As you finish up your short-term trips, a valuable step to take can be to evaluate the trip hosts. It’s likely that those to whom you are sending short-term teams are long-term partners. If they are not, we would encourage you to consider working towards sending short-term trips to those you already have a partnership with as a church. Short-term is best when there are pathways to long-term. (See our blog post "Short-Term Fueling Long-Term Missions" for more on this concept.)
If you are utilizing the short-term trip to assess a long-term partnership, then going through the host-evaluation process is especially important.
On-field partners have a keen eye for spotting both the positive and the negative characteristics of our people.
While our primary aim is to benefit the host of the trip and their ministry, any true partnership is mutually beneficial. Your partners on the field can give you insight into your church. I have found that on-field partners have a keen eye for spotting both the positive and the negative characteristics of our people. They are often able to describe our church’s culture with amazing accuracy and insight. They may be able to suggest areas of discipleship that we could grow in or ways we could improve our sending processes. Because they are likely hosting teams from various sending churches, they may be able to make observations and give feedback about the life of your church that will be incredibly valuable to you as a missions leader. No doubt this mutual benefit is part of why Paul and Barnabas spent a great deal of time with the Antioch church at the end of their first missionary journey (Acts 14:27–28).
The following are some questions to ask the host regarding how the short-term trip went, as well as questions you could ask the team leader about the host as they come back:
Have the trip host do this evaluation of the team:
What are ways that the team embodied your strategy and values?
What are ways that the team didn’t embody your strategy and values?
What are cultural traits that you notice about our people (both positive traits and areas for improvement)?
Did our team care for you personally? If so, how? In what ways could they have done this better?
Who stood out to you from the team and why?
Is there anyone that should consider coming back to work with you long-term?
Have the team leader do this evaluation of the host:
Did the host clearly communicate his/her goals and objectives for the short-term trip?
Did the objectives of the trip and the way the trip was hosted fit our church’s values for short-term trips? (Note that your team needs to understand your values for short-term trips in order to answer this question!)
What did you love about the host?
What do you wish they would have done differently for you?
Do you feel that your team served the host’s vision and blessed them personally? What did your team do well? What could they have done better?
Would you recommend that we continue to partner with this host financially, for short-term trips, and for sending long-term? Why or why not?
Take time for evaluation and reflection of those you partner with on short-term trips. It will provide great insight into your church and opportunities to improve your on-field partnerships.
Mike Ironside is the International Program Manager for Reliant Mission. Prior to that Mike was the Missions Pastor at Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa, for eight years, where he got to experience the ins and outs of being a sending church. He served on staff with Cornerstone 2006 to 2022 in varying roles–from college ministry to pastoral staff to being an overseas missionary sent from Cornerstone for two years. Mike is the Director of Content for the Upstream Collective. Mike, his wife, Emily, and their four kids continue to live in Ames, IA, and serve at Cornerstone.