Multipliable Mission Teams
It’s almost impossible for either Samantha or myself to tell our testimonies, let alone how we felt called into full time missions, without mentioning the impact of short-term missions.
We served together on teams at home in Northern Ireland, we were members and later leaders on teams to Spain and Romania. Samantha also lived in Thailand serving during her gap year. God had been planting seeds of missions long before we applied to ECM as full time candidates. The Lord had used short term teams to put a deep discontent about the spiritual condition of Spain years before he called us to live here.
Serving on short term missions creates a huge and lasting impact on the lives of literally hundreds of young people. It’s hardly surprising: take a young person out of their comfort zone, give them an opportunity to serve selflessly and provide dedicated devotional time, and the result time and time again is that God works through this process to make disciples. I am sure I don’t need to sell the idea of mission teams to many ECMers.
What I would like to do is share our experience of how to facilitate mission teams that are sustainable, multipliable and worthwhile for the local church.
Over the last 11 years ‘La Iglesia Protestante de Salou’ (where I’m the Associate Pastor) has hosted mission teams every year (except the fateful years of 2020-21). In more recent years we have also been coordinating other mission teams coming and serving with other local churches in our province at the same time. Last year we hosted five teams, in five local churches with over 130 young people serving. The impact was over 250 children coming to the five holiday Bible clubs, thousands hearing the Gospel in evangelistic events in parks and plazas. Unity between churches from different denominations has been a vital characteristic, with one pastor saying: “This is the first time in history this kind of unity has happened in the province of Tarragona.” But perhaps the most significant impact has been a process of the local Spanish young people being fully engaged in the process, growing in maturity year on year.
Tips for making mission trips multipliable
1. Local leadership and collaboration
The Pastors, members and young people of the local churches have to be fully committed to the project- it's a whole community event. The leadership, direction, promotion and follow up need to come from local believers otherwise it just becomes a ‘hit and run’ type mission team. The team can bring energy, extra hands, even some money to the table but the vision needs to be from the local church. The joy is seeing the Spanish and Northern Irish young people serving side by side.
2. Prepared for Success
We partner with Exodus from Northern Ireland each year. I worked in the ministry for 6 years so I know their process inside out, but the thing I love most is the preparation phase - the teams have already met for 5 months for a weekly Bible study before they arrive with us. We also prepare our youth in Salou with team meetings, a couple of training days. On the first day of the team we have the ‘Launch’ which is a day of training and prayer together. This breaks the ice and sets the vision and expectations for the week ahead.
3. Discipleship is the Goal
Every team, including the Spanish young people, have a time protected each day to have a team meeting with the purpose of the members growing in their knowledge and experience of God. Protect that time and keep the discipleship of the young people a cornerstone of the experience.
4. Get Busy
Over the years I’ve seen teams brought out to serve in a kids club for a couple of hours in the day and the rest of the day becomes a bit of a holiday. If the team has prepared well, paid to come, then it is essential that there are plenty of service opportunities for them which are suitable for their ages, abilities and maturity. Young people will surprise you how much they want to serve and get out of the experience if you facilitate the right opportunities.
5. A Simple Budget and Timetable
Each of the local churches gets a set price for hosting the team per person per night. They take charge of organising the food, transport and accommodation with the budget they’ve been given. The five teams are together for the launch, a day off and three outreach events, other than that they are with the local church. See here a sample timetable:
In mission settings, if you have a group that is bringing energy, the desire to serve and the money to make the ministry happen AND the team can be guided in the right direction for and by the local church, that is the sweet spot in which repeatable and multipliable mission teams can happen.
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