The Incomplete Pass: A Call for Missionary Teams to Receive Well, Part Four

BY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LARRY MCCRARY

Receiving new workers on the mission field (whether they be short-, mid-, or long-term) is one of the responsibilities of the long-term missionary. In this series Upstream’s Executive Director, Larry McCrary, will be expounding on what it would look like for missionaries to receive such workers well. You can read the entire series here.

The Week After 

The week after the short-term team returns to their sending church is often when you, the long-term missionary, just want to crash on the couch or go on vacation. In my early years as a missionary, I remember celebrating the moment when the team went through the security gate at the airport. Don’t get me wrong—we were glad they came. We were grateful they served with us for a week. But we genuinely breathed a sigh of relief when they became the responsibility of the airlines. :)

All joking aside, there is a TON of effort that goes into preparing to receive a short-term team. There are many logistical details to be taken care of. The week of the team’s presence is nothing short of exhausting, so gearing down a bit is not a bad thing. It is necessary.

I found that there were two important elements for missionaries once the team left.  First, we did actually celebrate. All of us who helped make it happen usually went to a local restaurant for a celebratory breakfast. We brought our entire families because, normally, even they had pitched in. I wanted our long-term team to know I appreciated their hard work and sacrifice. We typically avoided any of the week’s disappointments in order to simply and fully celebrate. We would debrief that side of things soon enough.

The second thing I learned to do (mostly because I did not start out doing a good job of it) was to plan for the follow-through. To be honest, I never thought of it beforehand because getting through the week was enough work in itself! Yet if the short-term trip was to have long-term impact, it was critical to have a plan for the weeks and months that followed. 

The Sending Church Follow-Through

Here are a few practical things to consider as you seek to be faithful following the short-term team:

  • Write a thank you note to the people who helped.

  • If you used public space or a rented space, give a small thank you gift to the person who gave the permissions to use the space. This will go a long way for the next team.

  • Stop by to personally thank some of the restaurants, cafes, gift shops, etc. that you most likely overwhelmed suddenly with a group of Americans.

  • Pack up any materials up and store them properly for the next team.

  • Debrief with your team.

  • Write out ways to improve and/or prepare more effectively for the next team.

  • Touch base with the short-term team leader and missions pastor from the sending church about the trip. Debrief with them to find out what they learned, and share with them about how you benefitted. If the relationship is healthy, also consider being honest with them about what wasn’t beneficial.

The Mission Field Follow-Through

In regard to the evangelism and discipleship that took place during the trip, perhaps the week afterward is the best time to follow up with contacts that were made. Immediately reconnect with anyone who made a commitment to follow Jesus and get the process of discipleship started. It was tempting, instead, to head off for vacation to get rest. But I found that if I waited several weeks afterwards, it was no longer fresh on anyone’s mind. It was important to the ministry to strategically leverage the week afterward for follow-through, then get rest.

Because I like to create spreadsheets, I would create a followup page within the same spreadsheet for the team’s logistics, communication, training, and projects. Almost daily during the trip, I would update that list so I could remember the week after what I needed to do in terms of follow up.

Every missionary has their own style and way of doing things. I don’t want to get caught up in prescribing a certain method. My point is simply this: if you put some intentional thought into the follow-through, then it will help you tremendously in the long run. You may even find yourself enjoying short-term teams far more!


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