Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Don't Be So Predictable (Rethinking Short-Term Missions, Part 4)

Think outside the box!  In our changing world, missions doesn't look the same as it used to.  There is so much room for creativity here.

If it really is exposure that you want for your young people, then just be honest about it.  Don't feel like you have to justify the expense of a trip by insisting that "ministry" must be involved.  There is much to be valued in simply exposure.

Consider this idea:
Each year, your missions committee sponsors 2-4 mature young people to send to one of your church's missionaries for a couple weeks.  For the duration of their time, they will shadow the missionaries in their ministry.  This team will look for ways to help and serve, but that is not the primary purpose of the trip.   They will always have a notebook with them and they will always be asking questions.  

When they return to the States, they will be required to turn in a 10 page paper on what they learned.  They will also be required to put together some sort of presentation that they will give to the entire congregation.  They will share what they learned, as well as an update on the missionary's ministry.  For a year afterwards, they will be the communication liaison between the church and the missionaries.  

This type of trip accomplishes many of the same things that a short-term "missions" trip accomplishes--exposure, learning, impacted lives.  Yet it is far less stressful for the missionary to host this type of trip than a large team who are expecting to do ministry.  And in many ways, this kind of trip actually gives a more realistic picture of missions to a young person.

Or another idea:
If you are able to take overseas vacations with your family, why not combine it with a visit to a missionary family or two?  Most missionaries absolutely love this!  (We do!)  Don't expect the missionary to be your tour guide, but spending a few days with a missionary family on the field is a fantastic way to expose your family to missions in a healthy way.  Visiting friends from home are incredibly encouraging and refreshing.  YES, We want you to visit, and it's one of the very best ways you can bless us!
(By the way, Tanzania has Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti Game Reserve, and Zanzibar case you are looking for an exotic vacation....!)

And one final note:
Sending your pastor and/or church leadership to visit missionaries is always, always, always a great idea--an incredible encouragement to us, and wonderful for future connections between our ministry and yours.  

Last but not least, I would consider all five of the teams we have personally hosted (remember--we didn't host the No-Shower Team!) to have been a great success.  Here is why:

1.  We asked for these teams.
2.  We genuinely needed these teams--they provided the necessary man-power, creativity, and energy to make our (English-speaking) youth camps effective.  
3.  We kept them under 10 people (a couple times there were more because we split the team with another missionary).  
4.  They were carefully selected by the team leaders and very well-prepared.  
5.  We told them exactly what we wanted them to do and they were purposeful in doing it.

All of the pictures in the posts from this series are from the times we hosted teams.  They hold very fond memories in our hearts!

Thanks to all of you for sharing these posts, and for such an encouraging response!  I am so thankful that there are so many like-minded people out there who resonate with these ideas.  

Here is a link to all four posts bundled together, if you want to share all at once:  Rethinking Short-Term Missions.  (Just remember to start reading from the bottom up!)


Bill Sullivan said...

incredibly helpful series, Amy. We're a church with several long-term missionaries, and we've also done several short-term trips for our members. You've given us a lot to think about. Thanks.

Amy said...

I'm so glad! Thanks for letting me know!

jc said...

Fantastic series!! Learned some of these things the hard way, though I'm hoping all parties involved also learned from it, too.

One thing that's on my list now – not every partnership comes with the same willingness to learn how to do things with the same heart/attitude that you've expressed. As a result, some partnerships are worth ending. And even if the missionary isn't the one initiating the end of a partnership, it may still be a tremendous blessing from the Lord.