Friday, May 25, 2012

4 Steps For Designing Your Own Team Training

“Help, I have to train my church’s short-term mission team!”

Have you ever been in a similar situation?  If so, questions probably started whirling through your mind… What should I teach? How much time will it take? Where do I start? What makes me qualified to do this?

Here are four steps to help you design a preparation program for your church’s short-term mission team.

The first step is to pray continually.  Ask God for wisdom and discernment in your planning and preparation.

The next step is start with the end in mind. In other words, plan backwards. Think about what you want your team to know/understand, be able to do, and to be like before they leave for the field.  This is the hard part. If you have never been on a short-term mission, chat with some people who have and ask them what they wish they had known that would have better prepared them.  Take time on this step. If you prayerfully plan, your purpose for teaching will become clear and targeted.

Though some things will vary from church to church based on the ministry in which the team will be involved, there will be a few constants that should be addressed. For example, at the beginning of each training I ask people what will make training worthwhile for them.  Most responses revolve around building positive relationships on the team and being able to work together, learning how to adapt to the culture, and knowing how to serve Christ wholeheartedly.   You will be heading in a good direction if you prepare your team in the areas of community (teambuilding, getting along with one another), culture, and Christ-like character.
Once you determine the major areas you want to address, decide under each area what you want people to know and be able to do.  For example, when teaching about culture, you might want people to know and/or understand the following:

  1.  Why it is important to increase one’s awareness of culture
  2. How culture affects our behavior
  3. How Americans are often perceived
  4. How practices differ from one country to another (for example: communication, hospitality, relationships)

When considering “be able to do,” you might consider the following:

  • Uncover personal deeply held beliefs that might serve as a barrier for serving cross-culturally
The ultimate “be like” is to be like Christ.

Step three is to design the instruction based on what you want the team to know/understand, be able to do, and to be like.  Use a variety of instructional strategies such as lecture for general knowledge and active learning for strengthening team dynamics, communication, trust, cooperation, and problem solving.  For example, effectively used, scenarios can challenge people’s thinking and move them out of their comfort zone.  By engaging participants in experiential learning, they will be forced to engage with concepts being studied rather than merely thinking about them. Problem solving is another tool used to help participants understand new learning deeply and personally apply these principles. When designing instruction, it is also important to focus on positive interdependence. Each member of the group is important for the group’s success. Be sure to involve everyone. Whenever possible, require your team to apply what has been learned. This will reinforce their new knowledge.

Step four is to determine and communicate the logistics. People need to know in advance that there is training and why they should attend. Training should be far more than communicating details about the trip.  Here are some questions to consider:

1.      Should it be required for all team members? (If so, what happens if someone does not attend? If not, what is the purpose for the training?)
2.      How much time do I need and who will teach? (Don’t feel compelled to be the expert in all areas. Prayerfully recruit people who can work alongside you.)
3.      Where should the training be conducted that will create an environment that is conducive to learning and support the activities that you have designed? (If you plan to use church facilities, check the calendar and process for scheduling an event. Don’t assume it will be available.)
4.      What materials will I need and will I have access on the day of the training? (Be sure to have a back-up plan for technology.)
5.      Clearly communicate the expectations for the training to participants.

The steps above should get you started in designing a short-term mission training. Remember to pray, plan backwards, design instruction and determine logistics.

Article by Kathy Mort Ed.D

Kathy Mort joined DELTA Ministries after spending over thirty years in public education. In the early eighties she took a leave of absence from teaching to attend Columbia Graduate School of Bible and Missions (now Columbia International University) so she could go on the mission field. After doing adult literacy work in a village and teaching at ELWA Academy in Liberia, West Africa on a one year, short-term assignment, she returned to public education, but her desire was still to serve the Lord in the area of missions in some capacity. She is currently actively involved in her church and has led a number of church-based mission trips.

Friday, May 18, 2012

You’re Prepared To Go, But Are You Prepared To Come Home?

Many of you are getting ready to go out on your short-term mission (STM) trip in the next few weeks. I'm sure you have done a lot to prepare for your departure, but how much have you planned for your coming home? If you are like most people, the thought of preparing to come home hasn't crossed your mind. That's ok, that's why we're here! What is there to prepare for and how can we prepare? As always, I don't have all the answers, but I do have some ideas. Hopefully this will get you thinking:

  1. The final impression--I always say the only thing more important than a first impression is a final impression. Saying good-bye and doing it the right way is important! Do say goodbye, but resist urges to make promises to write, return, or send help. Broken promises break relationships. Email me or leave a comment at the end of this post and I will tell you how I handle situations like this.

  1. Knowing is half the battle. Or so that is what GI Joe taught me when I was growing up. Prepare your team for the challenges of going home. Make sure they know what kind of reception to expect from people. Also, make sure they know of some of the pitfalls of going home. The Next Mile goer guide is a great resource that has a section to read specifically about this topic!

  1. Ask the team some questions. Before you leave, give people a chance to journal their answers to some strategic questions. Questions like, "what am I most/least looking forward to about going home? What am I most/least looking forward to leaving behind? What from this culture do I want to make a part of my life and how?" Again, The Next Mile goer guide includes these questions and more for reflection.

  1. Plan 2-3 team meetings after your trip. Make sure you plan these meetings before you leave. If you wait until you get home, schedules will be too difficult. The time together will be both energizing and therapeutic for team members. I recommend planning three meetings that will focus on celebration, reflection, and next steps.

Coming home can be hard and it requires some preparation to do it right. Don’t neglect this area of your short-term mission trip as it is the key to life long change in your participants and not simply a mountain top experience that fades with time.

Questions for the author? Do you need help knowing what to expect, or how to prepare your team? You can contact Tory at 520-404-0841 or

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

3 Ways for a short-term mission team to bless Missionary Kids

Many churches send teams to countries where they know, love, and support missionaries. Sending people from the congregation can be a huge blessing for missionaries, as it communicates a commitment and support in their work. However, many churches forget that this is an opportunity to bless the children of their missionaries as well. Missionary kids have unique lives; they have usually seen more of the world than most children, often speak foreign languages (sometimes better than their parents), and live adventures that we only dream about. Yet missionary kids can sometimes feel like they are playing a great game of capture the flag—only there’s no home base. There’s no anchor. There’s nobody with whom they really connect. They aren’t really a citizen of the country where they are ministering, but they don’t really belong in their home culture. Short-term mission teams are uniquely equipped to bless missionary children—but do you know how?

Americans will always be somewhat of a curiosity to missionary kids. At least they were to me growing up in Italy as a missionary kid. Many missionary kids are known in their schools and communities as the Americans, yet they don’t feel like it. There are several misconceptions about missionary kids. Many see them as just another average American kid. This assumption can get short-term missionaries into trouble, as missionary kids are not normal American kids. Others think of missionary kids as somewhat of a peculiarity, and wonder on what level one can connect with this kind of person. But no one likes to be treated like an oddity. So here are a few ways you can bless missionary kids:

Take a sincere interest in missionary kids. Like most missionaries, my parents welcomed short-term mission teams to help them in their ministry. I always looked forward to spending time with the teams. They would often stay in our home, so our interaction was up-close and personal. I sought to glean from them anything I could about what it meant to be an American. It was important exposure for me, especially since the only other thing I had to teach me about America was MTV--which was probably not the most healthy for me! Developing relationship with our American visitors allowed me to have a connection with a part of me that I did not understand.

Bring gifts that are uniquely American. In my younger years, I anticipated the arrival of the American teams mostly to enjoy the gifts they would bring us. The bulk of it was various kinds of food we requested because we could not find in Italy. Of course, my sister and I only knew of what our parents would describe for us, but we would ask for things like peanut butter, marshmallows, and jell-o. Occasionally, a team would surprise us with items we did not know to ask for like Skittles, Root Beer, or Hershey’s Kisses. Perhaps the teams did not think that commodities like these could be terribly exciting for kids our age--especially in a land known for its culinary delicacies--but these gifts blessed us more than anyone could know. They were more than just food and candy; they were small connections to America that made us feel like we belonged.

Include missionary kids as much as and whenever possible. When short-term teams came to participate in my parents’ ministry, I was often recruited by the team to be an interpreter. I loved participating with the teams in their ministry and felt honored that they would include me. But beware! Do not assume missionary kids will understand all your slang and cultural references. We may speak English and appear to be American, but we do not have the same shared experiences. Sometimes the most lonely feeling is when a short-term team is hanging out, having fun, and laughing about things you just don’t understand. Be sure to include missionary kids not just in the ministry activities but in your fun, relaxing times too.

So, before you go on your next short-term mission trip, find out if you will be interfacing with missionary kids. Know that you will have an affect on them, and you can choose to influence them positively or negatively. You are what they know of the states. You are their connection to what they haven’t experienced for themselves yet. Take an interest in them, treat them special, and include them as part of your team!

Article by Liz Thompson

Liz Thompson is a short-term mission assistant for DELTA Ministries International. She grew up on the mission field as a missionary kid in Italy. She graduated from Moody Bible Institute in 2010 with a Bachelor’s in Educational Ministries. She has been blessed to live in three different countries and visit two others on short-term mission trips. These experiences have widened her view of the world as well as cultivated a passion for cultures and peoples. She desires to see people understand what it means to know God who calls Himself Love, and to help people grow in their calling to become children of God.