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Developing Leaders and Missionaries through Short-Term Trips

Most churches channel their efforts into cross-cultural missions through short-term trips, enabling church members to experience the world's lostness and support the work of long-term missionaries for a brief period. For those not yet committed to becoming long-term missionaries but eager to extend their impact beyond their local community, short-term trips provide a fantastic avenue to assist in making disciples of all nations. Effective short-term trips expand the reach of local sent ones through hands-on ministry, encouragement, and exploration of potential callings for long-term service.


Short-term mission trips make a meaningful difference in God’s global mission and are more than mere vacations with a Christian emphasis. There are better and, truthfully, easier ways to travel than spending hours on a plane with unfamiliar people to engage in service projects. Short-term trips aim to glorify God by spreading the gospel and supporting gospel work. Christians participating in these opportunities imitate the disciples in Matthew 10. There Jesus “called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction” (Matthew 10:1). After instilling this authority in them, he sends them out to proclaim “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” to the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 10:6–7). Jesus warns them of the opposition they will face during their short-term trip: persecution, fearful adversity, and division, arising from proclaiming the gospel—the good news for believers, and the grating news for those who reject Jesus.


Yet, Jesus still sends them. Why? To develop them into leaders for when their time comes, setting the precedent and building up his disciples into World Christians who see the glory of God's global mission and leverage their lives to advance the gospel. They return excited about their power to cast out demons, but Jesus instructs them with this declaration: “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 20:10). Jesus receives the disciples back, listening to their debrief while teaching and correcting them, aiming to develop leaders, pastors, and missionaries for the New Testament Church.

Jesus empowered the disciples as he was sending them, which put them in a position to succeed.

I experienced this kind of development myself. I considered going on a mission trip to the Philippines for the entire summer while I was in college. My missions pastor contacted me and asked if I wanted to go. I signed up and was selected as the team leader at nineteen. I led my teammates through adversity and hardships in a foreign land, which facilitated my exponential growth as a leader, servant, and difference-maker for the Great Commission. I became a true World Christian as my eyes were opened to how I could leverage my life to fulfill God’s global mission. Short-term mission trips will not finish the Great Commission, but they can open our eyes to God's mission and our part in it.


How should church leadership leverage short-term trips to develop the next iteration of World Christians, leaders, and missionaries?


Identify Leaders and Future Missionaries

To develop future leaders and missionaries, we must first identify them. Examine your pipeline or list of people. Observe those already leading in certain ministries. Have an open eye. Sometimes, a provoking question may reveal leadership or missionary potential. Identify those people and equip them.


Empower Them to Make a Difference

When selecting a person for a short-term trip with the aim of leadership development, it’s important to find ways to empower them. Give them equity in the trip, whether as a team leader coordinating logistics or a team member raising support. Empower them to make a difference. Do all you can to help them grow. Provide access to your sending documents and advice. Jesus empowered the disciples as he was sending them, which put them in a position to succeed.

Short-term trips can open one’s eyes to becoming a leader, servant, and difference-maker in our mission of making disciples of all nations.

Invest Time in Them

Just like discipleship, leadership development demands an investment of time investment. If you identify someone with leadership or missionary potential, spend time with them. Walk them through questions to help them be intentional with the short-term trip. Don't assume they'll become leaders or missionaries on their own. Be with them, help them prepare well, and steward relational capital, whether they're the leader or a future leader.


Advocate for Them and Treat Them as Leaders

After their trip, debrief with them. Once you’ve ensured their reputation and actions align with the biblical leadership model, advocate for them to become leaders in your church’s missions efforts. Place them in leadership positions, whether as interns or lay leaders, or by encouraging seminary attendance. Treat them as leaders, and they will grow into leaders.


Short-term trips can open one’s eyes to becoming a leader, servant, and difference-maker in our mission of making disciples of all nations. If we use them wisely, they can have an invaluable spiritual impact in our church and in the lives of those we send out.

 

Christian Townson lives in Lebanon, Tennessee, with his wife, Danyel. He serves as the Director of Missions and Mobilization at The Journey Church. He is also pursuing a Master of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

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