On every night we serve dinner at 6pm. At the long dinner table we get to hear stories from the guests and teams on what their day was like. Many times, it’s a great chance to talk with other groups or just process and reflect on the day.
We love seeing many teams who have a defined purpose. One of my favorite groups is a guy (Jeff) and a few others that worked closely with a Haitian friend who had a vision to start a school in Cite-Soleil. It was the heart of this Haitian friend that sparked the vision and it was all of them working together which made the vision successful. Maybe at times it can be difficult and messy but it’s highly relational partnering on a long-term vision. It was awesome seeing the partnership on the vision. I loved that it was originally conceived by a local Haitian and that Jeff listened, came along side, together they built up a mutual trust and eventually opened the school!
3 Starter thoughts on good defined purposes:
Below are 3 starter thoughts on some good defined purposes for teams. It is not in any order and there could be an additional 100 items you could add to this list. To be honest, I have struggled with what a “missions trip” is exactly and it’s purpose. Maybe it’s because we have seen all sorts of groups, maybe it’s just the semantics. Technically, we have seen work teams, vision trips, evangelism teams, discipleship teams, medical teams, security training teams, film teams, etc.
This list would encompass any of those team types. No-matter what you are doing in Haiti, it is good to consider these things:
1) Focus on Long-Term Partnerships with Local Churches The Gospel Coalition writes in there article Toward Better Short-Term Missions:
The next step is to work primarily through local churches with a long view in mind. When your short-term ministry team leaves a particular setting, Christians will still live and work where you visited. Your desire should be to serve at the request of and under local church leadership. Your disposition should be one of a learner, with the humility to take your cues from national leaders. You need to be careful, especially when dealing with money. But if you can build a level of trust, the most effective trips will be extensions of another church’s ministry. This might lead to bringing fewer team members but result in much more effective ministry.
2) Mutual Focus on the Benefits for both the guest-goers and the host-receivers
Eric Swanson, in the article “Increasing the Effectiveness of Short-Term Missions”, mentions that it is important to understand how we rate a successful missions trip.
STEM’s Roger Peterson points out that because short-term missions are often led by youth pastors, the trips follow a common pattern. Too many of them result in little missional impact on the host-receivers because of the trip objectives didn’t include that dimension. Instead, it’s tempting for the youth pastor only to set goals around the goer-guests: (1) The youth have a good time. (2) The youth get some basic discipleship. (3) The youth return home safely.
In other words, a trip can be viewed as “successful” even if nothing positive happened in the lives of the host-receivers.
It’s not wrong to have some of those objects but Eric points out an important factor:
The quality of the experience is based on the quality of the relationship between the goer-guest church and the host receiver. The stronger and more trusted the relationship, the more both sides benefited from the missional exchange.
The most effective engagement was ministry “with them” as opposed to ministry “to them” or “for them.” Churches agreed that their most effective paradigm was short-term trips in the context of a long-term relationship.
When Jesus entrusted a mini-commission to his twelve disciples, he sent them out on a short-term mission. His mini-commission had a specific purpose and a specific audience (Matthew 10). Like the twelve short-termers, Jesus sent out another seventy-two (Luke 10) as transformational short-termers into the cities where he himself would soon be ministering.
The apostle Paul’s ministry is recorded in the book of Acts as three missionary journeys through four different provinces and two different continents. His longest stay in any one place was the two years he spent in Ephesus. And yet in a span of ten years he planted multiple churches in scores of cities.
We owe much of our Christian heritage to Paul’s short-term efforts. When Jesus gave what is now called “the Great Commission” in its various forms (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, John 20:21, and Acts 1:8) the mission was clear: The people of God were to be a sent, missional people, sharing the gospel and making disciples wherever they went.
The best interpretation of the passage begins, “As you are going, make disciples….” What if Matthew 28 provides the answer of what we are to do for ourselves and others on short-term mission outreaches? As we are going we are to become more of a disciple, making disciples, or helping others make disciples of Jesus. After all, shouldn’t we be doing and measuring against what Jesus asked us to do? A “missions” trip after all should, by definition, include the mission Jesus sent us to do.
Everything we do–evangelism, building projects, acts of charity and mercy, back-yard Bible clubs, prayer walks, etc.–should be in service to “making disciples.” This is not to say that there is not value in “vision trips,” “cross-cultural exchanges,” “construction projects,” etc., but to call something a missions trip or missions outreach, by definition, should include the mission of making disciples. Now we have something to measure against—for the goer-guest and for the host-receiver. How does this missional experience help make disciples?
Everything we do therefore must focus on building relationships – helping people discover how God designed them to relate to Him, to relate to themselves, to others and to all of creation. Here is a powerful question to ask about our efforts to alleviate poverty: ”At the end of the day, the ultimate question for our poverty-alleviation efforts is this: Have we worked in such a way that both we and the materially poor are closer to fulfilling our highest calling of “glorifying God and enjoying Him forever?” – Helping Hurts
Darren Carlson reminds me and articulates well – “There is a tendency to try and get everything right, to discuss every scenario, to examine every possible pitfall, and in our preparation bring every person through a process that feels like boot camp. But the beauty of gospel ministry is that God is not handcuffed by our foolishness. He is still accomplishing his purposes amongst the nations. For any harm we may cause, God is using others to bring great advances for the gospel. So become a thoughtful global Christian. Think critically about cross-cultural engagement. Be convicted if you are harming the church in other cultures. But know that in the end, God is still on his throne, and his work will be accomplished.”