Summer season is on the horizon. For most churches, activities will increase rather than decrease. Summer camps for children and youth will impact many lives for Christ. Vacation Bible School remains one of the most evangelistic events on the church calendar in any given year.
Many churches will be involved in partnership missions. I am so thankful for our Oklahoma Baptist churches that partner in North America and circle the globe on mission for Christ. There has been a marked increase in the number of Oklahoma churches of all sizes engaged in mission trips over the years.
I have been leading mission trips for more than 45 years, both as a pastor and leader in the convention. These trips require good planning, good communication and a lot of prayer. My own experiences have run the gamut from “When can we go home?” to “I don’t want to leave.”
What makes the difference? While this is a big stretch, I am going to trust that your mission team leader has done the homework necessary to prepare you for a good experience on the field. So let me share some things that can make or break a mission trip.
First, recognize you are going to serve the people on the field and help them advance the cause of Christ in their locality. You need to listen to them and seek to respond to their approach to ministry. They live on the field 24/7 and know the needs of their communities. Every part of the nation and world is different. To paraphrase a line from The Wizard of Oz, “We’re not in Kansas (Oklahoma) anymore, Toto!”
I have watched too many mission trips go bad because teams failed to recognize the difference in context. While the Gospel does not change from place to place, the communication of the Gospel does. Approaches that work well in Oklahoma may not produce results in another location.
The local missionary or church planter knows his city and has a strategy. Your goal is to come alongside and help advance that strategy, not do your own thing!
Frankly, I have heard from both North American and international leaders whose work has been set back rather than advanced by a mission team. Usually this is because team members ignore the instruction and advice as to how it is best to interact with the people. Doors that the missionaries have worked for years to open have been slammed shut through efforts of well-meaning mission team members who did not listen to the local leader. No one does so intentionally, but some people think they know better than the missionary.
Second, the most important word when serving on a mission trip is “flexible.” A good plan forged between the local leader and the mission team leader helps smooth the path. However, circumstances can change in a moment’s time. Doors shut on opportunities, weather changes, facilities become unavailable, transportation fails, life happens and the church planter or missionary has no control.
So remain flexible and be willing to change course. Attempt new things that are out of the ordinary for you. Consider no task as inferior or unimportant. Be a team player and follow the coach (local leader).
Third, prepare yourself spiritually and be prepared to give your all. You will encounter new and different people than you experience each day in Oklahoma. Be sensitive spiritually. Sometimes you plant seeds to be harvested by others, so do not see seed planting as failure. Never consider prayer walking as menial or insignificant. Prayer walking may be the most impactful thing you do on your trip. Love the people with the love of Christ.
I would like to share more, but hopefully this gets you thinking. Give yourself away by getting involved in partnership missions. You will bless and will be superabundantly blessed in return.