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Guidelines for UMVIM Teams

Created by the International Conference On Sending and Hosting Volunteers
Oklahoma City, November 1998

Why We are Volunteers in Mission

The understanding that "we are called" and "we are sent" is at the foundation of our faith.  The scriptures are full of stories of persons who responded to a call and were sent on mission for God.   Abraham and Sarah, our parents in the faith, met God in the desert and entered into a covenant that from that moment claimed a people dedicated to God's mission.  Miriam heard the call and was sent to care for her baby brother.  Moses heard the call coming from a bush that was burning but not consumed and was sent to lead his people out of captivity.  Isaiah had a vision of God in the Temple and heard the voice of the Lord saying "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"; and Isaiah answered "Here am I, send me!" (Isaiah 6:1-8)

Jesus spent his ministry calling persons and sending them on God's mission (Andrew and Peter, the sons of Zebedee, Mary and Martha and Lazarus, the woman at the well, the paralyzed man by the pool, Zacchaeus in the tree, etc.)   Jesus understood himself to be called and sent when he announced to his hometown synagogue in Nazareth that "the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus summed up the Christian lifestyle in a simple formula - "Love the Lord your God with all you heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength" and "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:30) When asked by a lawyer to explain who was his neighbor Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan.  The Samaritan was a good neighbor because he had compassion and was able to cross culture and religious boundaries to help someone who was obviously hurting and in need of help.  And then Jesus said, "Go and do likewise!" (Luke 10:25-37)

The New Testament instructs those who would be followers of Jesus to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give shelter to the homeless, heal the sick, care for the widows, and nurture the children.  We are told that Jesus came in order that we might be able to tear down walls of hostility that divide and to build bridges of understanding.  We are called, wherever we are in the world, to love all of God's creation and to demonstrate that love with action.

Therefore, putting our faith into action is at the very heart of our Christian calling and not just something that we do in our spare time after we have reached our personal goals.  Through volunteers in mission every person in the church as the opportunity to serve and to live their calling and their lives more faithfully.  And when we reach out in this way, using what God has given us in the service of others, we have "life-transforming" experiences.

The gift of hospitality is another recurring theme running throughout the scriptures.  In the Hebrew Scriptures giving shelter to the traveler, helping the sojourner in our midst, and sharing with each other in what God expects.  Jesus introduces us to a God of grace who offers unconditional hospitality to all who will come.  Provisions are made for all, with a special place reserved for those who are among the marginalized.  We are instructed in the Book of Hebrews, "Let mutual love continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it."  (Hebrews 13:1-2)

Our neighborhood has expanded.  Today we are a global neighborhood and our neighbors are everywhere.  There is no place on this planet where we are not called to go if there is a need.  There is no place on this planet where we do not have the opportunity to receive those who understand themselves to have been sent.  We have discovered that when those of us from more affluent countries and congregations work alongside those who are poor or oppressed, we are blessed in profound ways.  As we move into different cultures and experience the reality of other contexts, we begin to live our lives with greater sensitivity, understanding, and compassion.  This kind of living and understanding can be life energizing and church energizing.

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. "Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.  You don't have to have a college degree to serve.  You don't even have to make your subject and your verb agree...  You only need a heart full of grace...a soul generated by love."

We all are called, we all are sent, we all are to offer the gift of hospitality to others.

Guidelines for Sending Volunteers In Mission

Preparing to Send Volunteer Teams

Develop interest in your Conference, District or Local Church
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
  • Inquire 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
  • 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 (ie. 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

  • Christian witness and sensitivity
  • 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
  • Keep 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
  • Team leader travel with list of participants
  • 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

  • Communication

Team Leader with Host Leader

  • Communicate frequently with host that all plans/arrangements 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 I historical sharing I 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 for 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
  • Finances
  • 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
  • Send a copy 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 story 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

Guidelines for Hosting Volunteers In Mission

Before requesting Volunteer Teams

  • Identify Needs (perhaps with help from GBGM)
  • Complete a Project Profile sheet (see attached sample)* or clearly define project needs and objectives to submit through appropriate (United) Methodist Church officials(s) for prioritization
  • Attach photographs of project where possible
  • Include project / design specifications if applicable (approved by church / community professional)
  • Verify that local Church / community is committed to continuing this ministry / project and to receive and welcome volunteer mission teams
  • Verify that it will be locally maintained and insured with continued funding by local or national church
  • Set specifications and direct the project technically
  • Recommend project(s) to committee
  • Communication Important
  • Promote project through church (locally, regionally, nationally)
  • Invite Volunteer in Mission leaders to visit project site and share how projects fit into the overall vision of the host church
  • Develop plan for communicating with team leader (including updates regarding project status)
  • Clarify best means of communication (phone, fax, e-mail)
  • Keep a list of individuals willing to interpret for teams as needed
  • Decide how to schedule teams
  • Accept only number of teams that can be adequately hosted and determine the number