final impression. Saying good-bye and doing it the right way is important! Do say goodbye, but resist urges to make promises to write, return, or send help. Broken promises break relationships. Email me or leave a comment at the end of this post and I will tell you how I handle situations like this.
- Knowing is half the battle. Or so that is what GI Joe taught me when I was growing up. Prepare your team for the challenges of going home. Make sure they know what kind of reception to expect from people. Also, make sure they know of some of the pitfalls of going home. The Next Mile goer guide is a great resource that has a section to read specifically about this topic!
- Ask the team some questions. Before you leave, give people a chance to journal their answers to some strategic questions. Questions like, "what am I most/least looking forward to about going home? What am I most/least looking forward to leaving behind? What from this culture do I want to make a part of my life and how?" Again, The Next Mile goer guide includes these questions and more for reflection.
- Plan 2-3 team meetings after your trip. Make sure you plan these meetings before you leave. If you wait until you get home, schedules will be too difficult. The time together will be both energizing and therapeutic for team members. I recommend planning three meetings that will focus on celebration, reflection, and next steps.
Coming home can be hard and it requires some preparation to do it right. Don’t neglect this area of your short-term mission trip as it is the key to life long change in your participants and not simply a mountain top experience that fades with time.
Questions for the author? Do you need help knowing what to expect, or how to prepare your team? You can contact Tory at 520-404-0841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.