Short-term Mission Team Timeline

They say time is of the essence.  No time like the present, others say.  Planning your short-term mission takes preparation; it takes time.  While there may be occasions when a mission effort can be pulled together quickly, most often the preparation requires many months. No rigid timeline exists for short-term missions, but there are some general steps that allow a team to prepare well in advance in order to maximize the impact of the team with the strategy of the host missionary.  Here is a suggested timeline that can be used as a guide:

  1. 10 to 12 months prior—determine assignment
  2. 9 months prior—determine team leader(s)
  3. 9 months prior—publicize mission effort
  4. 6 to 9 months prior—recruit team/receive volunteers, deposit due
  5. 6 to 9 months prior—contact travel agent to begin searching ticket prices
  6. 6 to 9 months prior—schedule initial info meeting, collect bi-monthly or quarterly payments
  7. 6 months prior—apply for passport and check requirement for visas
  8. 6 months prior—plan team meetings and meet monthly to discuss general mission prep
  9. 3 to 4 months prior—purchase plane tickets
  10. 3 to 4 months prior—get immunizations (shots!) if necessary
  11. 3 to 4 months prior—team meetings should become more specialized according to what the team will be doing on the field
  12. 2 months prior—develop prayer team
  13. 4 weeks prior—plan commissioning service for team
  14. 1 week prior—hold commission service
  15. 1 week or month after—plan celebration time with team and/or church

Preparing well allows us to go with a plan and then once there to go with the flow.  We trust that God uses our planning, but we also go knowing that the Lord will direct our steps and guide our ways for gospel advancement.

Iconic Branding

Churches, pastors, and ministries seek to be heard in the massive expanse of one of the most competitive cultural influences in history… the influence and power of global media.  We daily compete to share the most important message of life in a culture that is bombarded with 24-hour, non-stop media clutter.

Marketers today constantly talk about the importance of branding and being relevant in the competitive arena of global media.   The fast food company McDonald’s has done this well through the years.  McDonald’s began by serving hamburgers and fries and not much else.  You can still get a hamburger at McDonald’s today, but you can also get salads, wraps, and a cappuccino.  It is a different world even for McDonald’s and they have continued to adapt their product to stay relevant and to attract customers.

As the church, we must continue to prayerfully communicate the message of Christ in a changing culture and to form mission strategies that are effective and relevant in this new day.  The Apostle Paul understood the need for cultural awareness and adaptability.  That is what he is teaching us in the 1 Corinthians 9 when he instructs us,

“I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

The Apostle Paul understood the importance of sharing the Gospel in a way that communicates clearly in a sea of competing voices and that is culturally relevant to those whom you seek to reach.  As a church, it is important to develop missional strategies that are culturally relevant and that communicate clearly.  

McDonald’s has evolved from their beginnings in 1955 and continues to be relevant in a changing culture.  As a company, they have been able to adapt and make changes that help them compete in this time of huge cultural shifts.  They have remained relevant and continue to attract customers.

And yet, one thing has not changed, McDonald’s has never changed their iconic branding of the “golden arches“.  They may have changed their menu, but the company leaders have recognized that the “golden arches” sets them apart and makes them recognizable in a flooded market of competitors.  

I would encourage you to learn a second lesson from McDonald’s and the Apostle Paul.  We must continue to adapt to stay relevant but certain iconic branding that sets us apart in a sea of clamoring competitors should remain. Though we must be willing to adapt in practice to effectively reach our world for Christ, we must hang on to that which “brands” us as the church of our Lord.  As Paul shares clearly, “But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).  This message must never change and must always remain as that which clearly communicates who we are in a sea of clamoring noise and media clutter.  Christ crucified and resurrected is our unchanging message.

It is the iconic branding that sets us apart.

 

 

Steps to Engaging Your Community with the Gospel

Ministry in and to the community is the most critically important, but often overlooked activity of the local church. The church gets busy doing the “inward focused” activities that serve and even appear to strengthen the church.  But somewhere along the way, they fail to turn outward and engage the local community by meeting it’s needs and sharing the gospel. This inward focused mentality is killing many churches.

Community

Tom Rainer in his book The Autopsy of a Deceased Church shares that one of the common denominators among dying churches is their failure to engage the community around them.  We see it in every city, both urban and rural.  What used to be a thriving and community-involved church is now stagnant, unengaged and quietly dying.

Lifeway research shares that 78% of non-church attenders believe that the local church is more concerned with organized religion than with making a difference in their own community. Perhaps that’s why non-attenders aren’t coming anymore.  They question what the church does and its significance in the life of the community.

Churches must start asking the question, “How can we effectively engage our community in such a way that we meet real needs and open doors for sharing Christ?”

Before a church dives into unchartered waters and begins ministry to the community, there are important steps to take that will ensure it is relevant, needed and well executed.  Just because “ABC” church in another town is doing a ministry well is not reason enough for your church to invest and engage in the same ministry, unless it’s needed by your community, and God is leading your church to implement it.

Here are some suggested steps for engaging your community through meaningful and relevant, gospel-centered ministry.   

  1. Pray Seeking God’s Leadership – for direction, open doors, resources, powerful witness, laborers for the harvest, and receptive hearers. Prayer teams, elderly widows/physically handicapped, prayer walking areas of need.  Total dependence on God.
  2. Share Vision and Involve Others – with church staff, lay persons, community leaders and people of influence; Through book study, sermon series, testimonies, newsletter/web page or blog.
  3. Assess Community Needs – assessments like Community Assessment Tool.
  4. Determine Giftedness and Available Resources – church resources, passion of members, spiritual gift inventories, surveys; Eph 4 – God has equipped each believer for “works of service”. There are several different church assessments available.
  5. Find your “sweet spot” by matching discovered community needs with the church’s gifting and resources to determine which ministry to engage in.
  6. Plan the Ministry –
    1. Enlist Passionate Person and Leadership Team
    2. Decide on Ministry
    3. Determine Mission Statement –
    4. Prepare Goals and Objectives –
    5. Prepare and Implement Action Plans –
    6. Gather Resources and Enlist Volunteers –
    7. Provide Ministry Training – including evangelism (testimony, tracts, scripture, CWT, Share Jesus Without Fear, FAITH, 3 Circles, Tell Your Story or Most Important Thing, etc.).
  7. Set the Ministry in Motion –
  8. Evaluation –

The possibilities for community engagement through meaningful ministry are endless and only limited by you!

Here are some Community Ministry Ideas:

  •  Parents & Married Couples – parenting courses, marriage enrichment classes, money management 
  •  Women – wives of deployed soldiers, Mothers of Preschoolers, pregnancy care, shelter for abused women/children,  prostitution/human trafficking,  mentoring mothers
  •  Men – literacy, job skill training, computer use, jail/prison, mentoring for ex-offenders, homeless shelters
  •  Students – tutoring/homework assistance, backpack ministry, latchkey kids, sports ministry, foster parenting/adoption, college/university campus
  •  Health Care – clinics, preventive health workshops/screenings, taxi service to doctors, prescription assistance, nursing homes
  • Special Ministry- developmentally disabled, physically handicapped, internationals, refugee resettlement, raceways, truck stops, resorts & campgrounds
  •  Community – food/clothing, benevolence, money management classes, cooking classes on limited budget, rehab house trailers, multi-housing, laundromat, adopt a public school, car repair for low income families
  •  Support Groups – gambling, sexual addiction, substance abuse, grief recovery, divorce

Owsley County Food Place Celebrates 20-Year Anniversary

On the beautiful Fall Friday afternoon of October 12th, the Owsley County Food Place celebrated 20 years of ministry to families in and around Booneville.  The celebration took place outside at the Owsley County Senior Citizens shelter.  There was bluegrass gospel music, Bible reading, sharing about the ministry, prayer of thanksgiving for the ministry and of course, food.  Those that attended enjoyed grilled hotdogs and the trimmings.  Jerry and Susie Lacefield, founders of the ministry, cut the cake and everyone enjoyed a time of celebration.

Jerry and Susie came to Owsley County in November 1997 when Jerry was called as Pastor of Booneville FBC.  They dedicated their lives to the people of one of the poorest counties in the nation. Along with the food ministry, they also had a clothing ministry, hosted mission teams that did home repairs, conducted backyard Bible clubs, block parties and lots of outreach events in the area.

During the celebration Jerry shared some stats from the 16 years they served at the Food Place:

  • $71,997 was donated to buy food
  • 389 tons of food were given out
  • 572 volunteer mission groups and individuals served in the ministry
  • Volunteer mission groups and individuals came from 16 states and 2 countries (Canada & Africa)
  • Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, youth groups, inmates from the local jail and other local volunteers assisted in the ministry
  • 104 Bible Schools were held at assisted living facilities, apartment complexes, the ministry center and even one an individual’s yard
  • 3,414 children were given Christmas items by Valley View Baptist Church in Louisville
  • 1,350 children were given Easter baskets by Midway Church in Kentucky
  • 11 families were helped in 2003 following a flood in Booneville
  • 2 trucks were used for 8 years, then Harden Baptist Church in Benton, KY donated a trailer for their use

Jerry recalled a time in 2006 when funds were low, and they did not know if they would be able to continue the ministry.  They prayed for God to intervene and soon after received a donation of $14,000.

In 2008 they celebrated their 10-Year Anniversary, but also saw this as the biggest giving year, when $21,000 was given to support the ministry.

The biggest statistic that Jerry shared was that 290 persons professed faith in Christ during the 16 years they served at Owsley County Food Place.

Although the Lacefields have since retired and are now living in North Carolina, they still have a special love for the people of Owsley County.  This day was a Homecoming for them and it was also evident of how much the people loved them and were so happy to see them once again.

The Owsley County Food Place ministry continues, being led by Karen Jennings and retired pastor Bill Walton.  They currently serve around 300 families a month with food, mostly received from God’s Food Pantry in Lexington.  They have 7 freezers to store frozen food and are planning to build a cooler that will hold even more frozen food.

Thank God for ministries such as the Owsley County Food Place that continue year after year, month after month, to provide not only the physical needs of the people but show and share the love of Christ.  May they continue to see people fed and souls saved as a result of their labor.

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