I was once asked if I could arrange for an “inexpensive, informative, life changing, short-term team that would only last 3 days.” I’m not joking. I wish that I had kept a copy of my response, but it went something along the lines of “a meaningful and effective short-term mission trip is not like a fast food hamburger. It takes time, training and a commitment to relationship.”
Many of my early years serving on the mission field were blessed by the cross-cultural engagement of short-term teams working side by side with local partners and the unchurched. Together, we learned from one another and demonstrated the love of Jesus in word and deed as we spent hours laboring side by side.
It quickly became apparent which teams had been well prepared and which teams threatened to jeopardize the long-term ministry by their lack of it. In any important activity, especially one than involves crossing cultures, investing the time and energy to be properly trained and prepared is essential. A right and responsible witness of the Gospel demands it and the dignity of the local ministry warrants it. In short, an ill-equipped team is like a dog that is not housebroken.
There are lots of excellent tools out there today to help train a team for cross cultural ministry. Here are a couple of thoughts to help you get started:
- Ask your host partners what they recommend and then give it your best effort. Add a chapter from different books like: Let The Nations Be Glad, When Helping Hurts, or Cross-cultural Servanthood.
- Plan at least 6-8 sessions to work on this together as a team. I have never heard a ministry partner complain that a team was over prepared.
- Keep the learning fun and interactive. Build your team and not you’re your knowledge. Avoid the information dump.
- Use the training to invest in the spiritual growth of each team member. Mission trips are a great place for disciplemaking.
- If you want the trip to have a lasting impact afterwards, then talk about what it will take to integrate the experience into your life before you go.
- Debrief before you come home and keep a journal of things that you would do differently next time if you could.
If you would invest hours, days, even weeks preparing for an important test, how much more is it worth preparing to be well equipped as ambassadors for Christ as you go to share the Good News in Word and deed with those yet to hear?
Helpful Hint: The GearUp Phase of MissionMakr is a great place to organize and deliver all of your training and equipping material, including; training dates and locations, manuals, videos, photos, assignments, documents, devotionals, etc… all in one central online location.