How to be a bad mission trip teammate (and how to be a good one)

by CJ and Teri Palmer
Posted on 1st July 2015

There are good mission trip teammates, and there are bad ones. But what distinguishes between the two? How can you make sure that you're not one of the bad teammates? Here are four qualities that you need to embrace (and four you need to leave at home) if you want to be a good mission trip teammate.

1) Flexibility instead of obstinacy

A bad mission trip teammate gets frustrated easily when things don't go as planned. If a plane flight gets delayed, they throw a fit. If they don't have vegetarian options at dinner, they refuse to eat at all. A bad mission trip teammate is obstinate and stubborn.

A good mission trip teammate is flexible and understands that not everything will go as planned. A flexible teammate knows that they will be pushed out of their comfort zone during the trip, and they are willing to roll with the new experiences. If you want to be a good mission trip teammate, embrace flexibility.

2) Gratefulness instead of complaining

The meal cart is rolling down the isle during your 8-hour flight overseas. You have had your heart set on their chicken finger meal for half an hour. The flight attendant finally gets you to and says, "Unfortunately, we only have vegetarian lasagna left." How do you respond?

Little situations like this can have a big impact on your team's overall culture. A bad mission trip teammate is constantly bringing down everyone around them with their complaining attitude. If you want to be a good mission trip teammate, do your best to practice gratefulness in every situation, even when things don't go exactly how you hope.

3) Encouragement instead of gossip

You might have a teammate or two that struggles during the mission trip. Maybe she misses home and is having a difficult time adjusting to the new culture. Maybe he's not doing a very good job painting the outside of the local schoolhouse.

Instead of snickering and laughing at him or her, a good teammate will reach out and offer to help. Encouraging a teammate that is facing a personal challenge (instead of gossiping about their problem behind their back) is a great way to maintain a healthy team culture.

4) Kindness instead of sarcasm

The quickest way to be a bad teammate is to be sarcastic the whole time. Just one sarcastic comment can instantly create tension and build barriers among teammates. You might be sarcastic with your friends and family at home. However, a new culture in a new country with new friends and new experiences is not the place for sarcasm.

With so many new elements coming together during a mission trip, a good teammate approaches everyone around him or her with kindness. Sarcasm is a difficult habit to break! But, replacing a sarcastic comment with a kind comment can be the difference between having a strong, bonded team and a divided team.

It's all about grace

A bad mission trip teammate can be summed up in one word: entitled. An entitled teammate thinks that they deserve that chicken finger meal on the plane. They think that it's their right to snicker at the teammate that's not doing a good job painting the schoolhouse.

On the other hand, a good mission trip teammate can be summed up in one word: gracious. A grace-filled person understands that flights get delayed, and that God is in control of the timing. They know that a sarcastic joke is not worth possibly hurting someone's feelings.

If you want to be a good mission trip teammate, the most important thing you can do is embrace grace.

CJ and Teri are the founders of, a website that equips individuals with the encouragement, knowledge, and gear that they need for an effective mission trip abroad. After several years of doing short-term mission trips they now pour that experience into this website.