If there’s someone in your faith community that you’d really like to know better, I have a suggestion: Invite them on a trip.
At most churches, there is no shortage of opportunities to meet, greet and fellowship with people. Yet something about traveling together as a group creates a kind of community and connectedness that potlucks and Bible studies never will.
Travel is, at its essence, a mind-opening event. We visit new places to have new experiences, expanding our awareness and drinking in a flood of feelings and sensations. When we travel with other people, we perceive them in new ways that we never do at home.
You probably already know about the power of group travel in your faith community. You may also know that different trips serve different purposes: Some are intended for spiritual growth, some aim for education, and others are built around a specific activity or destination that a group enjoys.
Sometimes, though, it’s a good idea to take a trip just for fellowship’s sake. If there are people in your church travel community who you’d like to grow closer to, a fellowship-based trip can help you accomplish your goals while also enjoying a great travel experience.
Consider some of these strategies for planning trips that emphasize group fellowship.
We know that day trips play an important role in your church travel program: They’re quick, affordable, easy to plan and attract a fair number of travelers. And while all of that is great, it lacks the fellowship potential of an overnight trip.
Simply put, the 24/7 nature of overnight trips creates opportunities for fellowship that don’t necessarily happen on day trips. Day trips are full of driving and activities, whereas overnight trips have more time built in for interaction and fellowship.
Overnight trips often present opportunities for after-hours fellowship. Your travelers can get to know each other while they linger over the table after a leisurely dinner, hang out in the hotel lobby for an evening conversation or head out on the town after a day’s activities.
The potential is amplified by making sure that you leave free time in the evenings, instead of packing your tours full of after-dinner activities. And longer tours, of course, are better in this sense: The more days and nights that are available to your travelers, the more opportunities they’ll have for fellowship.
Visit a Retreat or a Resort
The traditional group travel program is built around the following tour concept: travel throughout a region, state or city to get a broad taste of the best that the destination has to offer. And while that is a good way to get to know an area, it’s not always the best way to get to know your travel companions.
The problem is that we all tend to pack tour itineraries to maximize our time on the road, and that can leave little time for fellowship. The remedy is to take some fellowship-oriented trips to single destinations such as retreat centers or resorts.
Spending a few days in one location takes travel time out of your day, giving you and your group more time to relax and fellowship. Many retreat centers and resorts offer beautiful scenery and peaceful surroundings that add to the feeling of openness and sharing. And some properties that specialize in church group trips have wide menus of experiences, ranging from relaxing to thrilling, that help to build camaraderie among your travelers.
A long weekend is a perfect amount of time for many groups to spend on that kind of outing. Alternately, you could integrate a day or two at a resort into a busier tour itinerary as a way to create fellowship opportunities during the trip.
Plan Special Interest Tours
If your closest friends enjoy many of the same hobbies and activities that you do, your relationship demonstrates an important principle in interpersonal dynamics: People bond over shared interests and activities. You can make the most of that principle by planning trips that will bring people together around a special area of interest.
Traditional tours take a sampler approach, attempting to put “something for everyone” on the itinerary in order to attract a wider range of travelers. But to increase fellowship, why not plan a trip that will help create stronger bonds between smaller groups of people who love to do the same things?
To do that, it helps to know the travel personalities of your group. Do you have a lot of epicureans who love food, music and traveling with the senses? Maybe some people in your group would enjoy an adventure tour, with lots of outdoor activities and time for exploration. You could have learners, who love history and education, or connectors, who love to interact with the local communities (and each other).
If you see some personality or interest trends among your travelers, consider setting up a trip that emphasizes what they love to do. That means culinary experiences for epicureans, hiking excursions for adventures, lectures for learners, and so on.
You may find that the people in your congregation who aren’t necessarily close to one another will form new friendships when they discover a shared passion.
Try a Girlfriend Getaway or a ‘Mancation’
For a different approach to fellowship travel, why not try putting together some trips that are geared specifically toward women or men only? Girlfriend getaways have become popular in the general tour market, and so-called mancations have gained some traction as well. Both of those ideas could work for your group.
The beauty of those trips is that they allow women or men to share thoughts and enjoy activities that may not go over so well in mixed company. Girlfriend getaways usually include shopping excursions, spa days, theater performances or attractions that are often oriented toward women. The trips also work well when they allow plenty of time for relaxing, talking and sharing stories.
Mancations tend to be different from girlfriend getaways. Besides the obvious fact that men and women often enjoy different activities, there’s a more fundamental dynamic at work: Though women often bond from talking together, men bond much more easily by doing things together. Men’s trips should focus on activity — go hunting or fishing, or plan a golf weekend or a trip based around a sporting event. Men will build relationships in their own ways when given an opportunity to do so.
Enjoy Intergenerational Travel
A trend that continues to grow in the general group tour market is intergenerational travel. The term often describes trips that involve families traveling together, such as people bringing their adult children and/or their grandchildren on a tour; but it applies to church group travel as well.
More than most other social organizations, churches are multigenerational. A healthy church will often have members from three or more generations worshiping together and interacting regularly. That diversity creates an unusual opportunity for intergenerational travel that can go beyond traditional family-oriented tours.
Some travel ideas, like girlfriend getaways or special interest tours, may attract travelers from a number of generations. With a little creativity, you can also plan and market trips that are specifically designed to ignite fellowship between church members of different generations.
For those trips to work well, they’ll probably need to be quite short and pretty affordable. Day trips might be the best option, at least until your congregation learns the value of traveling in intergenerational groups.
Take a Mission Trip
One of the best ways to build relationships between people is by rallying them to work together toward a common goal. For that reason, the classic church mission trip has huge potential for fellowship opportunities.
Mission trips can take your group to an inner city in your state or to a remote village on a distant continent. In either case, you’ll go there with some sort of service project or outreach operation in mind. Working together to accomplish that vision will challenge your travelers and teach them to depend on each other; that, in turn, creates trust, friendship and unity.
Service work will occupy many of the daytime hours on a mission trip, but your travelers will also find fellowship during meal breaks, devotional sessions, after-hours free time or even during long plane or bus rides. Those interactions will help cement the friendships that form during the formal work period.
If you plan mission travel for your group, you may want to include a day or two of rest and relaxation at the end of the trip to allow your travelers to reflect on their time together and appreciate the relationships that have grown throughout the course of the adventure.