Do you remember when the missionaries always reported to the church with their slide shows in place of the sermon on Sunday night? (I know, some of you don’t even remember Sunday night services) Especially during the summer months when many missionaries were on furlough, it seems like we might have at least one report each month and sometimes more often! Perhaps that is why we don’t do it anymore—(I mean the missionary slide show report, not Sunday night—other reasons for that!).
As I look back on the reports as I remember them, they were always VERY long, LOTS of buildings and large group shots, and TOO MANY stories to remember. For that reason, part of the training for re-entry that Let’s Start Talking does with all of its workers is on how to report on their short-term mission project effectively. First, I’m going to write about the DON’TS and get the negative stuff out of the way.
- Don’t forget to report! It is an opportunity to share the blessing you have received. It is an act of gratitude to those who sent you and prayed for you.
- Don’t talk about the weather, the food, or the housing. The audience did not experience it and they really don’t care as much about it as you did while you were there.
- Don’t talk about the problems that you encountered. Every mission project has problems, but if you survived to talk about it, it wasn’t that big! You run the risk of making parents afraid to send their kids or elders afraid to send their members on future short-term missions because “they might have bad experiences like that last team did!”
- Don’t tell all the horror stories about the foreign culture, i.e., the gross things you ate or the immorality of the people you worked with. That’s why you went. Will those stories make others want to do missions? Do they give glory to God?
- Don’t criticize the mission church, its leaders, or the missionary. That’s the last thing any church needs is some American Christian—young or old—to come in and become an expert on both their work and their context in a week or two. “A little learning is a dangerous thing,” especially when judging someone else’s work. If your church and your preacher are perfect, then you can cast the first stone—unless you yourself are less than perfect!
- Don’t leave the impression that you went on a church-sponsored vacation! Of course you took lots of pictures during your free time, probably more than during the work itself, so if you show all your pictures, you will unquestionably leave the impression that most of what you did was play and a smaller portion was actually what the church sent you to do. LST tells its workers to NEVER show free time pictures in reports and NEVER talk about free time. They are not really pertinent to why you were sent, so why include them in your report?
- Don’t post people’s names or pictures on the internet in your blog or website or anywhere without having asked their permission. In some countries, people could go to prison, while in other countries, it might only be an embarrassment to them. Even in a wide-open country like Germany, LST had one of our workers who read with an Iranian refugee, who was sneaking away from the hard-core, militant Muslims that he lived with in order to read the story of Jesus with her. What might have happened to him, if his group found his name on an LST report website??
- Don’t talk too long. LST tells workers to prepare a twenty-second answer for the question: how was your trip? Anything more and people’s eyes start to glaze over. Stick to five-minute reports for the elders and mission committee, 15-20 minutes for classes, but for your own family, you can expand to 25minutes—but just once.
- Don’t make yourself the hero! Don’t talk about the negative that happened—all of the problems and challenges are included– because it makes you look like a suffering martyr—which very few of us are!
- Don’t talk about how much good it did you! Now this is tricky because almost everyone comes home feeling the change in themselves because of a rich, mission experience, BUT what you have to remember is that you went to help OTHER people. Your church sent you to teach OTHER people. What they want to hear is that OTHER PEOPLE were helped. I don’t mean to say this to negate your own experience, but it is not one that you need to talk about a lot—that’s all.
I wish I could tell you that I have never done any of these reporting sins, but, in fact, I have done all of them at some time. Anyone else have stories to tell?
NEXT: So what should you do to report well?