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Survey Trip

A missionary survey trip is when a pre-field missionary purposely goes to the host country to pray for, prepare to move into, and pursue information needed to enter into ministry and life in that country. It is not a short-term mission, but a pre-field exercise for the home church and future missionary.

Taking 10 to 14 days for a survey trip may seem costly in time and resources, especially if there is a family involved. It may seem wasteful in this age of easy internet communication and research. For others, the survey trip can seem to postpone the actual move onto the field.

It is better to see the pre-field survey trip as a key and early investment for the home church and pre-field missionary. A future post will deal specifically on manner in which  already on the field missionaries can help pre-field missionaries on their survey trip.

Home Church Evaluation of Survey Trip

A purposeful survey helps a missions pastor, missions committee or other church leadership to deepen the relationship with the pre-field missionary as expectations are discussed and evaluated. Here is a list of possible goals and expectations church leadership may desire to evaluate in their pre-field missionary on their return from a survey trip:

  1. Evaluate a confirmed calling on the pre-field whole missionary family.
  2. Evaluate their flexibility and adaptability to the culture they are being sent to.
  3. Evaluate the pre-field missionary’s ability to raise support and engage the church in participation in the mission.
  4. Evaluate the pre-field missionary’s ability to relate to existing missionaries and nationals.
  5. Evaluate any deficits in spiritual, emotional and practical training that may need to be built up before the missionary departs for the field full-time.

The evaluations will likely be best made in an informal debriefing within a few weeks of the pre-field missionary’s return from the survey trip. It will be good to have the evaluations over a meal, or similar setting, with one or two key church leaders present. It may also be good to have clear expectations regarding how the returning pre-field missionaries communicate their next missionary steps until meeting with the home church missions leaders.

Survey Trip Goals for the Pre-Field Missionary  

While there is great importance in spending quality time with existing missionaries and future co-laborers on a survey trip, if at all possible the pre-field missionary should arrange to stay on their own. This is especially important for married couples and families to spend time processing the survey trip with the Lord and each other as it happens. Here are several other goals the pre-field missionary may want to accomplish on the survey trip.

  1. Observe ministry and take extended prayer walks at ministry sites.
  2. Engage and deepen relationships with the missionaries they expect to serve alongside and with other like minded missionaries outside their denomination, affiliation or organization.
  3. Further develop and refine ministry vision.
  4. Develop a personal and ministry budget.
  5. Gather information to help build future communication with prayer and financial supporters.
  6. Help the pre-field family see where they will live. This may include visiting schools and doctors. This can help them discover if special dietary needs can be met or prescriptions filled.
  7. Go shopping and cook meals as if you live in the host country.
  8. Learn to navigate public transportation.
  9. Identify a language school or tutor and develop a timeline for ministry with the future team leader.

For both the home church and the pre-field missionary the survey trip may be among the most valuable investments in setting long-term trajectory for full-time service on the mission field. It is best done purposefully and with engagement between the missionary and home church.


Pastor Ed Compean, along with his family, served as missionaries in Kenya and Mexico for more than 12-years. He is now engaged in church relations and communications at Shepherd’s Staff Mission Facilitators. Shepherd’s Staff facilitates for churches who send their own directly to the mission field.

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