As Christians we know certain truths. God loves the world. God loves people. Jesus commissioned his followers to go to the ends of the world right before he went to heaven.
Although we know these truths intellectually we often struggle on how to accomplish them practically. How do we do missions well? How do we practically go on mission? What pitfalls are out there that we may fall into if we are journeying through the morass of modern missions unaware of our surroundings? Today I am going to lay out an easy step by step plan of how to prepare a mission team in hopes that it will help you go on mission with a game plan that is achievable and reproducible.
Step 1: Pray.
I know this step may seem really intuitive but it is a lot harder than it seems. You need to bathe your mission trip with prayer. You are going on the front lines of the conflict between God and his enemy Satan. You need to make sure you are hearing from God concerning where you should go and what you should do. Start by praying for a burden for a people group and a country. Often we approach missions by trying to do what others have done. That is a poor way to start the process of following God. Every great missionary movement has started by people asking God what they should do and then having the courage to follow God’s calling.
Step 2: Partner
Missions can be a daunting task. If you try to do missions alone you can find yourself trying to pull off a huge vision with minimal resources. You need to find 2 different types of partners. First you need to find companion partners. That means finding people who will take the task on of going and doing the mission with you. I think it is helpful to have several churches taking on a project or mission together than one church or individual taking on a mission by themselves. Choosing to be a part of a denominational missions organization, church network like Acts 29, or the Impact Church Network allows you to do more in less time. Our church has partnered with the Impact Church Network and the IMB and has allowed us to do church planting and missions at a level far beyond our financial ability as a church plant.
The second type of partner you need to have are your “on the ground” partners. You need to have trusted people that you can serve. Usually these people handle most of the logistics for your team and handle the tasks that you will do. I think a key mentality you need to have concerning missions is that you serve your missionaries and help them. Often churches bring their own vision to a project and try to shoehorn missionaries into that vision. A church will have an idea that they become infatuated with but has nothing to do with what the missionary is already accomplishing. Although the missionary may accommodate their partner church, most mission trips like this are a waste of time and money.
It is really important when selecting a mission partner to know them well enough to trust their character. Unfortunately there are many unsavory characters out there that operate under the guise of being social workers and missionaries. It takes time to really distinguish if someone is trustworthy.
Step 3: Plan
It is really important to have a plan for your trip. If you have no objectives for your team you will likely be doing nothing but wasting your people’s time. It is my personal belief that mission trips should be focused on one of two objectives. A mission trip should be focused on either church planting or ministry to the least of these. You may ask what about evangelism. I believe evangelism should be done in both contexts. Evangelism is the reason for any trip. If you are on a mission trip that does not share the gospel you seriously evaluate if this trip is worth doing.
Evangelism isn’t just going through the Romans Road or EE with people. There are many aspects of evangelism. I believe that a trip that creates contacts for a missionary or a church plant is a vital part of evangelism. We have had great success in gospel resistant countries by creating events that draw unchurched people into relationships with our church planters.
Mission projects that serve the underserved and do primarily humanitarian service opportunities are great first serve opportunities for people. Some of the projects our people have have done are construction, health clinics, well building, and orphan care. These trips are always really rewarding and usually our people walk away realizing how blessed they really are. I think the trick for leaders to is to make sure that people realize that humanitarian aid is not the end game. The gospel is what is most important. It is very important to teach your people that our good deeds should point people to Jesus. All the help we do for others is not because we are good people but because Jesus has changed our lives. Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Good works are not for our glory; instead they are signs that God has transformed us.
Step 4 Prepare
Preparing your team takes a lot more effort than most people realize. Here are some things you need to do to prepare your team.
- Interest meeting: Have a couple of these meetings before you finalize your team. Its best to do them right after your church service.
- Deposit: Sometimes people struggle with committing to a trip. I give people a deadline to sign up and I also ask for a deposit of $200 before they go.
- Fundraising: your team likely has no idea how to fundraise. You are going to have to teach them how to do it well. A support letter followed by a phone call to close friend is a good way to start fund raising. I operate under the premise that if God wants people to go on a trip, he will provide the finances to go.
- Deadlines: I like to give teams deadlines to get their money in. These are more of suggestions of when their money needs to be turned in. I like to get enough money to cover their plane ticket in by the end of the first month. That allows us to purchase the tickets at a group rate in advance.
- Team Meetings: have 3-4 meetings before you go on your trip. Pray for your trip. Pray for the people that you will meet and share the gospel with. Teach your people how to share the gospel. Communicate what you are doing. Personally, when I am leading a trip, I like to host these meetings at my home. It allows me to invite my team members into my life and start bonding our team together.
- Discipleship: you are discipling people on your trip. Give them stuff to lead. Make them lead a team devotional on the trip. It will allow them to learn how to lead a Bible study in a stress free environment. I also encourage you to give your team some books to read before they go on the trip. A great suggestion is the book “Brutchko” by Bruce Olsen.
- Logistics: Plan out your transportation, Plan your meals and lodging. Create budget for all your expenses. Make sure you have money for the airport taxes when you leave the country. Check on visas. Make copies of all the passports for your team. Check on security issues in your country and make sure your register your team with the state department before you leave.
Step 5 Play
Enjoy your trip. I think it is important to have fun on every trip that you go on. Make sure you plan 1 day to see the country that you are serving in. Many times people will fall in love with the country as they are enjoy the culture on the off day. If people fall in love with the country chances are they will return and serve again.
Step 6 Begin the process
Ok, I couldn’t come up with another word that came started with a P. I was on a roll there. The most important part of missions is doing it. It isn’t primarily a process or a plan. It is a lifestyle. I am so grateful to be at a church where God’s people are passionate for missions. A lot of what I do is just get out of the way and let God work in people’s lives. I find that when I serve as a cheerleader and champion for missions, people accomplish far more than I could ever imagine.