There are some significant questions to ask when you are leading or participating with a missions team – either here… or there…. Take time to be in sync with your mission partner on the ground and explore these 5 questions:
- Does my team have its own agenda? Or are we following the lead and the strategy of the church planter, pastor, or missionary? If we go into a location wanting to accomplish x,y, and z…. it may not actually be the best and most productive ministry for that time and context. Rely on the church planter/missionary to drive the agenda and strategy.
- Am I focused on the project or the people?? There are times when the “assignment” does not seem “productive” if it is not building something or doing a particular event/activity. Remember that building relationships is more important than projects. It is all about the people. The projects and events are the platforms we use to begin deeper relationships with people. This is especially true when dealing in cross cultural ministry. Americans are more time/event oriented while other cultures or more relationally oriented. Make sure to be extra sensitive to building relationships and invest deeply.
3. Am I sensitive to the context and culture? Take note of what is appropriate behavior and dress as you are serving. If you minister in a Muslim context, then you would need to dress conservatively and appropriately. I usually lean toward conservative regardless. Teenagers may balk a bit about no shorts – no tank tops, etc., but honestly, it is not about them. It is all about telling folks about Jesus. Do not let your dress or behavior become a barrier if at all possible. As Paul says, I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. Again, the lead church planter, pastor, or missionary is the person to rely upon to give you wisdom in this area of being contextually and culturally sensitive.
4. Is my volunteer team a burden or a blessing to the planter, pastor or missionary?? Taking ridiculously large teams to a ministry location may not be the best for the planter and ministry. There are times when this is absolutely needed (Disaster Relief, Outreach Events, etc.) – But, my personal opinion is that it is far more productive and fruitful to take smaller teams of 3-7 people several times during the year rather than one huge team only one time a year. Logistically, it is a lot easier and cheaper. It is safer to have smaller groups that do not draw as much negative attention. You feel more connected to the ministry all during the year if you have several groups going periodically. The partnership is fostered all year rather than a one time summer project. You have the blessing of being a part of what God is doing long term. Seeing the fruit from ongoing ministry is encouraging and thrilling!
5. Is my team spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared to serve? It is so easy to get caught up with the logistics of passports, visas, tickets, lodging, collecting money, etc. that we neglect the spiritual, physical, and emotional preparation. We owe it to our ministry partner on the ground to actually make sure that we are spiritually prepared before we go to serve with their ministry. Address any health or physical challenges the team will face. Prepare the team in advance for emotional struggles that are common when serving in this particular context – guilt, arrogance, pride, sadness, shock, etc. Make sure to be empowered by God’s Spirit and to be fresh in the Word of God. Sharpen you testimony a bit. Spend time going over key verses that you can weave naturally into conversations. Teach your team how to powerfully prayerwalk using Scripture. If we abide in Him, then there will be much fruit for the glory of Christ.