Do you need to spend ten hours on learning Chinese if you are going to go to China for a two-week missions project? Do you need to spend five sessions learning about Communism for your mission trip to Albania? If you are the missions ministry leader at your church or the youth minister in charge of the teen mission trip, and you believe that everyone who goes on a short-term mission should go equipped—which I hope and pray you do–, how do you determine the best way to equip those workers going out from your church.
Let’s look in the next few posts at some suggestions about the content of training for short-term mission teams.
Everyone who goes on a short-term mission needs to be prepared spiritually! Just like you get vaccinations and take vitamins before the trip, you need to help your workers bolster their spiritual health before they go. They need prophylactic preparation to prevent spiritual sickness, they need instruction on managing their spiritual health while they are there, and then they need to know what to do if they get sick.
- Talk about motivations for going—and be honest because most people have multiple motivations, including adventure, travel, self-improvement, improvement of personal skills, and—of yes, helping someone else to know Jesus! Preparation should include acknowledgement of these motivations along with a healthy way to prioritize them. Acknowledging the lesser motivations helps remove any guilt or shame workers might otherwise carry with them. Good preparation will help them know ways to focus their motivations so that their activities will be both appropriate and effective for reaching their higher goals!
- Talk about the spiritual goals for this trip. It is not enough to just hope that somehow conducting a VBS will make an impact for Christ. How will you know if you have made a difference or not? Do you have short-term and/or long-term goals? Are you planting seeds or harvesting because of what others have done before you?
- What spiritual challenges might workers meet? Most short-term mission projects are mountain-top experiences for the workers, but in every mission situation, there are also inherent possibilities for spiritual challenges. If your workers are prepared for those challenges, they are more likely to overcome them effectively.
For instance, sometimes workers are confronted by “differentness” at the mission site: different doctrines, different rites, different styles of worship–and it shakes up their spiritual world for a while. Other workers are challenged when they try to verbalize their own faith and fail to do so adequately. Some workers find moral temptations more alluring away from home and are challenged!
I’ve often said that being on a mission field is like being in a pressure cooker and any little crack in your spiritual armor may be put under enough pressure to split wide open and leave you very vulnerable. Preparation for such challenges before a worker goes should give him/her an opportunity to check for cracks!
- What role will praise and prayer play? If you will have daily times together for praise and prayer—and I hope you will—then you will need to prepare for those times before you go! Nothing is more discouraging than haphazardly prepared devotionals with half-baked thoughts and dashed-off prayer to cap it off. Nothing is more encouraging than good time with God and your fellow workers, when you are giving thanks, praising Him, listening for His instructions for the day, interceding with Him for those people with whom you are working, and asking Him to work powerfully through you.
Putting a spiritually healthy team on the plane, a team prepared for spiritual challenges while on the field, must be one of the highest priorities for your mission preparations.