Perhaps one of the loneliest feelings I have ever felt was upon coming home from a short-term mission trip! Sure there are friends and family who welcome you home, but you are suddenly aware of how little they understand about your trip. You feel all alone in some of
the struggles of American excess in light of your recent experience. On top of it, you want to continue serving as Jesus served, but life seems to always get in the way.
So how do we, as mission leaders and experienced travelers, help those who are coming home from a mission trip with this "fish out of water" feeling? Regardless of the size of your church, it is likely that you alone cannot be each person's mentor, teacher, and counselor.
What if we utilized small groups to see people along their spiritual journey? You can use your participant's current small group with a little coaching, or you can organize a small group specifically for returning short-term missionaries. It is not God’s desire for any of us
to be alone on our spiritual journey. Unfortunately we sometimes think no one can relate and so we push others away just when we should be drawing closer to them.
I’m a big believer in small groups of believers meeting together and walking their spiritual journey together for a few reasons:
- Accountability. When you are living life with others, you can’t get away with anything. If you tell your small group how you think God is calling you to change, then you have a group of people to hold you accountable.
- Diversity. You probably found out what a great thing diversity is while on your trip. The same is true of small groups. In any group, you will find people with different ideas, strengths, and weaknesses. A good small group emphasizes the strengths and minimizes the weaknesses.
- Pool Resources. Small groups are able to do things an individual can’t.
- Synergy. A small group working together will keep you going even when the fire starts to dim.
Now that we know small groups are a good thing, what do we do with them? Your focus should be on coaching the group to spend specific time on prayer, education, and action. Here are some ideas of how to do that:
- Pray for the world. Get the book Operation World and make a prayer schedule. Pray for the countries of the world in a systematic order. You can do alphabetically or by region.
- Learn a little about everything and everything about something. Begin expanding your understanding of the world by learning something about everywhere, but pick a place and focus in on it by learning everything about it. The country, region, or people group you choose to focus on will be the focus of your action. Also look for and provide opportunities for educating people at your church. This could be through a weekly bulletin insert that follows your prayer schedule, a slide during announcements in your church’s powerpoint, or a display somewhere in the church.
- Take Action. Look for ways to reach and serve people from your focus group. Don’t just think overseas, but look for those people where you are. College campuses and refugee relocation offices are good places to look.
Change and growth are rarely easy. As we become dangerous in the spiritual realm, we can expect Satan to try to stop us, which is all the more reason for being involved in a strong spiritual community! You can also find help in The Next Mile curriculum or at one of our workshops on debriefing and follow-through.
Questions for the author? You can contact Tory at 520-404-0841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.