With the growing popularity of faith-based vacations, more churches and religious groups are implementing travel ministries than ever before. Does your church or religious organization have a travel program? If not, I will help you build (or expand) one.
First, why have a travel ministry? Most Americans embark on vacations each year, so it is only natural to offer your members faith-based travel opportunities. Consider the following:
• 600,000 North Americans embark on religious trips overseas each year.
• 120,000 churches are involved in Christian camps.
• More than a dozen faith-based charters of full cruise ships take place each year.
• 14 million North Americans attend a religious conference annually.
• Several million North Americans visit Christian or faith-based theme parks, attractions and theaters each year.
By offering your members communitywide vacations, you will provide opportunities to enrich not only faith but also fellowship. Developing and launching a travel ministry is much easier than you may think. Simply think in terms of the following ABCs: Ask, Build and Communicate.
Let’s walk through each of these. The first step in crafting a successful travel ministry is to “ask.” Ask your pastor or organization leaders for their support in pioneering such a program. With the support of key decision-makers, you are halfway to creating a thriving travel ministry. Then, follow up by asking your community for interested volunteers who can assist. The twin topics of faith and travel are very popular in virtually any religious setting, so finding such help should be easy.
Now it’s time to “build” the travel ministry. Find a good travel agent or company who can serve as the official vacation-provider. Develop a full year of calendar events ranging from international potluck dinners to travel-guest-speaker nights to local getaways, such as ski trips, retreats and so forth. And host one big annual trip, such as to the Holy Land, a faith-based cruise, an Alaska leisure vacation or the like.
Last, “communicate” to your church or religious-organization members about the travel-ministry opportunities and events. Create buzz about your trips and activities by word of mouth or by distributing flyers, hanging posters, making announcements (at religious services), and sending e-mail blasts. Also, communicate with other ministry leaders, and encourage them to promote the events.
By fulfilling the simple ABCs of building a travel program, you will be poised for tremendous success. And, as virtually nothing invigorates faith and fellowship like group vacations, a flourishing vacation ministry translates into a flourishing community. Once your church or religious-organization travel program is alive and well, your members will wonder how they ever lived without it.
|Kevin J. Wright is the executive director of the World Religious Travel Association and author of the forthcoming book The Christian Travelers’ Guide to Vacations, Cruises, Retreats and More.