How do you prepare your team for a short-term mission trip? What elements need to be part of preparing a team?
Most teams do a great job of preparing people for the details of traveling, and even ministry projects, but neglect to instill in their participants the qualities needed to be a Christ-like missionary.
Long-term missionaries often spend many years preparing to serve in a new culture. This is appropriate considering they will be spending many years, if not their whole life as a missionary. But I would argue proper preparation and training is even more important for short-term missionaries because they don't have the luxury of time to develop relationships that will cover their mistakes. So, how can we prepare teams to be culturally appropriate servants in another country?
At DELTA Ministries, we recommend all teams begin meeting monthly, and then start meeting weekly the last six weeks before a trip.
Our goal for these weekly meetings are: To get to know each other; disburse important information (such as packing lists, what to expect, etc.); equipping for the ministry (prepare crafts, learn skits, prepare your testimony, etc.); support discovery and fundraising; and language and culture learning.
Lots of churches do a great job of getting teams ready in these areas, but how do we prepare people to be missionaries? Over the last 30 years, DELTA Ministries has developed a training weekend that does an excellent job of building missionary qualities into participants. Our training spans a weekend, from Friday night through Saturday
afternoon, and focuses on:
- Christian conduct -- Setting expectations for behavior. We have three official rules for our mission trips. Anyone who has been through the training can tell them to you in their sleep. That is because they are more than rules -- they are a way of life.
- Christ-like character -- Cross-cultural situations are difficult. How do you know what to do? How do you keep a positive testimony in a cross-cultural setting? We’ve found that, even more important than doing the right thing, is having the right heart.
- Team building/conflict resolution -- Teaching teams what it takes to work together and support each other. The way we love and treat each other will communicate a lot to those who are watching us.
- Crossing cultures -- Preparing participants to enter a new culture as a learner and a servant; how to build relationships; and how to share the gospel in a relevant and culturally sensitive way.
The key is this: no one learns well when they are talked at. Get creative and design a training weekend that mimics a mission trip in a few elements. Use activities to teach and not just lecture. Finally, be sure you are requiring the team to put to practice what they are learning.
We call this training for life change for a reason: When training is done right, individuals see that these are not just important skills for a short-term mission trip. We are all called to be missionaries in our own community. It’s always exciting to see a light come on when team members realize the same principles that are good for a short-term mission trip are good for the mission at home too!
Questions about training for the author? Would you like Tory to come and train your STM team? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 520-404-0841.