by: Andy Haynes, New England Students
As a host:
1. Communicate Clear communication is key when preparing to host a short term mission team. Leave no question unanswered or assumed. Your time hosting the team and their impact will be as effective as the relationship and trust you develop with them.
2. Strategy Know the big picture goal of involving a short term team in your work. What are you trying to accomplish and why is it important? Is that goal worthy of the expense of a team traveling and investing their time, energy and finances? Teams can serve as relational catalysts, multiplying the number of students with whom you can follow up and connect. One week of service can resource and accomplish event evangelism. Teams can encourage your students in many aspects of the faith and in shared purpose of mission. Students from other campuses can easily connect with peers on your campus. Not every team will be a good fit with your strategy. If schedule or purpose do not align, do not be afraid to say, “No”.
3. Schedule Prioritize the team’s week and time around the big picture strategy. Keep in mind their travel schedule and when in the week the team will be at their best physically and mentally. Know that while you host a team your week will “feel” like you are on a mission trip as well. Your time and energy will be spent in different ways than normal, prepare your schedule ahead so that you rest before the team arrives. Though you will be tired, immediately following an event or team visit is the best time for follow up with new contacts.
4. Prepare Offer orientation as quickly as possible when the team arrives and provide information that will be helpful regarding the location, people, cultural-isms, schedule, and activities they will encounter. If possible, Face Time or Skype with the team before their arrival. Let them know of any expectations you may have, and what they can expect to see and experience. If they are coming from a heavily churched background, now is the time to address language that may not be understood in the New England context.
5. Host. A host is welcoming, comfortable, and clear. You are most comfortable in a new situation when you have been greeted, given clear information, and believe that you are wanted in that place. Every team we host should feel welcomed and appreciated. A good host follows up with the team after they leave with thank you notes.
6. Connect the Team with Life. Life occurs in the home, dorm, cafeteria, restaurant, coffee house, church, street… Connect the short term team as much as possible with everyday rhythms of life. Host a team in your home. Arrange for sleeping, where possible, with other students.
7. Pray. Prayer is listed last so that it is on your mind first. Pray early and often for the right team and the right time. Pray they will walk in the good works God has prepared for them. Pray for them to be effective with their time, bold with the gospel, courageous in love, and fruitful in service. Pray that they will love people and declare the gospel boldly. Pray that they will seek to partner long after a one week experience has passed.
As a leader:
1. Pray & Partner. Pray to establish a partnership with the people you are going to serve. The most rewarding trips and mobilization efforts occur in partnership. Go to the same location and people for a period of years, teaching students how to love people (not places and experiences).
2. Local Partners are the Experts. Live by the principle that the local leaders know more and better than we do. Go to serve in ways that the partners have asked. Go to learn from your partners. In most instances those you serve will be living and applying the gospel in ways that will be new; learn from them.
3. Communicate. Lead your team to pray for your partner, their efforts, and your time with them before you go. Communicate with your partner so that that you can bring needed encouragement to them and leadership to your team. Make sure basic logistical details are worked out before you leave.
4. Love People. Take an interest in those you serve and develop a relationship with them. Accept hospitality and offer gratitude. Learn names, pray for and ask about specific people. It can be overwhelming on the first trip as you meet many people, but do not let the numbers of people distract you from loving an individual and getting to know someone. Loving people moves the focus off the adventure of taking a trip or seeing a new place to what is really important.
5. Set Expectations. Your team should know what you, as leader, expect of them. Set clear guidelines and hold your team accountable. Guidelines can range from expectations with the schedule, to clothing, to conversation. On any team, some will have “dominant” personality traits and others will have “conscientious” personalities. Clear expectations will help the team to relate despite personality differences.
6. Obey the Holy Spirit. Mission trips are an opportunity to teach obedience to the Holy Spirit. If a team member is feeling led by the Spirit to do something explore that leading with them: in the abundance of counselors there is victory (Prov. 11:14).
7. Learn some Language. If serving cross-culturally, your partnership and trip will be enhanced as you learn as much of the language and customs as possible.
8. All or None. In situations where you may feel the need to help an individual who is part of a group, but cannot offer the same help to the entire group, refrain. Speak with your local partner before making any effort in this arena. Your “generosity” to a single person may damage the witness to the community. These are not easy situations to navigate, but rely on this principle and speak with your partner first.
9. Mind your P’s & Q’s. As leader you will have multiple responsibilities: relating to the local leaders and your team, conveying information, arranging logistics, treasurer and passport copy keeper… Organize before hand and let someone not traveling with you keep copies of all documents, passports, emergency contacts, flights and schedule. You’ll be glad you did that when a student has to pass a kidney stone in a foreign country (true story) or spends the night in jail for “distributing Christian literature” (also true).
10. Debrief Every Day. Memories and experiences will accumulate quickly, plan time each day to discuss the experience as a team. These will be some of the most disciple-making oriented times for your students. Debriefing at the end of the trip usually results in tired stares as team members try to process a lot. Breaking this down day by day will have more impact. This also gives you the opportunity to communicate for the next day.
11. Multiply. You can send more student teams than you can accompany. As you develop partners you will know who will be happy to have a student only team and those situations when you need to be present.
12. Rest. On any trip there will be a temptation to use all 24 hours of every day. Depending on the length of the trip, work with your partner to plan a slower day (they will usually appreciate this as well if you are present for 6 or more days). Do not plan a big day trip on this day, but leave room for team members to sleep, pray, reflect, and refresh. If your partner needs you active for the entire time you are there, then serve their needs first. Communicate your desire, if any, to have a free day ahead of time with your partner. You may need to arrive early or depart a day or two after the mission activity is complete to further enjoy the cultural environment. If you are planning a free day invite your partner and others you have met. Their local knowledge will enrich the experience.