Today’s church group travel leader has a problem — with banks, university alumni associations, senior centers and myriad other organizations offering tours to their members, churches have a lot of competition on their hands.
Adult travelers have no shortage of options when choosing a vacation, and the ones who are interested in going on traditional tours can take them with any number of groups. In many cases, these groups offer the same kinds of trips that you do, with the same destinations, same attractions, same hotels and even the same tour operators. Sometimes, they can even offer it at a better price.
So how does a church group compete? How do you offer compelling trips that your congregation members will be willing to spend money to join? How do you convince them to travel with you instead of with someone else?
The answer is simple: Purpose.
As people of faith traveling together, we are in a unique position. Unlike any other travel provider, there is an eternal purpose in what we do. We don’t travel together just to have fun, just to see the world, or just to make money. Church travel is about building community, deepening our faith and spreading the message that has impacted our lives so deeply.
Everything we use for travel — our time, resources and talents — are gifts from God. We don’t own them, but we do have a responsibility to use them in a way that will advance his purposes here on earth. What we do as church travelers can have an impact on us, our travelers, our congregations and the places that we visit.
Building a travel ministry
One of the great advancements in the faith-based travel industry in the last decade is the understanding that church travel can be more than just a seniors group or a club; churches around the country are beginning to look at what they do as a travel ministry. Traveling opens people’s hearts and minds to new experiences and new ideas. It exposes us to the undeniable beauty of God’s creation, whether we visit Yellowstone, New England or the deserts of Israel.
Group travel builds relationships, and forges stronger bonds inside a church community. When we travel with people, we share life with them for a time, enjoying common experiences, common hardships and common joys. Group travel builds the church and builds relationships. Church group travel is a ministry.
Once you understand that your group travel is part of your church’s ministry, you can begin to develop a sense of purpose for your travel program. A great place to start is with the vision and purpose of your church: Do you emphasize evangelistic outreach? Community service? Youth or student ministry? Foreign missions? Whatever you find at the heartbeat of your church will also help you grow a sense of purpose for your travel ministry.
To make it a stronger ministry, get the church involved, and spread the word about what you’re doing. Develop a mission statement that outlines how your travel program will help to build the greater vision of the church, and then recruit your pastor and church leadership to help spread the word about what you’re trying to do.