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

Empowering Partnership

When Mike Let the Youth Lead the Meeting

By David Armstrong

The word “empowering” immediately draws to mind one of my youth leaders years ago.

Mike expected us to brainstorm and plan our weekly meetings, line up speakers, prepare everything, and make it all happen. And we did. We had never done these things before, but, because Mike said we could, we did.

We didn’t know what we didn’t know. But through regular and constant interaction, questions were asked and answered and we figured out ways to learn what we didn’t know and do what we had never done before.

We didn’t know that most youth groups were run by the leaders, not the youth. We just assumed that was our role since he said so, and we went to work on it.

I doubt that our ideas and ways were better than his, but he heard, weighed what we said and encouraged us on. We knew we had the freedom to think, experiment, and even fail. That was all just part of the process. Looking back I realize he expected us to make so many of the decisions that I don’t recall him making decisions at all, though likely he did.

Empowering also means letting go and losing control. It means allowing someone the freedom to fail coupled with being willing to stand by them whether they fail or succeed. For example, I like the idea of a family-oriented church, where kids are involved and take part and help out. Then I noticed that it bugged me when the lyrics on the screen didn’t match where we were in the worship songs we were singing. Encouraging the kids to run the worship slides was empowering to them but ended up being frustrating to me. It was then that I realized one of the inherent tensions in empowering.

If I release control and empower, it might not turn out the way I imagined. Empowering partnering involves losing control. It involves the freedom to fail. And it involves us graciously standing together when the outcome doesn’t meet expectations.

Empowering partnership. That’s one of the seven key standards of excellence in short-term missions. Excellent short-term mission trips require these kinds of empowering partnerships with the folks who receive us and our teams. Excellent long-term work does as well. Are you ready for that?

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

An excellent short-term mission establishes healthy, interdependent, on-going relationships between sending and receiving partners, and is expressed by primary focus on intended receptors, plans which benefit all participants, and mutual trust and accountability.


“As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence…
When the best leader’s work is done, the people will say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”
(Chinese philosopher Lao Tze)


Trends in Short-term Mission

More Interest in Longer Mission Trips?

We recently made a study of search and inquiry patterns related to mission trip information on the website. It suggests a greater interest in longer mission trips than we have previously seen. As in the past, most searchers seem to be looking for mission trips that are a few weeks long. During a recent 18-month period, however, we saw the number of those searching for trips at least three months long has doubled to 24 percent.

Longer mission trips offer more cross-cultural experience. They often include a stronger focus on mentoring and discipling participants and preparing them for long-term service. In the last four years we have observed a number of short-term sending agencies refocusing their efforts to provide more opportunities of this type.

Please pray with us (and the mission organizations sponsoring trips). Pray that these longer trips will continue to attract interest and accomplish much in the lives of those who go as well as those among whom they serve.

» Read Search Summary Reports.

Global Mission Mobilization Efforts

WEA Releases Landmark Study

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) recently published an extensive, international study of mission mobilization efforts which includes some findings that may pique your interest.

1. What Is Missions?

Missions paradigms are in a state of flux. Those surveyed had no common understanding of what is and isn’t “missions,” but held a variety of views on casting the net wide to include social action as well as evangelism, local ministry (cross-cultural or not) along with international work, and short-term as well as long-term efforts.

2. How Do We Mobilize?

Mission mobilization approaches also vary. Some models focus on education and information, while others emphasize mentoring and relationship building, specific programs and processes, or simple pragmatism. Each model has its strengths and weaknesses and most efforts blend more than one approach.

3. What Fans the Flames or Douses Them?

Researchers identified a number of “accelerants” to world mission involvement. These include the example, encouragement, and support of family members, and, though to lesser extent, missionaries and church leaders. Biographies, conferences, and classes all may play a role. The bottom line, though, on why people become missionaries? It’s their sense that God has called them to it. (We reported similar findings from other research in a previous Propel article, Mobilization through Mentoring: How Relationships Are Our Most Powerful Tools).

Researchers also identified “retardants” or obstacles to world mission involvement. These include funding and fundraising challenges (especially for non-Western would-be missionaries), cumbersome mission structures and requirements, and tendencies in our larger cultures toward secularism, individualism, and materialism. The authors also point out that rather than blame individuals, organizations, or circumstances, we should acknowledge we are in a spiritual battle against forces that seek to undermine the extension of God’s influence in the world.

» Want to learn more? Read Mission in Motion: Speaking Frankly of Mobilization, edited by Jay Matenga and Malcolm Gold. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2016.

Meet the M-DAT Team

Rebecca Skinner

Rebecca Skinner, a long time friend of M-DAT’s ministry, has joined our team to provide marketing and advertising services.
She is always looking for new ways to get the word out and fund our various websites and newsletters all geared towards helping people take the next step in missions.

Becky grew up in Central and South America. She holds a degree in Children and Family Studies from John Brown University. Her previous work experience includes time at the Association of Christian Schools International, Kids Hope United, and Simplified Living Solutions. She and her family live in St. Louis where she serves on the Global Outreach team at Rooftop Church.

Prayer and Gratitude

Rejoice with us, and please be praying…

  • Partners: Pray for the mission leaders we serve as they gear up for spring training events and spring and summer mission trips. Now is when they are answering lots of questions from group leaders and working on plans for spring and summer.
  • Partnerships: Thanks for praying for David as he participated in the recent Missio Nexus mission leaders conference in Louisville, taught at a pre-conference workshop on the Standards of Excellence in Short-term Missions, and joined the SOE leadership team for two days of planning sessions. Coordinating joint efforts is never simple, but it is profitable. It was also good to catch up with the SOE team through the face-to-face interaction.
  • Staff: Please join us in thanking God for bringing Rebecca to the M-DAT team. Pray for her as she works to get the word out about M-DAT’s great services.
  • Services: Keep praying for Matias as he gets set to bring the revised backend of online in the next few months. The punch list is getting shorter each week.

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