We as team leaders have an extraordinary opportunity to impact our team members for Christ. Sometimes we think we are de-emphasizing our purpose in the field by focusing on our team members, but a strong team leader maintains a focus on equipping and discipling his or her team members. But what does that look like? What are we shooting for? Colossians 1:28-29 tells us that we should be shooting for Christ-likeness! Our goal should be to present every person more complete in Christ—that includes our team members! Your pre-field preparation lays the foundation for your trip, so don’t miss out on using the team meetings as a way of developing Godly character in your short-term missionaries.
As you are preparing for your STM trip, be intentional about your team meetings. Don’t schedule team meetings just to schedule team meetings but have a purpose in mind. Team meetings will have many different elements but pick a theme for each meeting. Think about the process through which you are taking your team members. As you plan out your meetings, think about this flow:
- Getting to know each other. Spend time just getting to know each other, building relationships, and creating a safe environment where everyone feels accepted.
- Getting to know God. This is where you can emphasize prayer and Bible reading and other spiritual disciples that develop Christ-like character.
- Getting to know the vision. Learn about the culture you are visiting and your host.
- Preparing for the trip. Often this is all we do. We learn the skits and Bible stories or gather the materials and forget about the rest. This is an important step, but there is so much more to preparing than this.
Our preparation should be intentional, but there is also an intentionality that should mark our interactions with our team members. How do we want God to transform them? What does it look like for each one to be more like Christ? How do we go about this? This is by no means all-inclusive, but here are some ideas:
- We want to see people grow in their commitment to prayer and God’s Word, grow in love, become teachable, and become a servant. Take advantage of team meetings and trainings to address these issues. Make sure that these are built into your on-field experience as well.
- Sit down with each participant at the beginning. Meet individually with each team member and ask them where they think God wants to grow them. Take notes on it and check up with them along the way.
- Take advantage of the time on the field. I do this by being sure I have time each night to meet as a team. We go around and answer a question or two each night. The question varies, but I am always listening to the answer and listening for deeper struggles or insights. I also find that meal times can be a good time to check in with each person throughout the trip.
- Follow-through, follow-through, follow-through! Be sure to follow-through with your team members after the trip. This can be facilitated with a group meeting but additionally you or their mentor need to follow up with them personally to see how God is speaking to them.
Don’t underestimate your role as a STM trip leader. You are more than just a participant interacting with people on the field. You have the opportunity to disciple people through what could be the most powerful experience of their life! As always, please post your comments or email your thoughts and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.