Mission trips can be incredibly effective for both the mission field and the sending church – or they can be disastrous. I could personally tell you dozens of each. Often the difference simply comes down to choosing the right partnership.
Here are some basic tips for connecting your church with the right mission field partner.
1) Do not think in terms of a mission project; think in terms of a mission partnership. The Christian mission is about people, not about tasks. Seek to partner with boots-on-the-ground missionary personnel living on the field. Missionaries generally have a well-crafted plan to make disciples and plant churches in their region or among their people group.
2) Talk to several different missionaries about their strategy for evangelizing, discipling, developing leaders and planting churches. Ask them about their needs. Ask them how they might envision utilizing mission teams. Ask them about opportunities for teams to share the gospel and meet practical and spiritual needs. Understand how your church would fit into the overall strategy.
3) Consider the gifts, skills and resources offered by your church. What is your church good at doing?
4) Consider the expense and the travel time necessary for each of the potential mission partnerships. While we always trust the Lord to provide the resources to accomplish His mission, we must also be wise and consider the resources and time the Lord has currently given.
5) Plan on entering a partnership relationship for at least five years. It generally takes a couple of years to begin really understanding the mission field and connecting with the people.
6) Remember that the missionary is the field boss. The missionary controls the strategy and dictates the methods for evangelism, discipleship, leadership development and church planting. The job of your church should be to fall in behind the missionary, do what the missionary asks, and help the missionary in the manner requested.
7) Choose a field partner who will connect with and communicate with both your mission team and your church as a whole. The partnership relationship should be churchwide and not just limited to a small subgroup within your church.
Of course, the entire process of selecting a mission partnership should be deeply prayerful as well as strategically thoughtful. Through a mission partnership, your church can make an eternal impact while simultaneously helping your church members mature in their faith, leadership capacity and ability to personally share the gospel.
Eric W. Ramsey is associate pastor of First Baptist Church, Fort Smith.
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