Serving as a mission team leader requires year-round involvement. Following your return and the debriefing process with your team, it is time to look to the future. Preparing for the next year's trip begins shortly after the end of the current year's trip while it is still fresh on your mind. Each year it is important to review every aspect of your trip; from the daily schedule to the type of work you do, from the long term vision to the team leadership, from the budget to your team's relationship with the host.
Post-Trip Expense Report
As you know, one of the new requirements for receiving the full team leader subsidy is turning in both a pre-trip budget and a post-trip expense report to your Missions Program point of contact. Keep your receipts and record each purchase you make in a spreadsheet. Each purchase should be classified under a specific category within your budget. Although tedious, keeping track of how each dollar is spent on your trip allows you to edit and develop the most effective budget from year to year. You are able to provide financial security and transparency to your team members and all of your trip's donors. Here's a sample expense report.
All of your team's leadership should have a thorough understanding of the purpose of your trip and why you continue to come alongside and provide support to the work of your host. If you did not previously have them, sit down with your host and team leadership to create a long-term vision and trip purpose. Following your trip, review both with your team's leadership. Discuss how well your team achieved the trip purpose and furthered the long-term vision. What worked? What seemed to not fit within them? Where did you face challenges? Were any new aspects to include in your purpose and/or vision discovered? What changes to the trip layout will solidify your purpose and increase the scope of your long-term vision?
Changes in Team Leadership
A team's leadership can vary greatly from year to year. Some teams will have the same leadership in place (both primary and supporting leaders) for several years, while others may change annually. There is a relatively high turnover rate, particularly in supporting leaders, due to the use of students, the nature of the position (volunteers), unforeseen circumstances, and many other factors. Upon your return, a primary team leader should evaluate your team's leadership (yourself included). Did each leader fulfill the responsibilities and tasks allotted to them? Are all team leaders committed to continuing to serve in the same role? If changes need to be made, work with your Missions Program point of contact and your other team leaders to identify potential replacement leaders. Look for new team leaders who have served in the same area of the world, or have experience in and/or a passion for your particular type of work/ministry. Alumni and other returning team members are often best suited to step into open leadership roles. If utilizing students as secondary leaders, it is beneficial to identify future team leaders the year before and have them closely observe the team leaders during your upcoming trip.
Continue communication with your host following your trip. Ask them to share their thoughts on the effectiveness of your team and its works. Find out what can be done in the future to provide more impactful support to the work of your host and implement changes into the layout of future trips. Shape your trips around the needs of your host; whether it's by being extra sets of hands, encouraging and showing love, reaching further into the surrounding communities, even learning and spreading awareness back home. Your host can also share some of the long-term impacts of your trip, the things that are products of your work that do not come to fruition until long after you have left. Also, it's never too early to confirm your dates for the next trip and begin discussions of future partnership!
Team Member Input
Don't underestimate the value of what your team members have to say! They are a part of the same ministry that you are and may see things from a different angle or encounter something others may not. Field a time of discussion following your trip where team members can share their opinions on things such as trip vision and purpose, team leadership, and future opportunities.