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:

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.”

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