Helping Missionaries Rather Than Hurting Them

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While on the mission field, one of my many jobs was handling all of the logistics for our visiting short-term mission teams. Many overseas workers use and rely on partners back home – churches, family, friends – who go on short-term trips to help them in ministry. Missionaries spend a great amount of time preparing for these visiting teams, whether it’s creating a schedule, planning and preparing for meals, completing building repairs, or organizing work projects and trainings.

“Work with and for those on the mission field, rather than for yourself or for what you can accomplish and get out of the trip.”

I personally spent countless hours tediously preparing for short-term teams, and I saw the long-term benefits for missionaries and their ministries. On the other hand, I also witnessed the ways in which trip members can hurt the ministry of the missionary. Just as missionaries accept short-term groups and work diligently to prepare for them, short-term workers should hear and heed the needs of the missionaries they desire to serve alongside and diligently prepare to assist them in their work.

Here are 8 ways short-term mission teams can prepare to help, rather than hurt, missionaries and their ministries:

  1. Understand the ministry – This sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes it isn’t. Know what kind of work the missionaries are doing. Don’t join them with expectations to do something in particular when their ministry is something entirely different.

  2. Know their needs – Prepare ahead of time to best know the needs of the ministry, of the missionary, and of the work that is being accomplished daily on the field.

  3. Be a partner – Truly come alongside the missionary to help them. Partner with them as a learner, not as a boss or someone who has all the right answers.

  4. Leave behind agendas – The missionary on the field has done a lot of work to build relationships and to develop a strategic ministry plan. Don’t join them on the field with your own cultural preconceptions. Don’t join in their work as if you are the great hope coming in to get the job done. What you think needs to be done may not be the most necessary task or even the best way to accomplish such a task.

  5. Respect their decisions – Missionaries are the ones in the daily grind of the culture and ministry.  They have learned from their time on the field and have often learned the hard way already. They aren’t doing their work arbitrarily, and they know best what they and their ministry need. Respect what they say and don’t have a critical heart that constantly questions them.

  6. Encourage, don’t burden – Be an encouragement to them. Pray for them and seek to know how you can best serve them. Don’t give them more work than what’s necessary.  If there are parts of the planning and preparation that you can take on, remove that burden from them and take it on yourself.

  7. Do your research – Research the country, area, and culture where you will be going. Try to understand some of the cultural differences. Read a book about short-term missions. Prepare well.

  8. Pray – Pray for your group.  Pray before, during, and after your trip. Pray for the people with whom you will have contact. Pray for the ministry you are partnering with. Pray for the missionaries you will be serving.

How can you best work for the glory of God on a short-term mission trip? Work with and for those on the mission field, rather than for yourself or for what you can accomplish and get out of the trip.

Kevin S. Hall is a graduate of Cedarville University (B.A.) and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Adv. MDiv). He is currently pursuing a PhD at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Kevin is a former police officer and has served in Mexico as a missionary. He is married to Bethany, and they have three children.

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Kevin Hall

Kevin S. Hall is an Associate Vice President at Cornerstone University providing leadership of student development. He earned his PhD from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, an Advanced MDiv from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a B.A from Cedarville University. His research interests include cross-cultural org. behavior and team dynamics. He lives in Grand Rapids, MI with his wife and three kids. He enjoys running, camping, and being outdoors with his family.

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