Team building helps the group going on your mission trip to get to know one another and to bond. This is important because successful mission trips start with groups that not only know what they’re working toward, but how to work together to reach it. Making relationships on the team a priority can lead to greater vulnerability and spiritual growth while you’re in the field and when you return home. Here are some suggestions for mission trip team-building activities and other steps you can take before your trip to build relationships.
Mission Trip Team-Building Activities
Team-building pre-trip checklist
- Start team-building at least two to four months before your trip. If you are taking an international trip, start even earlier.
- Meet at least monthly with your team before the trip. Make these meetings a priority, or even a requirement.
- Emphasize that this trip is not a vacation. Prepare your team to work hard, build relationships, and be spiritually challenged.
- Make sure your team knows how to be flexible, and that they are prepared for the cultural differences that they will encounter.
- Form prayer partnerships within your team. Have team members draw names from a hat to pick their prayer partners. Encourage them to pray for their partners before, during, and after the trip. Set aside some time at meetings for partners to pray together as well.
- Assign team members specific roles/jobs for the trip to distribute the work and use your team’s gifts. Be sure to assign a co-leader who can take over for you in case of an emergency. (Examples of team roles: carrying the team money, preparing team devotions, or carrying the first aid kit.)
Get to know each other by having fun together.
- Cook a meal together. Choose something simple that can involve many people. This activity includes washing the dishes at the end!
- Play a name game. Stand in a circle and have everyone say their name and an animal name that starts with the same letter. Challenge people to repeat every person’s name and animal.
- Build marshmallow castles. Give teams of five or six people marshmallows, toothpicks, and straws. Challenge them to build a castle within a certain time limit.
- Take a trust walk. Divide people into groups of five or six. Blindfold all but one member of each group. Direct the blindfolded people to hold hands. Tell the people who can see to take their groups on a walk.
- Pack the team luggage and prepare any materials that you’ll be presenting, such as VBS, workshops, or teachings.
- Do show and tell. Ask each person to bring an item that tells you something about them and share how/why it describes who they are.
- Take a spatial personality test. State two personality characteristics or preferences. Have people go to one side of the room or the other based on what characteristic fits them best. (Examples: Cats/Dogs, Introvert/Extrovert)
- Have team members share their testimony or a personal faith story. If a member of your team isn’t yet a Christian, they can share about their life, and why they chose to go on a mission trip.
- Roleplay situations where things could go wrong on the trip. Talk about the emotions that can arise and how those can be handled. Also discuss how to handle homesickness, bad attitudes, and inappropriate language.
- Reflect together on what it means to be a team player.
- Share expectations, fears, and hopes for the trip.
- Talk about what “creature comforts” they feel are the minimum for their comfort. Discuss what they would do if those things weren’t available on the mission trip.
- Mission trips are a place where many people encounter the church and faith in a powerful new way, maybe for the first time. Make spaces for people who are not Christians to join your team, and to share their stories and gifts. Frame these positively, and not as a second best option, story, or experience. You never know how these stories will resonate with other team members, and the community you serve.
Study the Bible together.
Learn about working as a team by studying God’s Word together. This works best when it is done in small groups. You can recap what you discuss in your small groups with the whole group afterward.
Read a Bible passage and answer these questions:
- What do the verses say about teamwork?
- What do the verses say creates effective and purposeful teamwork?
- What do the verses say can have a negative impact on teamwork?
Suggested verses: 1 Corinthians 12:14–26; Matthew 18:15–17; Philippians 2:1–4; Galatians 5:22–23, 26; James 2:1–9.
Share with each other how we all have strengths, weaknesses, talents, and communication styles to contribute to the team.
Have different team members lead Bible study or devotions at each meeting.
Pray as a team.
Pray as a group for God to help you form a team that works together and stays together. You can encourage each other and prepare spiritually for your trip as you pray. Try different types of prayers: call and response, everyone praying out loud at the same time, pray in different postures, etc.
Suggestions for what to pray:
- Pray for the community to which you are going.
- Pray that God would give your team a vision for how to bring what you learn and experience on the trip back to your home community.
- Ask group members if they have specific prayer requests for the trip. Most people will be nervous or concerned about something.