Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on Church and Missions.
This is Missions on Point episode 17. Short-term missions discipleship. It's the second of a three-part series on short-term missions. The first one we looked at last week is short-term missions philosophy This week, short-term missions discipleship, and next week short-term missions strategy. Thanks for being here with us.
As you probably know, whether you're a participant, a church leader, or a short-term missions team leader, this area can be complex, it can be confusing, sometimes causes conflict and certainly is costly in almost every way financially, human resource and otherwise. It can also be distracting to the main things that you want to do, your focus and strategy for missions in your church. I trust that this little series on short-term missions is going to help solve some of those issues for you at least how short-term missions impacts those things.
Let's talk about discipleship today. The first point in our win win win philosophy is disciple the participants and the first and big enormous question is how do we disciple participants? What does this mean? How much time does it take? How intensive is it? Let's get down to some details.
I have 12 aspects I want to talk to you about, 12 points that will help walk you through what we mean by discipleship of the participants. Before we even get to number one, I want to talk to you about how long it takes.
It varies with the team and the complexity of the project and exactly how many people are going on the team. If you have mature people, several adults, they're going to do something that's right in their area of expertise, you don't have very much time in training them in what to do for their particular specialty.
However, if you have a significant size group, let's say more than five of young people, high schoolers, young adults, you're going to have to spend some significant time working with them in developing the discipleship if you want it done before they get to the field. At minimum, even with a small group and a short time span, you want to spend at least two or three meetings, probably a couple hours each to review a number of the aspects we'll talk about here in discipleship, the communication and responsibility of their role in the trip.
If it's a larger group, we would recommend something like 10 to 15 weeks of weekly Saturday morning meetings or equivalent so that you're carefully walking through all the things that have to be done, as well as pre-field training, orientation, team building, those kinds of things that are part of the discipleship. So here we go.
Number one is biblical missions.
Your short term missions participants need to understand biblical missions. They need to understand why it's significancy, why it is significant in the Bible. They need to understand something about where it comes from and what is the goal of biblical mission, so spend some time explaining biblical missions and what is the big picture goal from the Bible.
Secondly, they need to understand the gospel. They need to have real clarity on the gospel. Certainly that is got to be one of the main reasons that you're going, is for the furtherance of the gospel. So they need to not only understand the gospel from the scripture, but they need to understand how to articulate the gospel. They need to understand how to tell their personal testimony of salvation because of the gospel. Make sure that that is early in your training.
Thirdly, they need to understand servanthood. They need to understand that a servant spirit is a key to making all this work and work well. Everyone needs to pull together as a team. Servanthood and all its aspects is very significant, not just for now and the short term missions, but for their life.
Fourthly, they need to have an address at least of the topic of honoring authority. Who makes the decisions? What role does their input have in any decisions if any, particularly if you're working with young people, they need to understand that the leader's word goes and the leader has the right and authority to basically kick off the team and send them home early if they're not cooperating with authority.
Fifthly is language and culture. Presumably, you're going across cultures, even if it is across cultures within the United States, even just in your metro region. You need to think about who are the people we're going to? How are they different than us? What kinds of things can we expect that are different? How can we train ourselves to recognize that, appreciate that, respect that, and have an understanding as well as very common things like getting directions or using the restroom, finding the restroom, eating what is put before you. All these things having to do with language and culture, understanding simple greetings that's part of your training. You want everybody to have at least a handle on these things.
Six is attitudes and teamwork in general. This pulling together, being teammates, working, communicating together, helping each other out, not allowing people to stand by and watch, but inculcating them a kind of a teamwork work ethic that everybody is contributing all the time, and if you're finished with your particular task or job, you're always looking for how you can help in some other way and just diving in and doing it, just getting it done.
Number seven is living simply. It seems like this should go without saying, but if you don't address it, you're going to rub up against some problems in it. They are not going to have it like they have it at home. They're not going to have communication, electronics. They're not going to have the same sleeping conditions, the same climate control. It's just going to be different. It's something like camping, but often with host people on the other side, taking care of accommodations and logistics. So living simply even though it should be a no-brainer, it often is not, and it needs to be addressed.
Number eight, practical skills.
What do I mean by practical skills? Well, first off is being a good guest. You may be living with nationals in their home. You may be living with missionaries on the field. You may be living in a simple hostile or hotel situation, but being a good guest means appreciating what has been supplied to you, not complaining about it, not griping and rolling your eyes about it, but just being a good guest. Cleaning up after yourself, making your bed, taking out the trash, helping in the kitchen, whatever it takes to be a good guest. That's a practical skill.
Another one has to do with map reading and orientation and geography. One of the practical skills is just figuring out where are you going on the map and visualizing that. There are a lot of people that just are not good orienteering people. They don't know which side is north, south, east, west. They don't know where they are, and they need to have some kind of orientation and skills to know, here's where we're going, here's what the street looks like. If you have pictures, that's great, but certainly maps or simple map to even keep in their pocket with contact information, that kind of thing.
Under practical skills is communication. How do we communicate as a team? How do we communicate with people back home? How do we communicate even through the process of training and fundraising or projects that raise funds for the project? All of those communication skills are important.
Last but not least is devotions, their personal walk with God. Certainly part of discipleship and practical skills should teach and train each of the participants in their commitment to walking with God on a daily basis, and what does that mean? Certainly it means some time by themselves reading scripture, praying, perhaps singing, that kind of thing, and there will be team devotional times as well. If not every day, certainly on some regularity, they are getting together, talking about what God is doing, what God is teaching them, how scripture and promises and encouragement and comfort all blend in to their role on the field, what's going on.
The ninth area is schedule and goals.
Obviously, the planning for the short-term missions project or trip takes place months in advance. In fact, a big trip could probably be anywhere from nine to 12 months in advance. Planning, preparing, starting the communication on the field. Schedule and goals for the trip itself need to be very clear to all the participants. They need to know what time they're expected to get up, what time they're expected to have lights out, what their expectations are with regard to engaging in the work and times of relaxation or eating or fellowship or worship together, whatever that takes. But schedule and goals need to be communicated very well and they need to understand this is not like living on their own at home.
Number 10 is relationships with the locals.
This is huge. They need to be taught how to be respectful and appreciative of the culture and sometimes the sacrifices that the locals are making for them to be on this trip. They need to know what level of friendship they can have, how much personal information they should and should not share with locals, how deep they go in friendships and relationships. Certainly having boundaries or hedges for how much time is spent on the project versus getting to know locals versus getting quite personal with locals. All of those things play into it. You see that the language and culture folds into and overlaps this as well. They need to have a good understanding of what this project or trip and your church expects with regard to relationships with locals.
Number 11, somewhat related is moral purity, both within the team and outside the team.
Unfortunately, many short-term missions teams have romances that have started even before the team gets on the field, and that can blow way out of proportion very quickly in close contact with one another under stressful situations on the field. There needs to be an absolute commitment to moral purity within the team and outside the team, with their teammates and with locals and with anybody else that comes across their way.
And in fact, there needs to be a reporting protocol if things go wonky, if things don't happen the way they should with regard to moral purity. Of course, it extends also to other things besides personal contact. It may be digital contact or print contact or things like that. Your team needs to be prepared to keep moral purity.
Number 12, and this is the last one in my list, is communication.
There's several kinds of communication. Communication internally, are there subleader under the main team leader for different groups, for guys, for girls, for cabins, for rooms, for clusters of rooms, clusters of people, whatever the breakdown is. Every 3, 4, 5 people, there should be somebody who is sort of a manager lead for that little team of people under the whole team so that people understand there is a chain of command, if you will, a chain of communication going back and forth to make sure everybody hears the same thing in terms of directions and expectations up and down the line.
So communication internally is very important in making sure you have that structure in place to make that happen. There's also communication externally to the church and to supporters, and this happens when the team is first selected. It may be six months before the actual schedule for the team. Externally, they need to communicate well with the church for prayer requests, for progress, for all the things that are happening and with their supporters, both in raising support reports from the field about how's it going either during the trip or after the trip so that there's appropriate accountability communication with those that are sponsoring them in every way. And then also communication externally to people on the field, whether that be your hosts, whether that be the missionary workers that have been the logistic key to making it all happen, whether that be the nationals that you're staying with or working with. There needs to be a protocol for external communication with people on the field to appropriately thank them and express gratitude as well as love in Christ, and appreciation for what's going on in the ministry there.
I trust that these 12 things are helpful in giving you an outline of proper discipleship of your people. It obviously takes time and attention. We haven't even talked about the time involved in the fundraising aspects. If you do fundraising activities or events that will be folded in to the overall plan for discipleship and it is the first win in your short-term missions philosophy.
Be sure to catch us next week with Missions on Point as we talk about short-term mission strategy in the third of our series of three on short-term missions.
Hey, thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. We trust that you'll find more resources and help on the website, propempo.com.
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