“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:
- Why it is important to increase one’s awareness of culture
- How culture affects our behavior
- How Americans are often perceived
- 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.