Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Guidelines for Sending Volunteers in Mission

(Part II of "Guidelines for Sending and Hosting United Methodist Volunteers in Mission")

Preparing to Send Volunteer Teams

Develop interest in your conference, district or local church.

  • Educate and raise awareness for mission.
  • Have volunteers who have gone before share information and enthusiasm.
  • Utilize Jurisdictional / Conference media and human resources (Identify persons who have been team leaders to the area selected).
  • Build on Mission Study program.
Establish a supportive/ sponsoring group (includes monetary contributions).

Select possible locations and potential projects.

  • Contact District/Conference/Jurisdictional Coordinators for project lists and assistance.
  • Use available Project Profile sheets or clearly defined project needs.
Selection is a partnership.

  • It is essential to contact appropriate (United) Methodist Church official(s) and local host to verify that the project is needed, and is a priority to the local church.
  • Affirmation that a mission team is welcome.
  • Ensure that project fits talents and skills of team.
  • Agree on possible dates (consider pre-site visit, special celebrations).
  • Note any special considerations for team members.
Invite team leader to serve.

Conference or district may provide training for prospective team leaders.

Essential qualities of a team leader:

  • Christ-focused
  • Commitment to mission work of the church
  • Previous experience as team member or co-leader
  • Flexibility and openness
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Able to make decisions and include team in process
  • Able to organize and delegate responsibilities
  • Caring, culturally sensitive, and patient

Notify district/conference/jurisdictional coordinator of planned mission and dates.

9-12 Months Before Team Leaves

Maintain clear communication with host.

  • Establish the best form of communication between host and sending mission (consider and plan for additional cost to host).
  • Make every effort to ensure communication occurs in a timely manner.
  • Receive formal letter of invitation for the purpose of securing travel documents.
Request the following information:

  • Anticipated costs of housing, meal/food arrangements, & transportation
  • Maximum number of team members which can be accommodated by host
  • Working environment
  • Customs and cultural expectations
  • Need for interpreter
  • Inquiry regarding appropriate gifts to be offered to community
Covenant for mission partnership (sample attached)

Promote mission trip.

  • Share excitement with sponsoring group(s).
  • Publicize for recruitment of team members and project funds.
Identify potential team members and recruit.

  • Be Christ-focused and committed to mission work of the church.
  • Distribute application forms (may include personal skills survey, talents, hobbies, and letter of reference from pastor).
  • Set deadline and interview dates (if necessary - some Conferences use a selection committee).
  • Secure translator and/or work site supervisor if necessary.
  • Remember that diversity enhances ministry; offer scholarships if needed.
Covenant with team members.

  • Flexibility and openness to other cultures and ways of worship
  • Willingness to serve in friendship and mutuality with host and host church
  • Commitment to orientation and training
  • Willingness to follow the guidance of the team leader
Coordinate and plan.

  • Inform team members of recommended immunizations
  • Clear, itemized budget
  • Insurance - VIM approved (e.g. GBGM, SEJ)
  • Fund-raising activities/events

3-6 Months Before Team Leaves

Travel essentials

  • Provide ample time for obtaining Passports, Visas, and Work Permits where needed.
  • Pursue verification of professional credentials for serving in host country (ie. physician's license).
  • Remind team members of recommended immunizations.
  • Transportation details and reservations.
  • Determine procedures for transporting non-personal baggage.
Emergency preparation (team leader)

  • Be aware of medical facilities in the area.
  • Know health needs of team members (allergies, chronic conditions, etc), and person to contact in case of emergency.
  • Be educated regarding medical system in host locale.
  • Secure Embassy and Consulate locations and phone numbers.
  • Have an evacuation plan in case of severe weather, social upheaval, or medical emergency, etc.
Continue communication with host.

  • Determine tool and supply needs (consider tool bank for local community).
  • Determine appropriate gifts for and methods of distribution in the community.
  • Check on labor relations and building codes.
  • Determine means, timing, and accountability of disbursement of contributions to project.
  • Discuss safety and security issues.
  • Share copies of publicity with host.
Begin orientation and training of team.

Note: Geographics often prohibit meeting in person; use creative means of communication (i.e., Internet, conference calls, "snail mail").

"Know Before You Go"

  • Communicate purpose of mission, proper attitude/approach to mission. Note: We are all participants in God's mission
  • Communicate Volunteers In Mission philosophy
  • Emphasize mission experience and relationships - not meeting goals
  • Flexibility
  • Guests... accepting an invitation to help/serve others
  • Encourage journaling.
Discuss safety and health issues.

  • Immunizations required
  • Work-site safety
Emphasize cultural sensitivity/awareness, customs of host location.

Note: if possible, invite a national or previous missioner to share with team.

  • Approach to religion, church, and Methodism in country
  • Values, traditions
  • Acceptable dress, behavior reflective of host community
  • Meals, food, eating customs
  • Country background, geography, economics

1-2 Months Before Team Leaves

Communicate with host to verify all arrangements.

  • Send demographics of team to host (including number, age, and gender - noting those traveling with spouse).
  • Discuss site preparation upon arrival and projected tools/equipment needed.
  • Confirm transportation plans and reservations with host.
  • Confirm lodging/meals (identify special dietary requests and health needs).
  • Have clear understanding of host expectations.
  • Discuss and agree upon transmittal of project funds.
  • Confirm with host joint worship opportunities.
Continue team orientation and training.

Provide spiritual growth and fellowship experiences.

  • Devotionals, Bible study (groups use various approaches: designated chaplain, devotions prepared in advance, spontaneous worship, etc.)
  • Team-building exercises
  • Plan dedication and sending forth service for team
Prepare to relate to host church and community.

  • Show Christian witness and sensitivity.
  • Do appropriate distribution of gifts, clothing, money, supplies.
  • Discuss appropriate etiquette for photography.
  • Be careful of making promises or offering invitations without clearance from officials in home conference.
Involve sending/sponsoring congregation(s) in the mission.

  • Keeping sending congregation(s) informed of all team plans
  • Prayer needs
  • Financial and in-kind needs
  • Inclusion in service of Sending Forth and Return

2-3 Weeks Before Team Leaves


Finalize travel plan.

  • Confirm all airline reservations.
  • Set reunion date for team.
  • Distribute a team list with phone numbers and addresses with copies to Jurisdictional/Conference/District Coordinators.
In final communication with host confirm:

  • Travel and meeting arrangements
  • Exact nature of work to be done (any changes)
  • Materials accessible as planned (use local merchants when possible) housing arrangements
  • Currency exchange
Arrange to pack all non-personal items.

  • Tools, team supplies, Bible school materials (if appropriate), gifts, medicine (if appropriate)
  • Send copy of packing list to host for customs clearance (as communication permits)

As Team Travels

Team leader reminders

  • Have team leader travel with list of participants.
  • Have appropriate travel documents for minor participants.
  • Carry letter of invitation to be used at customs.
  • Include first-aid kit.
  • Continue team building, especially if team arrives from various geographical locations.
  • Remind team of their role as servants in God's mission and as guests in host locale.
Individual reminders

  • Remind team members to carry Bibles
  • Keep medications in original containers
  • Carry identification card (include: host information, personal & medical information)

When Team Arrives

  • Greet hosts at port of entry.
  • Assist with loading of luggage to transportation vehicle(s).
  • Attend pre-arranged on-site orientation for team presented by host Celebrate new possibilities for Christian community.
  • Notify embassy / consulate that team is in country as appropriate (if directed).

During Team's Visit


Team leader with host leader

  • Communicate frequently with host that all plans/arrangements are working.
  • Transfer project funds, and funds for in-country expenses, if not previously sent. Note: remember to request receipts for monies spent.
Team with community

  • Ensure that team is relating spiritually and positively with host church and community.
  • Work with host to include team with local Christian community in worship and witness to celebrate the joy of mission and the joy of diversity (note: alternate service may be developed in areas where religion cannot be openly practiced).
  • Be prepared to share faith experience(s) if requested.
  • Pastors be prepared to preach.
  • Include host and locals in some devotionals.
Being a team

  • Provide time for daily devotionals and team meetings.
  • Begin each day at work site with prayer.
  • Include a time for team processing at the end of each day.
  • Encourage reflection upon own culture in light of new experience.
  • Continue to encourage patience and flexibility.
  • Team members should be informed and involved as changes evolve.
Ensure a quality mission (in all fields).

  • If construction, adhere to local construction codes; or if medical, adhere to World Health Organization to refrain from shipping medical supplies near or beyond expiration date.
  • Daily work-safety reminders.
  • Work assignments to team members based on skill, knowledge, willingness to learn.

Coordinate cultural opportunities with host.

  • Set apart time for cultural, historical sharing, and local sites (if appropriate). Remember, building relationships are as significant as completion of "task."
Confirm transportation arrangements.

Before Departure of Team from Host Site

Plan a time for sharing with host and local coordinator(s).

  • Include a time of mutual assessment of experience.
  • Invite the host to share a written assessment of mission.

  • Review expenditures and receipts with host.
  • Settle incidental expenses that have occurred during mission.
Plan with host a time for good-byes.

  • Include a time of celebration and/or worship according to cultural norms.
  • Accept gifts graciously as this is a time of mutual celebration.
  • Establish ways to stay in touch with host community.
Plan with host departure time and procedures.

En Route Home

  • Distribute and later collect team-member evaluations.
  • Remind team members that family members have not had the same experience and to be sensitive to their level of enthusiasm.
  • Be sensitive to powerful emotions as group returns home and disbands and members assimilate into home culture.

After Team Returns Home

Send a written evaluation/reports to conference office or VIM coordinator.

  • Team's work and contributions, update on progress of project, strengths of hosts
  • Suggestions for future teams
  • Copy sent to host of assessment if requested
Make duplicate photos to share with team and host.

Send letter of appreciation to host (include a few pictures).

Hold a team reunion.

  • Share duplicate photos.

Sharing the Experience

Plan with team members to interpret experience in local and surrounding churches.

  • Continue the mission, tell the stor,y and continue the relationship.
  • Effect positive changes in attitudes.
  • New insights of nearby opportunities.
  • Be bold regarding constant challenges to minister and serve.
  • Where possible, see that trip is reported in local media.