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How to Prepare for a Virtual Short-Term Trip

This article was originally published in June 2020 during the COVID pandemic.

There have been a lot of short-term mission trip cancellations this year due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, and many people have been talking about other options they could consider in light of these cancellations.

One option is a virtual short-term trip. We recently conducted a virtual short-term trip with one of our church partners and discovered several benefits. Virtual short-term trips allow church partners to get a vision for the work long-term workers are doing, meet local partners, pray specifically for the work, and learn about ways to mobilize other workers from their church.

Like an in-person trip, there is some preparation that needs to be done prior to the virtual trip. While you do not have to make hotel reservations, arrange transportation, plan other logistics, meals, etc., you do need to think through certain things just as you would when preparing for a short-term trip. We had several conversations and planning sessions with the mission leader of our partner church. We put together an outline and developed a “to do” list for both us and the church.

If you’re considering planning a virtual short-term trip, here are some things you might consider as you plan and prepare.


The Field Worker

  1. Set up the experience. Determine what you want to accomplish through the trip. Write down the purpose of your trip and how it fits with your field strategy. You do not necessarily need to open it up to the entire church. It may be that you only need a counselor, a worship leader, or a teacher to lead a session or worship experience.

  2. Set up the Zoom calls. This is best done by a field worker since he or she can set their own security protocols. Be sure to password-protect all calls in order to deter hackers.

  3. Set up sessions with your field participants. We chose to have a local person lead all of the sessions for the church group. In one case, though, we had a person at the church teach one of the classes on the field that we conduct here.

  4. Lead some preliminary culture training. Find YouTube videos that could introduce participants to the culture for participants to watch beforehand. Include videos about food, clothing styles, history, etc.

  5. Plan necessary follow-up with participants. Just like a short-term, in-person trip, the field worker needs to follow up with participants in order to make the most of the trip. Take some time to debrief and ask what worked, what didn’t, what participants learned, etc.

Mission Leader

  1. Advertise the trip. Create publicity materials and channels for publicity to the church so members are aware of the opportunity.

  2. Make sure people know how how to register. Create an easy-to-find registration link on your church’s website for people to sign up for the virtual trip.

  3. Set up communication. Communicate with attendees that signed up. Pass along any pertinent information, such as Zoom call details, schedules, cultural information, etc.

  4. Make sure participants are prepared. Hold a training session for the registered participants from the church. Discuss security issues, what they need to do/not do, and how they need to prepare for their session.

  5. Keep a list of who attended. When it comes time for another trip or an in-person experience, you will have a base of interested and mission-activated people.

  6. Get the church staff involved. The mission leader we worked with was able to get most of his staff on a call at some point during the week. This was huge in helping them be more involved in our work.

These are just some things we learned during our experience that you might want to consider if you decide to plan a virtual short-term trip.


Larry is the co-founder and Executive Director of The Upstream Collective. He and his family have lived in Europe for nearly twenty years, where he has served in a variety of strategy and leadership roles. Prior to moving to Europe, he was a church planter and pastor in the US. He is a co-author of Tradecraft: For the Church on Mission, The First 30 Daze: Practical Encouragement for Living Abroad Intentionally, and The MarketSpace: Essential Relationships Between the Sending Church, Marketplace Worker, and Missionary Team.

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