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.