In “Redeeming Short-Term Trips: Part 1” we looked at some of the potential negatives of short-term trips and offered a few ways to begin redeeming them, like making them less paternalistic and categorizing them to convey the goals of the trips more accurately. In Part 2 we will continue our discussion of different trip categories.
Sent One Care Trips
As I’ve talked to Sent Ones, the trips that they’ve loved and been helped by the most are often those where a church sends over one of their close friends or a key member of the church, not as much to join in the mission, but simply to be a friend, to observe their life, and to love on them. These trips often involve: going out to eat with Sent Ones; seeing the places where they live, work, and play; watching their kids so they can go on a date; listening to their needs as an individual, as a married couple, as parents, and as Sent Ones; meeting some of the people they are ministering to; and just being present in their culture. These trips not only serve as an encouragement to the Sent Ones, but they also help the trip participants better represent the long-term workers back in their home church. For all these reasons and more, this type of trip is often one of the most effective ways to use a short-term team. Our post on October 21 will focus solely on these Sent One care trips.
Sent One Care trips not only serve as an encouragement to the Sent Ones, but they also help the trip participants better represent the long-term workers back in their home church.
This third type of trip is for those who have gone on an exposure trip, asked great questions of the long-term goers and the nationals, and discovered a direct need that they could help meet. Perhaps they have the skills to assist with pastor training, agricultural training, medical training, business consulting, micro-finance, etc. These people have seen the location, the partner, and the people. They have asked the nationals and the long-term Sent Ones about the needs in their area and have a particular skill or passion that will help meet them. They may not feel led to live in that location long-term, but they have a strong desire to be a part of the ministry there.
At Cornerstone we call these people Shareholders. They have gone on a trip to one of our focus areas, caught a particular passion for the work there, and decided to take some personal ownership and make an investment in that location. Serving as a Shareholder might involve: joining the board of the organization they are partnering with; taking regular trips to use their expertise to meet a need of the people; advocating for the work in that location to other church members; and/or financially investing in the work of the organization or partner.
One example of a Shareholder from our church is Marlin Rice, who started an agricultural work in Zambia. He holds a PhD. in Entomology and has extensive experience working in the agriculture business, and his work has literally changed the landscape of northern Zambia. Marlin regularly goes to Zambia to hold agricultural trainings with villages and with groups of pastors and leaders in the community. He teaches how to use fertilizer, hybridize seeds, and plant with proper spacing, depth, and landscaping.
Marlin has also taught them the value of planting on flat ground, since traditional African farming involves planting on ridges, a practice that generally doesn’t produce a great yield. Traveling around Northern Zambia, you can literally see a change in the landscape as more and more Zambians have adopted this method of farming. If you stop and ask these farmers where they learned this method, they will often trace back to Marlin’s training. Marlin didn’t have to live in Zambia to make this difference. In fact it may have been a waste of his time to do so. Marlin has had an incredible impact in Zambia by making regular, strategic visits, and his efforts have been a blessing to the Zambian church and its witness to the world. By showing them how to sow seed in the ground, he is helping provide for their work of sowing the seeds of the Gospel in the unbelieving world around them.
Not everyone is a Marlin Rice. We don’t have hundreds of people at our church who can do the type of work Marlin does in Zambia. But when we strategically send our people on short-term trips, we regularly get one or two people who come back excited to become a Shareholder in the overseas partnership. Offering specialized short-term trips is a great way to give your church members a vision for how they can meaningfully and personally invest in the people and organizations you partner with.
There are many places in the world where the cultural differences are too great for a short-term trip member to effectively share the Gospel with the people there. It takes long-term workers years to learn the nuances of sharing their faith with the people they are trying to reach. As missions leaders we need to ask our Sent Ones whether they think team members will be able to cross the cultural distance and share the Gospel effectively on a short-term trip. Listen to your Sent Ones and do not force short-term evangelistic trips on them if they don’t believe they will be effective in their setting. Consider exposure trips or Sent One care trips for these partners.
There are, however, many places in the world where evangelistic trips can be very effective. Working in countries with a similar culture to ours, in university settings, and in areas where the people already speak English are all great options for evangelistic trips. Our church regularly sends students on evangelistic summer trips, and they always come back with a greater desire to see their campus reached for Christ and a greater heart for internationals in our city.
These trips can be particularly effective when they are part of the long-term vision and missions strategy of your church. I spent a few years overseas in East Asia, and during my time there, we hosted over 100 people on short-term evangelistic trips. The East Asian students on campus spoke English quite well, so it gave the American students from my sending church the opportunity to share the Gospel in English and have great conversations with those who did not know Christ.
Our church regularly sends students on evangelistic summer trips, and they always come back with a greater desire to see their campus reached for Christ and a greater heart for internationals in our city.
Over the course of those two years, those 100 students were able to share the Gospel with over 5,000 people! There is no chance my wife and I could have shared the Gospel with that many students on our own in that same amount of time. We were able to filter through those 5,000 students and follow up with the ones who were really interested in the Gospel or who had committed their lives to Christ. We had further Gospel conversations with those who wanted to learn more, and we discipled new believers and were able to equip them to begin starting churches. Our ministry in East Asia would have been much less effective without the support we received through these short-term trips.
There is much more to be said about redeeming short-term trips and making them a more effective part of your church’s missions strategy. We uploaded a longer version of “Redeeming Short-Term Trips” for Upstream Members that includes answers to the following questions:
How do you choose the right locations and partners for short-term trips?
Does your church have to support every short-term trip?
How should you fund short-term trips?
What does effective training look like for short-term trips?
How do you debrief after a short-term trip?
Members can access this document on the File Share at: Redeeming Short-Term Trips. Non-members can buy this full article for $2.99 at https://www.theupstreamcollective.org/product-page/redeeming-short-term-trips.
You can become a member by visiting www.theupstreamcollective.org/join.
Mike Ironside is Missions Pastor at Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa. He has served on staff with Cornerstone since 2006 in varying roles from college ministry to pastoral staff to being an overseas missionary sent from Cornerstone for 2 years. Mike is the Director of Cohorts and Content for the Upstream Collective. He also serves as chairman of the board for Campus to Campus, a missions organization dedicated to getting US college students connected to church planting movements amongst college students worldwide.