Keeping mission vision alive and growing A quarterly publication of Mission Data International

Follow-through Falls through the Cracks

By David Armstrong

Follow-through wins again! For eight years running, mission leaders have acknowledged that “follow-through” is the most problematic area in their short-term mission programs.

Whenever I put on my Standards of Excellence in Short-term Mission (SOE) hat and teach the Standards Introductory Workshop to short-term mission program leaders, I ask them which of the seven standards they see as their strongest and weakest. They consistently flag #7, follow-through, as the area in which they feel they most need to improve.

We can, though rejoice that great resources and models have been developed in this area since it was first identified as a weakness.

About Follow-through

The term refers to the things we want to see happen after the trip, and it usually has three parts:


As an organizer, assess the methods, plans, processes, leadership, and results of the mission trip. Did things go as planned? Did you accomplish what you hoped? Was it done in the spirit you desired? What might you do differently next time?


As a facilitator, serve participants by asking questions like “How did you do? What did you experience? What did you understand? What did you walk away feeling and thinking and deciding?” Debriefing is personal and wrapped up in emotion, so it’s best done by someone the short-termer trusts, who knows them, and who can give them the chance to “think out loud.”

Next Steps

After looking back on the trip, it’s time to look forward. Ask participants, “As a result of what you have experienced, learned, and understood, what do you believe God wants you to do? How will this experience affect your life?” A good next-steps process requires intentionality and sensitivity as well as time and space for reflection.

Why This Matters

Doing short-term mission well requires a commitment to learn and grow. Serving our short-termers well means walking with them through their expectations, experiences, and emotions. It’s far too easy  to drop the ball and move on to the next project, skipping some key steps in our commitment to both our learning process and theirs.

At an Urbana Conference some years ago I spent several hours talking with one of the students who had gone on a mission trip with us the previous summer. God hadn’t done what she had expected Him to do during that trip. He did things in a very different way. Five months later she was still coming to grips with that. What would it look like to care for and come alongside participants like this student?

Are you involved sending, receiving, or assisting short-term teams? How are you doing with your “follow through”?

» To learn more, see The Seven Standards of Excellence.

“An excellent short-term mission assures evaluation, debriefing, and appropriate follow-through for all participants, and is expressed by comprehensive debriefing of all participants (pre-field, on-field, post-field), thoughtful and appropriate follow-through for goer-guests, and on-field, and post-field evaluation among sending and receiving partners.”

Growing Collaboration with Mission Agencies

By Marti Wade

We’re very encouraged to observe increased collaboration between leaders in the short-term mission movement and organizations that field missionaries long-term. While there is some overlap between these two groups, many organizations work exclusively to field short-term teams. Mission trips associated with long-term sending agencies, which usually operate somewhat differently in terms of length and purpose, are a small percentage of the total.

We have much to learn from one another, but conversations often take place in separate networks and venues. Sometimes this leads to prejudices or misunderstandings. Few have had the time, money, or relational bandwidth to cross the subtle divide. Yet this division seems to be breaking down. We couldn’t be more pleased.

Recently, for the third year in a row, the Standards of Excellence in Short-term Missions (SOE) network partnered with the largest evangelical mission network in North America, Missio Nexus to provide a short-term missions track for its annual mission leaders conference. This year the conference was held in Orlando, Florida and attracted nearly 1000 mission agency leaders and other participants.

Being part of this event allowed SOE leaders (including our David Armstrong) the opportunity to facilitate conversations on how to improve engagement in short-term mission. They also provided training in implementing seven key areas of excellence in short-term mission endeavors. A pre-conference workshop introducing the seven standards and the SOE membership process was again this year completely full, and reviews of the workshop were very positive. Please pray for these relationships to bear fruit for the Kingdom.

Resources for a Changing World

In today’s unpredictable world, many ministries, mission agencies, and other organizations are considering how well prepared they are to respond to crisis situations, including legal attacks.

» Learn about changes in US policy for responding to hostage situations (Crisis Consulting International).

» Check out this video-based security training course for short-term mission teams (Fort Sherman Academy).

» Read about protecting your ministry from sexual orientation and gender identity lawsuits (Alliance Defending Freedom).

Meet the Team: Marti Wade

Marti Wade is the Content Manager for M-DAT’s websites and publications. She finds and creates articles for the web services and newsletters associated with,, and

Marti has been working in missions full-time since the mid-1990s and also serves with the mission agency Pioneers. Marti works from her home in South Carolina. She is married to Chris and they have a son and daughter in college.

» Read more about M-DAT team.

News, Gratitude, and Prayer

Thank you for praying!

  • David and Mary Armstrong are settled in their new house in the St. Louis area. They are thankful for the opportunity to be close to family and build new relationships there.
  • We’re grateful for the great attendance at the SOE workshop and short-term mission track at the Missio Nexus mission leaders conference. Please pray that the connections made will bear fruit for the kingdom.
  • Pray for ministries fielding short-term teams as they try to grow in the area of follow-through. Join us in thanking the Lord for progress many have made in pursuing excellence in other areas.

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