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

Archive for the ‘Mission Trends’ Category

Seeking Excellence in Short-Term Missions

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Since the beginnings of the short-term mission movement, ministry leaders have been meeting to share notes and think through issues and problems with a goal of doing what they do better. We all want those going out on mission trips to truly benefit spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually from their time overseas, and for those they serve and work with on the field to benefit in the same ways.

Over the years several networks have helped promote these purposes. The Fellowship of Short-Term Mission Leaders began in the early 1980’s; I attended their first conference in 1984. That group eventually gave birth to Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission.

For more than 30 years, the all-volunteer SOE leadership team brought lots of energy and passion, as perhaps only volunteers can. As the network matured, however, it reached a size that required more time and consistency that a group of leaders also busy with their own ministries could provide.

Last summer we announced a formal partnership between several ministries supporting the short-term missions movement, and now, as a member of the SOE Board for the last ten years, I’m happy to announce a recently completed merger between Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Missions and a larger, more developed entity, Delta Ministries, which carries a similar vision with complementary programs and staffing.

Last month the two ministries’ Boards of Directors met together to finish the formal part of the merger. The two days we spent together in Portland were very beneficial. I knew some of their Board members previously but appreciated the chance to share ideas and get a feel for each other’s work styles. I was so encouraged!

We who have carried the SOE banner for so long are delighted to see it given a more solid and broader platform. Together, we continue to push for excellence in short-term missions programs.

» Learn more about Delta Ministries and Standards of Excellence or check out some of their great resources:

Short-Term Missions webinars

Standards Introductory Workshops

Short-Term Missions 101 online course

The Next Mile training resources

 

Follow-through Falls through the Cracks

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

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:

Evaluation

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?

Debriefing

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

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

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

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

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).

Learning and Sharing in the Snow at Bear Trap Ranch

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

It was October of 1982. Despite the snow, a group of 70 short-term mission leaders had gathered at Bear Trap Ranch, nestled high in the Rockies above Colorado Springs. Just one phone line at the small lodge, and no cell phones in those days! (Remember?) As they walked between buildings, they kept their eyes open for black bears who liked to check out the dumpster.

They were there because they had started short-term mission organizations or led the short-term efforts for larger mission agencies. They were committed to doing a better job sending church and school teams overseas on mission trips. They shared ideas and tried to solve common problems they all experienced. And for the next 30 years they met regularly under the banner of the Fellowship of Short-Term Missions Leaders. I have been an active participant in many of these meetings.

Today, in 2014, the passion among short-term mission leaders continues to burn. Much has been learned. Books have been written. But organization and church mission leaders change, new groups are formed, and sometimes the lessons that had been learned can be forgotten. Some fall back onto the assumption that surely it isn’t that hard to effectively and safely lead a team overseas!

So short-term mission leaders who strive to improve continue to gather, still in the fall, and still led by volunteers. We now meet in partnership with Missio Nexus under the banner of the Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission. The most recent meeting was just a few weeks ago in Atlanta, where we also oversaw a short-term mission track for the 1000 attendees at the annual North American Mission Leaders Conference.

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