How to Create and Lead Your Own Literature Mission Trip
So you want to create and lead a GLOW mission trip? Great! Let’s start with the basics and ask the question what is a GLOW mission trip? GLOW mission trips are characterized by one primary goal: to distribute massive amounts of truth-filled tracts to everything that breathes—well, almost everything. It’s as simple as that.
Most mission trips can be split into one of two categories; big mission trips and small ones which we call blitzes. Big mission trips typically focus on distributing literature around a large gathering of people like the Super Bowl or a visit from the Pope. They typically last longer (around 10 days or so), are composed of missionaries recruited from all over the U.S. or beyond, are led by seasoned GLOW mission trip leaders, and get out a million or more tracts.
Blitzes are more frequent, composed more of locals led by locals, and are short term, lasting perhaps several hours up to a full day. Typically, anything not requiring an overnight stay is considered a blitz. Examples of a blitz include a lay person organizing an attempt to get out 10,000 tracts on a Sunday or knock out an entire neighborhood or small town on a Saturday afternoon up to perhaps a student organizing an event with his friends in an attempt to scatter 50,000 tracts at every parking lot along a 50 mile section of a freeway on the coast.
Elements of an Epic Mission Trip
Before you hatch any advanced plans with your mission trip or blitz you need to think about one thing: motivation. What element of your mission trip or blitz will motivate potential missionaries and/or donors?
Successful mission trips/blitzes start with this question and build the trip around it. Following are four key ways to put some skin on that idea. (BTW we call these building blocks “motivational elements” or ME for short and in order for your mission trip/blitz to be officially posted on the GLOW mission trip website, it has to be founded on at least one of these following ME’s so get out the pen and paper and take some notes!)
ME #1 Unreached Communities:
Unreached Community (UC) is a term which describes mission trips focused on getting tracts out in a place that has never been reached by your church. Often these mission trips/blitzes aim to reach small communities that are remote and totally out of the way. Like fresh powder on the slopes, this virgin territory is exciting to work. You missionary team can say they’ve done something nobody else has! (Tip, ask your local church leadership if they have unworked areas. They’ll be happy to point you in the right direction. Or Google the most remote towns in your county and find info on them with city-data.com including population, maps, demographics ,etc.)
If you have several small towns in a remote hill area or out in the plains, string them together and GLOW up several of them. This brings us to our next motivation element:
ME #2 Total Knockout:
Total Knockout (TK) is a term which means that the mission trip/blitz is aiming to totally knockout an entire ‘something.’ This ‘something’ can be an entire small town, and entire neighborhood, and entire business-filled street, an entire city, an entire boat docking area, an entire zoo or whatever. In other words when you are done, you can tell your buddies, ‘I was on a team that got truth into every house in _______! (You fill in the blank.)” The knowledge that you just “knocked out” an entire town, neighborhood, parking lot, city, county, state, or series of businesses is exhilarating. People love goals. More than this, they like accomplishing goals. And more than this, they like accomplishing goals that are challenging. So make your TK achievable but demanding.
ME #3 Large Gatherings
As mentioned earlier, large gathering (LG) mission trips/blitzes focus on getting out thousands or even millions of tracts on at any large gathering such as Super Bowls, local parades, fairs, or visits from the Pope or a rock star, etc. Talk about intense! This is front-line work includes being mobbed by hundreds of people and passing out tracts as fast as you can pull them out of your bag! This kind of mission trip/blitz really hits the spot of people who want to do something huge, semi-confrontational, and perhaps even a bit dangerous—after all who doesn’t want to tell the story of getting unjustly kicked out by security?
ME #4 Shut Down
Shut down (SD) mission trips/blitzes are usually local-congregation oriented. This is where a church or group of churches decides to “shut down” their church service and devote that time instead to a well-organized distribution endeavor. Instead of listening to a sermon and receiving spiritual food, this is a 180 degree turn where laity are now leading their church or missionaries from one or multiple churches to give tracts to their communities. Many churches have done this and it always brings attention to aggressive outreach and testimonies. What better way to access the normal church member anyway? If there is one thing the brethren come to, it’s the divine service. Make sure to offer some kind of secondary prayer service for the members who can’t go out. It should not be a regular service though but a service aimed at praying for those who are out in the field. At the end, potluck then becomes a testimony time—unless you make the excursion extend beyond potluck of course and turn it into an all-day or all weekend missionary bonanza!
ME #5 The Demand
Finally we come to “the demand.” In all honesty, this is actually not a ME in the same sense as the previous four, rather it is an overarching element that must infuse all of the previous ME’s. What meaneth us by “the demand” then? Simply this: your mission trip/blitz needs to be soaked in challenge—in other words, make it seem demanding. The best way to do this is to actually make it demanding. The best way to strengthen your faith in God’s promises, to stretch your missionary team, and to accomplish huge things is to set the bar above what you and your team are comfortable with. Give them something to sacrifice for.
Today’s church, in our TV-remote, car-seat warmer, voice-to-text, one-minute oatmeal, society, is almost wholly lacking the element of sacrifice and challenge. Divine-service attendance has become the benchmark of faithful membership—and your mission trip/blitz ought to seek to break that mold. People in our church need something demanding and challenging—not just something that we try to make look that way—which is pretty easy to see through BTW. Plan big and see what God will do. This is the leadership style exhibited by Saul’s son Jonathan when he proposed an intense “mission trip” to his armor bearer while all the rest of the army was hiding in holes for fear of the Philistines. “And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armor, ‘Come let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.’ And his armorbearer said unto him, ‘Do all that is in thy heart…behold I am with thee according to thy heart.’” Jonathan set a real challenge before the one he was recruiting to help him. The young man rose to the occasion and the two of them spearheaded the wholesale slaughter of tons of Philistines and emboldened the rest of the “church” to come out of their holes and fight as well!
Make your mission trip/blitz demanding. Make your plans big. Be realistic, but stretch yourself, those you recruit, and those you lead.
Now you have the foundational motivational elements on paper for your mission trip/blitz. Let’s get on to a to do list of sorts to get this thing rolling!
- You need to decide when your mission trip/blitz will be. (When do leaders and missionaries arrive and when do they leave?)
- You need to decide where your mission trip/blitz’s target area(s) will be.
- You need to decide where your missionaries will be housed if it is an actual mission trip (meaning it has at least one overnight stay). Options include:
- Their own housing if it is a short distance away (logistically challenging)
- Tents (if you are distributing tracts up in the arctic circle or in the middle of the wilderness in Africa)
- A church close to your target area
- You’ll need a room for men to sleep and a room for women
- You’ll need kitchen facilities including a fridge and a place to eat with tables etc.
- You’ll need a place to store your literature, any radios and bags
- You’ll need a place to do training and worship(s)
- You’ll need a place for your leadership team to meet in private for daily meetings
- You’ll need to find a place for showers for the team which can include:
- The church’s shower facilities (the ideal)
- A local gym’s shower facilities (Just ask them to use it for free once a day, often it works.)
- Local church member’s opening up their homes on some sort of morning shower schedule (more logistically difficult)
- Hauling in a shower trailer (Contact GLOW at firstname.lastname@example.org to check on availability of these.)
- You need to decide how missionaries will arrive (Will you tell them a certain airport to arrive at or a location to drive to?)
- You need to figure out how the transportation will work when the trip is actually happening options include:
- Missionaries use their own cars to drive to and back from territory (Complicated and hard to work territory efficiently and with good momentum. People work better in groups under a leader/driver giving exact directions for how to work the territory so they can focus on the distribution.)
- You rent a few vehicles (ideally mini-vans) for the mission trip and provide transportation to and from territory every day (A little more work on your part but absolutely the best option. Streamlines everything. Gives you the ability as leader to actually lead your team in the field. See section entitled “How to Field Lead” to learn how to lead your teams in the field efficiently. Renting is only lame if you are leading a short Sabbath afternoon trip and have to rent for the entire weekend to make it happen. See “Getting the Funding” section on how to pay for the rentals.)
- You need to figure out how many leaders you need on the team and what roles they will play
- Do you need a leader to head up any kitchen prep/clean up?
- Do you need a male/female leader for deaning at night?
- You do need a leader for every rental van full of missionaries and that leader needs to know how to lead in the field. See “How to Field Lead” section.
- Do you need a leader to oversee the stocking of the vehicles with literature?
- Other leadership roles include (but don’t necessarily require another full leader)
- Training missionaries (See “How to Field Lead” section)
- Giving worships
- Preparing maps and dividing up what areas will be worked by what leader and their team each day
- General facility PR/clean up with missionaries working under them
- You need to decide how you will communicate with your missionaries when they are in the field. Options include:
- Walkie-Talkie Radios (A little more pre-work on your part to get them but it’s the best option. You can rent them, buy them, or look into borrowing them from any conference that has a regular student canvassing team during the summer. See “How to Field Lead” section on instructions as to how to use them using efficient radio lingo. Also, set one missionary in charge of collecting the radios every night when everyone arrives back. He will place the radios on the chargers or at least make sure that they are all placed there. Putting sticker name tags on the radios allows him to see whose radio is missing.)
- Cell Phones (Better as a fall back, but are the easiest option if it is a short trip where you don’t know how many missionaries you will have until they actually arrive! Make sure cell phones have volume up and are charged. Some apps help smart phones work like radios and might be worth looking into for a download. For such apps just google “walkie talkie apps” or see:http://readwrite.com/2012/05/23/5-push-to-talk-apps-that-turn-your-smartphone-into-a-walkie-talkie )
- Smoke signals (Difficulty level: extreme)
- You need to decide how your missionaries are going to carry their literature with them when they are in the field. Options include:
- Using an awesome GLOW mission trip bag. (These bags can be seen at buyglow.org and have multiple pockets on the side of the main carrying compartment so you can stuff them with different tract titles and collate tracts on the move! So if you only have a small group but want to give out a large number of tracts; then get more than one title and have the missionaries collate the tracts as they move from house to house, car to car, or person to person giving out two or more at a time.)
- Using whatever bag they have on hand or their pockets. (For a blitz where you only get out a few thousand tracts, this can work. The leader has to be close at hand though to resupply often which complicates things.)
- You need to decide what tract titles you are going to use, how many you are going to get, and where you will get them from. (Titles can be seen and read online at glowonline.org. Tracts can be ordered online or via phone. All info for that is at glowonline.org. Ask GLOW about any special mission trip/blitz pricing.)
- You need to line up the finances of the trip. Skip to the “Getting the Funding” section to read about this.
Mission Trip Schedule Template
Your daily schedule will make or break your mission trip. Following is a mission trip daily schedules that we have found works great. All other variations such as a one day or part day blitz can be adapted off of this basic schedule.
Multi-Day Mission Trip Daily Schedule:
6:00am – Personal Time (Missionaries get ready for day and have devotions/prepare sack lunch if desired)
7:45am – Chores (See “Chores Unveiled” below)
9:15am – Breakfast (Two meal a day schedules typically work better for your time in the field especially when you can control the schedule of the missionaries more on a multi-day trip. See “Chores Unveiled” below regarding breakfast.)
9:30am – Leadership Meeting separate from missionaries eating breakfast (Leaders eat with missionaries for first little while then split to have leadership meeting to plan for the day. See “Leadership Meeting Agenda” to find out what that meeting entails.)
9:45isham – Breakfast cleanup crew begins and is finished before worship.
10:30am – Worship (Open the time up to sing songs interspersed with testimonies from the field. Record the testimonies and put them up on the GLOW facebook page. Finish with a short and inspiring worship thought.)
11:30am – Training (See “What to Train On” and “Leadership Meeting Agenda” section below)
12:30pm – Leave for field (Group everyone together before leaving. Have prayer and/or a group rah-rah moment so everyone is pumped up before getting in the vehicles.)
3:30pm – Lunch (Eat in the field at restaurant like Taco Bell or Subway-or if your not in America, find some other inexpensive restaurant option that has some vegetarian options. Missionaries can bring sack lunches if desired.)
4:30pm – Field again
8-9pm – Return to Base
10:00pm – Curfew (Sleep is absolutely essential to you missionaries stamina and success. Try to get them to abide by this if at all possible.)
On a multi-day mission trip, every morning during the chore time you should have your missionaries split into several chore groups with a designated leader in charge doing the following:
- Breakfast Prep (and clean up around 9:45am)
- Stocking the vehicles including putting the necessary tracts in, taking trash out, organizing the stocking room, getting an inventory count so you know how many tracts go out each day. (Tip: give each missionary a box which will contain their literature for the day. Fill it with the amount needed so that if everyone gets out their box of literature each day, you will meet your total mission trip goal. The box is a great visual motivation for the missionaries throughout the day. When they finish their box, they help others on their team finish unfinished boxes. When one team is completely done with their boxes, they join other teams to help them finish until the entire team is done at the same time.)
- PR team to clean rooms/bathrooms/facilities and put things in order. You don’t want to burn your bridges with a nice facility that you could use again.
- GLOW Tag making team. Don’t know what GLOW tags are? They are small literature holders cut from pieces of paper and stapled together that you place in the field with sticky tape. They hold onto anything and can contain quite a few tracts. This is an essential part of your arsenal. Get the template emailed to you from email@example.com, print off a ton of them and have a team put a bunch together every single morning for use during the field time.
Leadership Meeting Agenda
During your leadership meeting you need to have one person in charge who makes the agenda and takes everyone through it—we call this a program head. Your agenda should cover three categories of items each day: Time, Places, People.
Time: Discuss that day’s schedule if any changed need to happen. Discuss any special weekend plans and delegate who is doing what. Discuss how you are doing as a team in your distribution numbers from day to day. Are you on track to meet your goal or do you need more time in the field? Can you take a fun day off?
Places: Discuss any facility PR issues. Discuss/plan where each leader is going for the day. Discuss how each chore department is doing i.e. kitchen, stocking, GLOW tag team etc.
People: Discuss how each missionary did in the field the previous day and draw training items out of that discussion for the entire team during training time. Delegate which leader will cover what training item and how long they have for it. Only hit major issues. Discuss any other issues related to the missionaries. Is anyone sick? Is anyone discouraged? Anyone need any special attention? Any relationships forming that need to be dealt with? Who did well in the field and who was slow?
What to Train On
During the mission trip or blitz, there are some essentials that need to be covered immediately in training before heading out even the first time.
Communication: There are certain things which missionaries need to communicate to each leader while in the field. And there are certain things that the leader needs to communicate to the missionaries. All of this is done over the radios/cell phones. Following are some of those necessary communications and how we say them:
- For any communication put it in the sentence structure: “Mobile one this is name ……………” or from the leader to the missionary: “This is mobile one to name…….” Doing this allows time for the buttons on most radios to engage so that if any part of the communication is cut out it is the “mobile one” part. Secondly, stating who you are when you make a call is helpful so the leader knows who is calling.
- When missionaries are ready to be moved to another street/area. “Mobile one this is name ready for pickup”
- When missionaries are getting close to meeting each other on the street: “Mobile one this is name two block warning” or three block warning etc.
- When missionaries run into police or management or someone official who has a question as to why they are passing out tracts: “Mobile one this is name management assistance”
- When missionaries are seriously in danger (only to be used is totally serious situations where you are fearing or almost fearing for your life): “Mobile one this is name plane ticket”
- When missionary needs more GLOW: “Mobile one this is name. Need more GLOW”
- When missionary gets out a set of 300 or 500 tracts: “Mobile one this is name. 300!”
- When leader needs to know the location of a missionary: “This is mobile one to name what is your 10-20?”
Bags: Missionaries need to learn how to use their bags to collate literature. They also need to receive the bags. If they are not using customized GLOW bags then disregard this point.
How to place literature: Teach them how to put literature in car doors, on house doors, in people’s hands. Below are some pics of how to place tracts in car doors including multiple tracts per door:
Basic Four: Teach them to walk fast, smile, pray, and stick a tract in someone’s hand purposefully with an extended arm.
Directions in the field: Assuming you are leading teams in vans rather than them using their own cars and having their own maps to just work however they want, you’ll need to teach them a few basic instructions so when you tell them what to do when they hop out of the van, they’ll understand what you are talking about and not get lost.
Here are the most basic instructions to teach them and to use when planning how you will run your territory and maps to show some examples and explain: (WARNING: These maps were altered in Microsoft Paint and are extremely low-budget.)
- Go to your T, cross over and work back
- Comb Side Streets
- Go to your T, cross over and work back
The red dots on the map below indicate where you would drop off your missionaries. Two to a street on opposite sides of the street. If you tell them to go to their T, cross over and work back they would follow the red lines as indicated and meet each other. When they meet each other they are ready for pick up. They simply call you and say, “Ready for pickup.” The “T” is just a “T” formation where your street dead ends in another intersecting street.
Note also that in examples C and D, the missionaries comb courts or cul-de-sacs. Train your people to always, always, always grab courts/cul-de-sacs. Don’t even mention them in your instructions as the missionaries hop out of the vehicle because it should be assumed that they will work them.
Notice also that the missionaries totally skipped working any side streets. How do you explain to your missionaries to comb their sidestreets? This leads us to the next point.
- Comb Side Streets
The red and green dots indicate where you drop off your missionaries. As normal, you tell them to work to their T, cross over and work back (alternately, you can tell them to work to their main four-way intersection or to a certain street that they will consider their “T”). But this time you tell them to comb side streets. Combing side streets means that they go down the side streets like branches off of a tree trunk. How far do they go down side streets? Until the side street hits its “T” or until the first four way intersection.
Example A shows N. Spalding as the main street and E. Menlo as the “T” while E Paul is the side street (and as always, they will always grab courts/cul-de-sacs.).
Example B shows a longer drop where the missionary on the right has many side streets. Notice that when the missionary is on side street Sample Ave, that they don’t comb 6th street. This would be a side street off of a side street. We tell missionaries only to do side streets and never do side streets off of side streets unless they are told to do so specifically by the leader when they are dropped off. It just gets too confusing for them. A similar example of skipping side streets of off side streets is in example C with the person on the northern side when they are on North 4th street—they don’t do Menlo, Paul, and Wathen Avenues.
Finally example C shows the missionary on the south side combing side streets and crossing over/cutting off their side street excursion when they hit their four way intersection on 4th street and Escalon. Remember, side streets are combed either to their T or to the first four way intersection. Example C is not finished. See if you can trace where the missionaries would go for the rest of the drop assuming that North Cedar Ave is a T for East Sierra Ave.
Getting the Funding
Now that you have the basic idea of what you want your mission trip/blitz to look like, you likely need to get funding for parts of it. Following are a few different potentials for funding sources. Once again, remember that people want to fund mission trips/blitzes that they are motivated to fund so stress the ME’s of your mission trip/blitz when talking to potential donors.
Churches: Local churches are great entities to approach for small mission trips/blitzes, especially if your target area is within their jurisdiction. You are actually offering them your effort to recruit and lead a mission trip/blitz in their area. You are simply asking for some help with funding in return.
Tell them about your mission trip/blitz idea and ask them to provide some or all of the following depending on your trip’s needs:
- A place to meet for training/housing
- Funding for the literature used
- Several missionaries from their church to join in
- Funding for any rental mini-vans plus fuel you might use (unless you plan on using your own vehicles which can be a bit messy. Once again, it’s better to get everyone into some vans with leaders who know what they are doing and who will drop people off to work certain areas then move them.)
- Funding for walkie-talkies if you rent (or buy and plan on using them many times)
With this plan, all the missionaries have to pay for is their transportation to get there. The less they have to pay, the more people you will get.
Conferences: If your churches are organized into an administrative body, sometimes called a conference, they will often be interested in helping provide funding for mission trips/blitzes. Consider contacting any ministry department that you have connections with already. You can ask for items A, B, C, E, and F from the list above. Consider asking them if they have any funds set aside for special projects like this or for new projects. Often conferences are more willing to give money if it is a two or three way funding deal, i.e. get a church or two to help financially and then approach the conference asking them to add to the combined funding.
Laity: Contacting laity can be done in two main methods—buckshot and sniper style. In buckshot fundraising, you are trying to contact as many people as possible using methods like online giving (givesendgo.com is an example or gofundme.com), mailing in checks/cash etc. You advertise through church posters, mass emails through the conference, bulletin inserts, announcements at multiple churches, sermons, facebook, etc.
Sniper style is where you go and visit specific individuals who you know would be excited about your mission trip/blitz or who have a lot to give financially. You meet with them individually and exert a bit more effort to ask them for funding. Aim for the stars, perhaps you have a millionaire or two in your conference or church.
Laity can be asked to help fund items A, B, C, E, and F from the first list.
Anything that is not funded by donors, needs to be funded by the missionaries. Keeping the cost down is good, but it also creates buy in from missionaries when they have to put money into the mission trip/blitz. It helps them commit earlier on in the process as well especially if you have set deadlines for when certain aspects of the trip need to be paid for. Above all, if you are doing a large mission trip and distributing 1 million tracts or more, don’t lay that financial burden on the missionaries , your recruiting will be extremely difficult. Try to get the larger priced items such as literature funded by donors.
Remember to send reports and thank you cards/gifts to your donors afterwards. Giving them something signed by the missionaries is great too so they can have a memento. A picture book of the mission trip/blitz or a video of the trip are great ideas too.
Tips for Field Leading
Following are some helpful tips to keep in mind when you are leading a team in the field. Efficiency can mean the difference between reaching or not reaching your literature distribution goal.
- The longer the drop, the better. Gives you more time to scout out the next drops, deliver GLOW tracts, and work with your people.
- Plan your first drops before you leave for territory every day. If you have not pre-scouted your territory, make “plan B” drops just in case you arrive at your plan A drops and there are no cars there for missionaries to put GLOW on!
- Have your missionaries call in when they see that they are getting close to each other. It helps you get to them faster and pick them up as soon as they are done.
- (Advanced) Always try to make right hand turns rather than left when navigating your territory. It’s faster.
- (Advanced) Try to keep a mental picture of where your people are in their drops. Who is closest to being ready for pickup? Ideally, you want to aim to drive up just as they meet each other so you can move them without a second lost. Or show up right before they meet and work with them on the street before picking them up and moving them to the next street.
- (Advanced) Try to drop your fastest GLOWers first so they have the most amount of time in the field. Pick them up last too.
- When deciding what to do keep in mind this prioritization list: Doors, Territory, GLOW, Leadership
- Doors: Make sure your people are at car or house doors placing GLOW and not sitting in the car or sitting on the curb waiting for you
- Territory: Make sure you always—at all times—have two drops planned ahead of where your team is currently working
- GLOW: Make sure your people have GLOW in their bags. Get to them and restock them as quickly as you can when they call
- Leadership: Let them see you. Drive by and encourage them or hop out and work alongside them if at all possible. You know you really have your territory under control if you can do this and not get caught off guard with missionaries sitting on the curb waiting for you to pick them up!
- Parking lots: never ever skip parking lots or businesses. Have your people work any parking lot that is in their path. Consider making a team that focuses on hunting down large parking lots and businesses. Teach your missionaries to ask if they can place stacks of literature in businesses for customers to take.
Recruitment/Advertising You Mission Trip
An essential part of recruitment is setting up a website where people can learn about your mission trip and register for it. Ideally they would be able to pay any fees for the mission trip online. They would also be able to see and question and answer section regarding your mission trip. If only such a website existed….well the good news is that GLOW has developed such a website where you can advertise your mission trip and customize your mission trip details and application process. The site is glowonline.org
To start posting info on your mission trip we need to collect some information from you. You can look at currently posted mission trips on glowonline.org to see what they look like info-wise and use them as a template to get us the necessary information.
Info Needed (To be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org):
- Adjusted Q&A content – Use pre-existing mission trip Q&A’s as a template and simply adjust
- Give a two to three sentence summary of the mission trip in written form to be posted for potential missionaries to see
- Select/Purchase and send an image to be posted for your mission trip on the website
- Give us the exact dates and location of the mission trip
- Give us a primary contact email and phone number for the main leader of the mission trip
- Give us information regarding the costs to go on the mission trip (if there are any fees associated with your mission trip there are a couple of more steps that need to happen so we can set up the payment process. Contact Tara Vang at email@example.com regarding this.)