Thursday, November 7, 2013

What are the keys to effective short-term mission trips?

 This post is the addendum to my post answering the question: Why do you go on short-term mission trips?


1. Go and work with missionaries whom you already have a relationship.

Short-term trips should be a part of a much more robust missions emphasis for a church.  If missions for your church boils down to random short-term trips, you are missing out.


2. Make sure whatever you do on your trip fits into an on going framework of completing the Great Commission.

Your trip is a small stroke of paint in a much larger painting that is taking place over time in the area you are serving. Try to discern how your work in this short span fits into completing the Great Commission.  


3. Submit to authorities on the ground.

A lot of the time we feel that we know best.  Well, as an outsider in the culture, you need to go as a learner and welcome the guidance of those who will be there long after you leave not only in what you do but how you do it.  


4.  Be respectful of the culture you enter.

Find out ahead of time things that might be culturally offensive to the people you are working with and make sure you don’t do them.  Also, be ready to eat whatever they put in front of you and thank them for it!


5. Take the right number of team members.

On some trips a small team is best, on other trips a large team is best.  The key is to work with the people in the country to discern how many people are needed for the work that is at hand.


6. Take the right set of giftedness in team members.

I have been a part of all different types of mission trips.  It is important to match spiritual gifts with the work that is to be done while there.  For instance, on one trip we offered a concert to the local community where the gospel was presented.  It was necessary for us to have musicians with us for that to be possible.


7. Avoid vacation mentality.

I have been on too many trips with people on the team who constantly talked about wanting to go shopping or see the sights.  Remember you are there to serve the kingdom of God not collect trinkets. 


8. Plan ahead to maximize effectiveness.

Most of the time these trips will cover a small window of time.  Plan ahead as to how you will use your time and what resources will be needed.  Go prepared.


9.  Be flexible.

The great thing about having a plan is that you can deviate from it.  A primary key to missions is being flexible.  Things will not go as planned and you need to be ready to adapt.


10.  Have fun.

There is great joy in serving the Lord both at home and abroad, so have a good time while you are at it.

Click here for: Why do you go on short-term mission trips?

Why do you go on short-term mission trips?

Well intentioned individuals have been making a stink about how the American Church needs to dial it back on short-term trips and just stay at home.  I have come up with a list of ten reasons why I go on short-term trips as well as a list of ten keys to effective short-term mission trips.


1. Obedience to the Great Commission.

Jesus left us with the words: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:18-20)
Picture from our trip to Haiti.
A consolidated literal translation of the Greek could read “as you are going: make disciples, baptize them, and teach them.”  This has 2 implications: 1. Jesus expects his disciples to be going.  2. The going does not exclusively mean to the other side of the world.  As you are going about your day at work or school today, make disciples.  The best people to go on mission trips are those who are adept at making disciples where they live.

2. To get to experience what God is doing in the world. 

“If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139:9-10)
Picture from soccer outreach camp in Calgary.
Every time I go on a mission trip, I am reassured and challenged by the fact of how big my God is.  Wherever I have been, (Indonesia, Calgary, Romania, Spain, Haiti, Mississippi, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Guatamala) I have found that the same God whom I know and love is at work in those places redeeming and restoring his creation.  I walk away with a proper view of myself in light of the grandeur of almighty God over the nations.

Christianity takes on cultural forms wherever it goes.  I find experiencing Christianity in different cultures helpful for me in stripping away the cultural baggage added to genuine Christianity in my life.

3. To be a blessing to those who are there.

“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments…Do your best to come before winter.” (2 Tim. 4:13, 21)

Worshiping in the home of missionaries in Spain.
Since the origin of missions in the first century, it has been a task that is not accomplished alone.  The apostle Paul was reliant even to the end of his life on fellow believers throughout the world to help support him and encourage him in his ministry.  If Paul needed support and encouragement, our missionaries today who are on the frontlines definitely do. 

One of my goals in a short-term trip is for the missionaries remaining after we are gone to feel encouraged and uplifted by us being there.


4. To be a part of making and teaching disciples

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Phil 2:12-13)
Student working with Haitian kids at VBS.

As I go I want the Lord to use me, my time, and my energy to be a part of ministry that is going to continue long after I am gone.  So I pick trips where the work that we do will fit into an overall Great Commission accomplishing plan.  I pray that the Lord continues the work in the people whom I work with long after I am gone.


5. To teach the disciples who go with me.

“And he (God) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)
My role in the church is to serve as a shepherd / teacher.  I do not know a better way to equip the saints under my charge for the work of the ministry than to take them alongside myself as we do the work.  I can teach about missions with words and studies until I am blue in the face, but I do not see people become alive and passionate about it until they experience it first hand. 

6. To be a blessing to those who go with me.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thes 5:11)
Through working alongside one another on a short-term trip, you are able to really discern and assess the spiritual gifts of those who are with you.  These trips are a great way to build genuine fellowship with one another and encourage each other in the gifts that the Lord has bestowed upon the members of the team.  The bonds formed on a short-term trip should last long after the trip is over.


7.  Submission to God’s sovereignty.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Rom 10:14-15)
Vacation Bible School in Haiti.
God in his infinite sovereignty has chosen to bring about salvation and the spread of the gospel through human agents.  By taking part in missions, I get to be a part of what he is doing in the world and get to be one of those with beautiful feet bringing the gospel. It is a very joyous task to be a part of for sure.

8. The Glocalization of the world.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)
Team handing out Christian literature at International Arab Festival.
The glocalization of the world is a term that has emerged recently in international business and missions circles.  Basically what it means is that through modern technology and transportation the whole world is local.  So when Jesus tells us about our neighbor, the application can lie in loving someone on the opposite side of the world whom you interact with regularly.  An example of glocalization lies in the fact that this blog which up to this point only contained three posts has been accessed in ten different countries around the world. This also means that the nations of the world have come together and might be closer than you think.

So how does the glocalization of the world factor into my going on short-term trips?  It is so easy to go now through modern transportation.  The better question would be: Why would you not go?  I have brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe whom I love, and I get the opportunity to go and see them without much trouble, why not?

9. Increase the overall sending in missions 

Mission Team with Missionaries in Calgary.
“At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints.” (Romans 15:26)
There are three ways that you can send when it comes to missions: 
  1. You can send yourself 
  2. You can use your money to send others
  3. You can send your prayers to work in the ministry there.  
My goal in short-term missions is to increase the number of people doing all three categories of sending.  In preparing this blog post I dialogued with several of my brothers in Christ who are currently serving on the mission field.  One brother who has spent a lifetime on the field and hosted numerous short-term teams said this:

“It is a common truth that we are only truly involved in what we participate in. By having members actually go, the involvement factor is much higher.  Many people use an automatic deduction to send their missions offerings in, and often forget they even are participating.  Because one of the greatest investments in missions is in the prayer activity, simply sending money often robs the people of the privilege of praying also.  Churches that don’t send out missionaries tend to lose the vision, and eventually forget why they even exist. So, from the participatory point of view, it is wise to actually send missionaries out.” – John Lohrenz
John and Jan Lohrenz in Spain.

I know that there are those who discredit the fact that short-term trips lead to long-term missionaries and increased support for missions.  I find that the people who claim this do so based on the fact that the number of short-term trips is increasing and the number of long-term missionaries is remaining steady.  Two points here: 1. They ignore the testimony of those long-term missionaries stating the fact that God used short-term trips to get them on the field.  2. They miss the point that with the glocalization of the world, individuals can go on multiple short-term trips in a year to the same place instead of having to quit their jobs, sell all of their possessions, and move to that place.  So in fact it is now possible to have long-term effectiveness while being present frequently on short-term trips.

10. The missionary task of the body of Christ is not finished yet.

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Rev 7:9-10)
We have not yet reached all the nations.  There are those out there who claim that we are being bad financial  stewards because we are spending a lot more money to send American missionaries or even worse Americans on short-term trips when we could support numerous native missionaries at a fraction of the cost.   Yes I do support supporting native missionaries and find this to be wise.  But the fact remains that we have not reached all of the tribes of the world.  In modern missions we refer to tribes as "people groups."  The Joshua Project reports that 2.91 billion people currently live in an unreached people group, meaning they have no viable access to the gospel so there are no native missionaries we can support.  We must continue to send and I find that participating in short-term trips is a great way to help people experience God in missions and discern if He is calling them to go to one of these people groups.

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