Short-term missions and team devotions

Short-term missions is strategic for making disciples not only globally, but locally within of our own congregations.  Using short-term mission efforts for disciple-making among our own church members is one slice of the disciple-making pie.

No need to reinvent the wheel here.  Ample resources are available for mission teams to use for team devotions.  Teams might select a book of the Bible or a portion of Scripture to work through prior to departure as well as while on the mission field.  Questions related to the passage can be developed that generate team discussions when meeting together before and during the mission effort.

Teams might also select short, but pertinent books on specific topics to read prior to departure and to discuss while on the field.  Suggested topics include:

  • Evangelism
  • Missions
  • Church Membership
  • Theology (a specific doctrine or a summary of multiple doctrines—e.g. BF&M 2000)
  • Biographies of missionaries or Christian leaders
  • Selected sermons (manuscripts that can be read as well as listened to)
  • Spiritual disciplines (Christian growth)
  • Church health/revitalization
  • Church planting

If using a book study, prepare some questions related to each chapter or section of the book you plan to discuss.  Use mornings or evenings with the team to not only review the upcoming day or debrief the day, but to discuss the topic for intentional discipleship time.

The point in team devotions is to maximize the concentrated time with the team for Jesus’ model of Mark 3:14—being with and sending out.  Mark gives us the reason for Jesus choosing the twelve (apostles).  He spent time with them and sent them out to share the good news.  Jesus is modeling what it looks like to make disciples—it’s time together and it’s time serving.  In fact, Matthew gives us a similar paradigm for discipleship.  Jesus mentored (taught) (Matthew 5-7); modeled (served with) (Matthew 8-9); and multiplied (sent them out) (Matthew 10).

Short-term missions allows churches to build disciples in a similar way that Jesus and Paul modeled it for us.  We can mentor, model, and multiply our church members in a concentrated way unlike at other times throughout the year.  Capitalizing on your time with the team for teaching and serving is invaluable and will often transform the way they engage the church and others once back home.

 

Why Cultural Awareness is Important in Ministry?

Jesus commanded us in Matthew 28:18-20 to “go and make disciples of all nations.”  To do this effectively requires us to have some understanding of the community and the culture that God has called us to minister within.  Race, age, religious belief, economic status, language, educational background, unique community marks of identification, major social issues all have impact on our mission field and can be bridges or barriers to the Gospel.

Every church needs a cultural awareness of their mission field.

The Apostle Paul taught us about the need for cultural awareness in ministry in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.”

We are called as believers to be Ambassadors for Christ.

A good ambassador:

  • Has knowledge of who he is and who he is representing.
  • Knows extensive knowledge of the place that he has been assigned…culturally, socially, politically, geographically, etc.
  • Shows respect for the people that he will serve among.
  • Seeks to identify and connect with the people that he will work with.

Do you know your community?

Strategic Cultural Demographics – Strategic Mapping for Ministry/Outreach

  • Ethnic Diversity/Make-up
  • Geographical Divisions
  • Income Levels – average income
  • Educational Levels
  • Employment/Unemployment – biggest employers
  • Percentage of Poverty and homelessness
  • Population Distribution by Age – fastest growing age segment
  • Languages Spoken
  • Major Social Issues that Impact community – drug usage, teenage pregnancy, etc.
  • Unique Community Markers of Identification – university, resort area, military base, etc.
  • Projected Community Growth Rate over Next Five Years – community stagnant, declining, or growing
  • Religious Beliefs in Community
  • What Percentage of Community Looks Like Your Church?

There are several ways to gather this information to help you to understand the culture of your community.  Information can be gathered from census and other community data resources on the internet.  Often real estate groups, local Chambers of Commerce, and schools will have good community information.

Church Leaders should also do personal observation in the community to verify or to discover additional community information.  Drive through the community.  Walk through neighborhoods.  Look for significant community markers or cultural markers (ethnic restaurants, non-Christian places of worship, community assistance or resource centers, colleges, military base, recreational areas). Identify local places where people congregate.  Observe and engage people in local gathering places.

The goal is to learn about people in your community and identify points where the church can build bridges to Christ.

The keys to developing a missional cross-cultural strategy in your church are:

  • Listen and observe
  • Be sensitive
  • Look to build bridges to Christ
  • Share the Gospel in the heart language of your community/target group
  • Make decisions when possible with those of your target group
  • Be inclusive when you reach people – allow them a place in the family of faith
  • Be willing to make changes that break down barriers to the Gospel
  • Do not sweat a few mistakes but seek to learn from them.

 

Construction Opportunities

Construction skills of all types are much needed on the mission field and open the door to sharing the Gospel with those you serve.

One Kentucky missionary shared the story of a man they had been ministering to through their ministry center.  The man had completed their 3-month budgeting course and was in need of some home repairs.  A mission team from Pennsylvania who had served in the area for the past 2 years worked on the man’s home, including a bathroom that was falling in and in total disrepair.  On the last day of the team’s mission trip, the missionary went by to see how things were going.  The home owner met him at the car, took him by the hand and led him to the newly renovated bathroom.  The missionary, thinking the man wanted to show him his new bathroom, was quite surprised when the man said, “Today I knelt in the floor by this brand-new bathtub and accepted Christ as my personal Savior.”

The missionary and mission team had met this man at his point of need, opening up the opportunity to share Christ with him.  The man’s life was changed that day for all eternity because of a mission team that used their construction skills, but also took time to share the Gospel.

This is just one of many stories of how construction teams have used their skills on mission.  Others include churches that were rebuilt after being destroyed by fire and a lady who financed the rebuilding a widow’s house that was beyond repair.

There are many elderly, single moms, needy families, churches and ministry centers that are in desperate need of teams with construction skills.  Teams are needed throughout the year for everything from minor repairs to major construction or rebuild jobs.  Consider putting together a construction team from your own church or association that can meet the building or repair needs of your local community, as well as state-wide, nationally, and internationally.

Some of the ways construction teams can serve on mission include:

  • Handyman services
  • Wheelchair ramps for the elderly and disabled
  • Home repairs
  • Roofing
  • Painting
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Winterization of homes
  • New home construction for a needy family
  • Church renovation
  • New church construction
  • Repairs/renovation/new construction at a ministry center
  • Disaster relief responses

Look for construction opportunities on the Kentucky Baptist Convention website at http://kybaptist.org/mission-opportunities/construction-maintenance/.

Or, consider joining a Baptist Builder Team, a Carpenters for Christ Team, or a Campers on Mission Team and use your construction skills on mission for Christ.

Enlisting Short-term Mission Teams

Jesus’s command to makes disciples of all nations is for all believers (Matt 28:19).  While we want every Christian to be a disciple-maker, not everyone in the local church will necessarily leave their home for gospel mission (Acts 13:1-3).  Some go; the rest send.  Some go long-term; others can go short-term.  Short-term mission teams can be a valuable asset to assist those making disciples in far places.  Enlisting proper short-term team members is an essential part of ensuring we have an effective and faithful long-term mission impact.  Here are some suggestions for enlisting your short-term mission team.

  • Communicate clearly to the church the mission. Pastors play a key role in communicating and giving “stage time” to the mission that the church will engage in.  Use as many (creative) communication platforms as necessary to inform the church of the upcoming mission opportunity.
  • Work closely with the pastor(s) in the process of recruiting or approving team members. As the shepherds of the church, pastors need to be involved in the decision process of those who participate in the mission effort.
  • Plan an informational meeting. Those who express interest need to know key details (as much as possible) in finalizing their decision. Schedule an informational group meeting with interested persons. Cover such details as:
    1. Location
    2. Purpose of the mission (as it aligns with the strategy of the host missionaries)
    3. Cost (travel, food, lodging, ministry expenses, travel insurance)
    4. Accommodations (lodging, travel, food, etc.)
    5. Expectations of team members (health abilities, type of work, behavior, etc.)
    6. Q&A time
  • Schedule interviews and/or an application process. Whether through an interview with those interested or by filling out an application, this step is important in making sure that those desiring to go are a right fit for the mission effort.  Issues covered in the interview and/or application include:
    1. Personal conversion story.
    2. Description of personal growth (e.g., prayer, Bible reading, church involvement, personal witnessing).
    3. Explanation of why the individual desires to go on this mission effort.
    4. Look for team players. There are no lone rangers in missions.
    5. Gain a feel for the personality of the person and ability to relate well with others.
    6. Willingness to be flexible and serve as needed.
    7. Physical and emotional stability.
  • Inform each interested person of the decision. In many cases, the answer for an interested mission team member will be “yes, welcome to the team.”  On occasion, the team leader, pastors and other decision makers will have to inform interested persons that the answer is “wait”.

Short-term teams provide valuable help to long-term missionaries when those teams are carefully selected and properly trained.  While not every Christian will be called to live far from “home,” every Christian is called to make disciples of all nations.  One way to faithfully live out this disciple-making call is by being part of carefully selected short-term mission teams.

Importance of the Pastor as a Catalyst for Missions

The Pastor is called to be a preacher/teacher within the body of faith.  This place of leadership gives him a unique authority and influence in the local church.  When the shepherd of the flock leads, the flock will follow.   This is crucial for the general health of the church but also for the missional health of the body of Christ.

The pastor is called to be God’s strategist for the local mission field but is also critical for God’s command to take the Gospel to the nations.  When the pastor has a passion for missions the church will be ignited to go into all the world for the sake of the Gospel.

The pastor is vital in:

  • Casting a missional vision.  If it is not said from the pulpit most in the pews do not think it is important.
  • Helping the body of Christ understand lostness.  When the pastor is consumed by the urgency of our work for Christ, it will overflow to the people in the pews.
  • Making missions a regular and important part of worship. Missions should flow from the worship of God.  We were created to give God glory.  When we meet God in worship, it stirs our hearts to make His name known among all the nations.  The pastor plays a key role by seeking ways to make missions a part of worship (preaching on missions, showing mission clips, praying for missions, highlighting mission offerings, using missions’ illustrations in his message, inviting missionaries to speak).
  • Preaching the Word faithfully and challenging the people to live life on mission for Christ.
  • Leading by example.  The church will never be more committed than their leader.
  • Fostering the development of missionaries within the congregation by seeking to grow and encourage those in the family of faith to serve and surrender to a missions’ calling.  Pastors are called to equip up the saints, so that these disciples may be sent out on mission for Christ.
  • Developing a comprehensive mission strategy to move the church to reach its Jerusalem, to have impact in the church’s Judea and Samaria, and to take the Gospel to the farthest corners of the globe.
  • Being an encourager of missions and missionaries.  Invite missionaries to your church and help the church to build relationships with missionaries.
  • Promoting missions giving.  This is the lifeblood of missions, and when we give cooperatively we can do more for the Kingdom than any of us can alone.  The pastor plays a vital role in helping the church to understand why we give to missions and choose to work cooperatively as Southern Baptists.
  • Encouraging the church to pray for missions, unreached people, and missionaries.
  • Energizing the flock to “Go.”

The strength or weakness of each local church’s missionary strategy, missionary support, and missionary outreach will depend, more than any other one element, on the mission-mindedness of its pastor.   

Hope in a Christmas Backpack

Matthew 9:36 challenges us to reach compassionately the harassed and helpless. No demographic is more helpless than children. Here in Kentucky, 26% of our children live in poverty, that’s one out of every four children.  

For the 985,000 children in Kentucky who live in poverty, Christmas doesn’t always come with the promise of gifts—or even a Christmas meal. Every day is more about survival than celebration. But we can help change that.

One very practical way that we can reach compassionately the needy children in our state is through Christmas backpacks.

Last year, almost 8,000 Christmas backpacks were collected in Kentucky for distribution by missionaries and church planters.  Each backpack is a tangible expression of God’s love as it is filled with gifts of clothing, toys and food items. But the greatest gift within each backpack is a copy of the true Christmas story.  Many children have never heard the “true” Biblical Christmas story.

Last year, there were hundreds of decisions for Christ as a result of the gospel message that is shared with each backpack.  An exciting thing about those decisions is that many of them were made by parents and grandparents of the children receiving the backpacks.  The backpacks don’t just provide hope to a needy child, they impact the whole family.

When the backpacks are received by children living in difficult circumstances, not only are the children and their families affected, so are those who prepare and pack the backpacks.  Many churches report that their whole congregation was involved in this ministry, young and old, including those who can’t travel on a mission trip. Some churches reported that working together on the backpacks helped them to focus outwardly on the needs of others rather than upon internal church issues.

Evangelist Dwight L. Moody said, “If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God!”   How devoted are you to reaching children for God?

Let me challenge you and your church or small group to commit to preparing and packing backpacks for children to receive this Christmas. Time is running out because backpacks must be ready for delivery by early October. It all starts with you – but ends in someone coming to know Jesus Christ and the true Christmas story.

For more information, or to commit your group’s participation in the Christmas Backpack Project, visit:  www.kybaptist.org/backpacks

What is Kentucky MSC?

Many of the missionaries featured in our KYandBeyond blog each month are Kentucky Mission Service Corps Missionaries (or KY-MSC as we like to call them).  You may have heard the term but also may have asked, “What is a Kentucky Missions Service Corps Missionary and how does one become a Kentucky Missionary Service Corps Missionary?”

Kentucky Mission Service Corps is long-term missionary service, as opposed to a short-term mission trip or even partnering with a ministry.

A KY-MSC Missionary is a baptized Christ follower 18 years of age or older, called by God and connected with a Kentucky Baptist Convention church.  He or she commits to serve a minimum of 20 hours per week for a duration of 9 months to 2 years (which is renewable) in a position that engages in or directly supports missions, church planting, collegiate ministry, or evangelism, in cooperative partnership with a Kentucky Baptist Convention church, association, or organization.

The missionary must be an active member of a local Kentucky Baptist Church and go through an approval process by the Kentucky Baptist Convention or the North American Mission Board.  Education and experience requirements are established by a field request from the ministry where they will serve.

Currently there are 95 of these “self-funded” missionaries serving in Kentucky.  They serve in roles from association outreach positions to equestrian ministries, to directors of food and clothing ministries, to pregnancy care center, to homeless shelters, and much much more.  Some of the missionaries have come to Kentucky from other states, while many of them serve in their own state and possibly their own home town or community.

As self-funded missionaries they are supported in several ways.  Some of the missionaries are retired, some work part-time while serving as a missionary, some may have a spouse who works to support the family, and some raise their own support.

As you give to the Cooperative Program and the Eliza Broadus State Missions Offering you are a part of the work of these missionaries.  Although they do not receive a salary they do benefit from CP and EBO through trainings available to them and an annual missionary retreat.  The missionaries can also apply for Eliza Broadus grants and grants through the Missions Mobilization office to help with specific needs of their ministries.

You can also connect with a Kentucky missionary through the “Adopt-a-Missionary” program.  For more information go to http://www.kybaptist.org/adopt-a-missionary,1477.

Perhaps God has called you to serve, or you are already serving 20 hours per week in a Kentucky ministry, and you would like to learn more about becoming a Kentucky missionary.  Go to www.kybaptist.org/msc to learn more about Kentucky Mission Service Corps and/or to apply to become a KY-MSC missionary.  You will find the application at that link.  Or, contact the Missions Mobilization Coordinator at [email protected].

Disciple-making and Short-term Missions

As the eleven apostles wait on the Mountain in Galilee for Jesus, they are filled with mixed emotions.  No doubt they wonder, “What will Jesus say and what will we do next?”  When Jesus appears to the them, the heart of His message is “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19).

Short-term missions is for the purpose of making disciples, not just somewhere else, but among our own church members.  Pastors and church leaders should view short-term missions as a two-point prong—making disciples locally and globally.  We go elsewhere to assist missionaries in their work of making disciples in other places, but we also understand short-term missions as a vital part of making disciples of our own church members.

There is something incredibly valuable about pouring into our own church members while they are away from normal routines and distractions.  Don’t miss this opportunity through short-term missions to have long-term discipling impact on your church members.

Here are some suggestions for discipling your short-term mission teams.

  • Encourage team members to enlist prayer partners. These partners can be within the church, family members, or other believers outside of the church.  Lead them to give weekly or monthly prayer matters leading up to the time of the mission effort.  For the time of the mission effort have your team members give a daily prayer point guide to their prayer partners before they leave.  Also, encourage team members to have at least one prayer partner that prays with them each week leading up to the mission effort. They can pray through facetime, in person, over the phone, etc.
  • Develop personal time in God’s Word and prayer. Nothing prepares the team member more for missions than his/her personal time with God.  Several months before the mission effort, teams can be encouraged to read through certain passages or books of the Bible.  For example, reading through Acts prior to and during the mission effort is a great way to prepare the team spiritually for what they are about to do.  Providing specific prayer guides for the team member’s own spiritual preparation is essential as well.  This might be the first time these team members develop an intentional personal time in God’s Word and prayer.
  • Teach them how to share the gospel. Missions is not missions if the gospel is missing.  There are many tools that can be used to teach teams how to share the gospel.  The point is not one particular method as much as making sure each team member can articulate the gospel concisely and clearly.  Spending time with the team not only teaching them how to share the gospel but giving them opportunities to practice on one another and even in the community before the team leaves is critical.  The goal is not teaching them to be an expert in winning arguments, but simply telling the “old, old” story of Jesus and His love.  The gospel is the power of God for salvation, not our presentation or method (Rom 1:16).  Share the gospel and trust God to do His work!
  • Utilize your time on the field for discipleship. While on the mission effort, being intentional about pouring into the team members is essential.  Taking them through a study in the Bible (like Acts) or a book is a great way to have deliberate discipleship time while on mission (there are a number of short, but impactful books that could be used for this purpose).  Either in the morning before the team leaves out for the day or in the evening when you settle down from the day, walking the team through a planned study time is a valuable way to point the team to God’s Word and apply both the Word and their daily mission experiences to their Christian life. Amazingly, God often uses His Word and the experiences of the team while on mission to grow them exponentially.  Take advantage of that time for team discipleship.
  • Don’t forget when you get back home.  Pray for new habits and convictions that begin to form while on the mission effort to remain once you are home.  Team members often ask themselves and their churches, “now what?” when they return home.  The experiences are often overwhelming and can cause frustration when others back home don’t quite see things in the same way as the team members upon their return.  Learning to leverage one’s experience for personal growth and influence of others is a delicate but important step.  Here are some “when you get back home” suggestions:

1. Remain active with your prayer partner(s). Continue praying with and meeting with others for accountability and encouragement.

2. Stay deep in God’s Word. The habits of personal Bible-intake you begin to form on mission will be life transforming if you stay with them.  Be consistent in your personal Bible time.

3. Don’t overreact by selling everything you own (just yet) nor see everyone else as less spiritual than you. Meditate often on Philippians 4:10-14 about finding contentment in whatever situation the Lord brings your way.  Further, the temptation you will face is one of being judgmental to those who didn’t go, haven’t gone, or refuse to go.  Steady wins the race.

4. Don’t waste your mission effort. It’s easy to merge back into the traffic of life and forget what you experienced through God’s Word and His work. Find one way you can continue serving the gospel in your own community.  How are you living on mission where God has planted you?

5. Remember, the goal is make disciples (locally and globally) (Matt 28:19-20). While the experience of disciple-making globally is thrilling, whom would God have you pour your life into for long-term impact where you live?  You can begin with the study you went through on the mission effort by sharing it with someone else for discipling purposes. Meet monthly or weekly to discuss what you learned with someone else.  In other words, make disciples here and there.

What Can the Church Do to Address Human Trafficking?

HOW SHOULD THE CHURCH RESPOND TO THOSE ENSLAVED TODAY?

“Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves.  Remove your evil deeds from My sight.  Stop doing evil.  Learn to do what is good.  Seek justice.  Rebuke the oppressor.  Defend the rights of the fatherless.  Plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:16-19).

The church cannot ignore the issue of human trafficking.  The church is called stand against evil, seek justice, care for the least of these, and rebuke the oppressor.  Our God calls us to speak out and to reach out.

AS FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST, HE CALLS US TO BE AGENTS OF JUSTICE AND TRUTH… OF LOVE AND GRACE.

What can the church do?

  • Care enough to get involved.
  • Begin paying attention and being aware of those that may be victims of human trafficking.
  • Avoid the temptation to blame the victims for their situations.
  • Be willing to reach out and offer a hand of help and hope to someone victimized by trafficking.  Offer unconditional love and remember that the chains of sin are not always broken quickly.
  • Realize that breaking the chains of trafficking will not come easy; it will require time, patience, and endurance.
  • Understand that not every situation will result in success, but through the power of God, victories are possible.
  • Address the issue of pornography honestly with your church from the pulpit and in small groups.
  • Begin men’s and women’s groups, where individuals can find a safe place to share their struggles and be freed from pornography’s hold through transparency, accountability, biblical study, and prayer.
  • Train church, children, and youth leaders to recognize the signs of abuse and trafficking vulnerability; and seek to increase awareness how perpetrators utilize extortion and weak areas to exploit the vulnerable.
  • Utilize MinistrySafe and their five-part system that provides a framework for sexual abuse prevention in your ministry areas.
  • Be cautious in allowing new members or new attendees to your church in serving in children’s or youth ministry.
  • Conduct Child Protection training for church, youth, and children’s leaders.
  • Develop child protection policies that build in safeguards.
  • Conduct background checks on youth and children’s leaders in the church before allowing them to serve.
  • Teach Biblical sexuality in appropriate settings to youth and adults.
  • Support or volunteer with a ministry that is working to free victims from trafficking.

The church can make a difference and free those chained by exploitation and evil.

“Rescue the poor and needy; save them from the power of the wicked” (Psalm 82:4).

Unpacking Your Short-Term Mission Experience

After you’ve planned, prepared, implemented and returned from your mission trip, it’s time to unpack. Not just your suitcase, but the mission experience itself.  Follow-up is an important part of going on mission because it helps the participant to understand what they learned and how God can use it in their everyday life.   There are people needing a witness in our own neighborhood and unreached people in our local community.  Taking a mission trip to another state or even a foreign country should help us to be more comfortable sharing our faith and encourage us to be a Christian witness in our hometown. There are so many ways to impact our community and the area around our church using the same skills and resources we take overseas.  So, help your church members returning from their mission trip to unpack their experience and awaken within them the realization that the mission isn’t over.

Here are some suggestions for unpacking the mission experience that provide continued growth:     

  1. Talk about the ministry experience and ask how what they did there can be used here at home.
  2. Share journal entries, pictures and videos with the church.
  3. Have a time of testimony and “sharing” during a public worship service.
  4. Provide a safe environment for discussing what they learned about themselves (weaknesses, failures, disappointments) and what God is teaching them.
  5. Ask them what they learned about God?
  6. Share about the experience on social media with pictures and testimony of God’s activity.
  7. Challenge them to consider how the mission experience may be the beginning of a journey God has planned for them, leading to vocational ministry, missionary service, or involvement in local ministry.
  8. Help them to plan service initiatives at home that draw connections between their missions experience away and service at home.
  9. Encourage them to continue the spiritual disciplines practiced on the trip like prayer, devotions, Bible study and worship.
  10. Send letters or emails of thanks and encouragement to the host missionary. Share with them how God used the mission experience.
  11. Discuss what “next steps” they will take on their spiritual journey.
  12. Send a reminder email or letter to every participant 1 month after returning with a picture of the group on the mission trip with the words… “Don’t forget! God did great things and He isn’t finished with you.”

Unpacking the experience can be a tremendous blessing and serve as a reminder to what God did … and is still doing.