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Getting the most out of missions


March 27, 2017
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Twelve weeks is what it takes to prepare a Ten Days Mission Experience team.

In reality, this is only a fraction of the total time spent planning their trip. Sound like a lot?

What is it worth to the kingdom, the lost, the missionaries going, and the team hosting them to be well prepared? Tons!

We have seen the investment pay off in countless ways. Getting the most out of your mission trip means preparing well, processing well, and debriefing well.

Preparing Well

After being accepted for a trip, each member of the team will work closely with the Ten Days staff and the trip leader.

The trip leader is often a seasoned missionary or pastor who is no stranger to the mission field.

The Ten Days team has already planned out budgets, dates, and deadlines to keep each trip on target.

Teams then spend twelve weeks learning about the vision and purpose for short-term missions. This includes training on how to pray, how to develop a financial partnership team, how to share the gospel and their testimony, and how to serve on foreign soil as a group.

Ten Days lays a strong foundation to prepare participants for their mission, which for many will be a first time cross-cultural experience.

The training process we provide is only a fraction of what God does in the hearts of participants to prepare them for the mission field and for serving the people they will encounter on their trip.

God takes each Ten Days team member on a journey of faith that often challenges people beyond anything they have ever known in their walk with God.

Many experience personal breakthroughs in their relationships at home, work, or church even before they reach their destination.

Typical schedule for pre-field training

Week 1: Vision for Missions

Goal: Gain a passion for missions and understand why it’s important.

We cover the Biblical basis of missions, needs of the church/world, and something about the people they will be working with.

Week 2: Faith for Finances

Goal: Learn why we ask others to partner with us in missions.

God did not call His people to be independent but rather to work together in community. Share the blessing.

Week 3: Faith for Finances, part 2

Goal: Learn the practical ways to fund raise.

We cover support letters, phone calls, personal meetings, how to ask and thank, as well as how to communicate with supporters about the trip.

Week 4: Fasting and Prayer

Goal: Learn that fasting is a spiritual discipline as much as prayer is.

We will fast together as a team. This is the foundation for an upcoming fast in preparation for our trip.

Team Activity: The Three Day Fast

People are expected to fast in some way that is challenging to them. No specific kind of fast is mandated.

Together, the team prays for a financial breakthrough in their fundraising efforts and for needs specific to the receiving ministry they will be serving.

We encourage teams to break their fast together with food, prayer, testimonies, and worship.

Week 5: Evangelism, part 1

Goal: Learn the love of God, which is the foundation for why we evangelize. Learn how to use a tool like The God Test to begin conversations with strangers about the love of God.

Week 6: Evangelism, part 2

Goal: Learn the essential components of the gospel message and how to share their stories.

An example of this could be their testimony. We call it our Two Minute Miracle.

Week 7: Evangelism, part 3

Goal: Complete your understanding of the components of the gospel. Learn how to share the gospel practically using the strategy of One Verse Evangelism (developed by the Navigators).

Team Activity: The local outreach

The outreach serves a few purposes. One of which is giving the team members the opportunity to practice the evangelism techniques they’ve been learning about.

Another purpose of the outreach is to minister to people in their own community and connect them to the local church.

We want our team members to develop a heart for ministry that exists in their hometown as much as it does on foreign soil.

When possible, we seek to do this outreach to a similar people group we will be ministering to in the field. For example, if the team will travel to Honduras in June, we will do an outreach to the Hispanic community in their city on a Saturday a month prior to leaving.

Week 8: Ministry of the Holy Spirit

Goal: Learn how to share the Holy Spirit with others.

We cover gifts, walking in the Spirit, etc. Also the deadline for 100% of fundraising.

Week 9: Culture Connection

Goal: Learn how to effectively and respectfully serve in a culture that is new and foreign to you. Become aware of potential challenges and cultural biases we bring with us.

Week 10: Teamwork

Goal: Learn how you are an incredibly important part of the team.

The team has a goal to reach lost people and serve the host team, but we need every person to play a part and use his or her unique gifts to serve.

By the time our teams arrive at their ministry location they are fully prepared to engage strangers in discussion about Christ, to share the gospel, and to share their personal testimony.

We know that they will still be uncertain and have a little bit of fear and hesitance, but by planning and practicing together we give them the opportunity to prepare as much as possible for an experience that is completely new.

The Ten Days trip takes participants out of their comfort zones.

We believe that this kind of preparation creates greater opportunity for the Holy Spirit to move and to use our team members as they step out of what is normal for them.

We want each of them to engage and minister on the mission field rather than look to the team leader to be the one constantly sharing the gospel or preaching the message.

Our team leaders regularly pull the team members up to share their Two Minute Miracle in front of large groups, to pray for individuals and groups, and to share the gospel publicly.

We want them to see that evangelism is not reserved for pastors or vocational missionaries. Every Christian is called to evangelize. Each of us is capable; we just need to practice.

Process Well

We do our best to plan out our trips to maximize their impact.

Every team member is given a Field Guide manual when each arrives on the first day of the trip.

This field guide includes practical information for them in case of emergencies (local contact info, hospital and insurance info, etc.). It also includes devotions and a schedule for each day.

We do our best to plan out the days so that everyone knows what to expect, but also so that we can include time each day to meet as a team for devotions and for processing what God is doing in them and through them. Process time is such an important part of the trip.

Here are a few good questions participants might consider during the trip:

  • Where do you see injustice, poverty, or evil in the culture?
  • What is good, true, and beautiful about the place or people?
  • How could you explain the gospel in this culture that would make more sense to them?
  • What does faith in Christ look like? How does that challenge you?
  • How can you better embrace the tough aspects of the culture? What is God trying to teach you?
  • Describe something new you learned today about God and/or missions?
  • What did God enable you to do that you didn’t think was possible?
  • Could you ever see yourself here long-term? Why or why not?

We also spend lots of time praying for each other and for locals, as well as taking time to worship, share testimonies, and encourage each other (even including locals in this).

We see both individuals and the team grow in confidence and faith as the trip progresses.

It’s incredible what God does in just an hour a day together, but we have to plan for and fight for that time together to make it happen.

Without planning it, that time can easily disappear on the mission field filled with endless spiritual and physical needs and a limited amount of time.

Leave Well

Ten Days aims to serve the host team by encouraging them in tangible ways (such as favorite foods and other essentials) and by bringing quality new people who could be recruited long-term to that team.

We also want every team member to experience personal transformation by the Holy Spirit by the time his or her trip is over.

We expect that ten short days in a new location, spent in service of strangers, with Christ as their focus, will change their lives forever because the Holy Spirit had no hindrance.

That’s why we spend so much time preparing ahead of time. We are setting the stage so that He can have His way with each participant.

We are still growing in our debrief process once the team comes home, but we include one more team meeting after they get back.

At this meeting, we process more and challenge our team members to take what they have learned and put it to use in their community. We encourage them to find a way to get involved in missions and outreach back home.

We hope to provide more debriefing materials to further develop the reentry process, but in the meantime, we do our best to encourage them and help them identify their next step because this is just the beginning of their journey to “make disciples of all nations.”

Here are some more good topics to cover during a trip debrief:

  • How their relationship with God has changed as a result of their experience.
  • Continuing to process the trip through journaling and talking about their experience with others.
  • Expecting some sadness, loneliness, or frustrations when they return home after having such an intense experience.
  • How they can work to take what God has taught them and make a few practical and realistic applications to their lives.
  • Contacting their partners/supporters and reporting back what God has done in their lives and the lives of others, how the partner’s prayers affected the trip, and how they can continue to pray.

Give your students ten days in a cross-cultural mission with good preparation, processing, and debriefing and it will change lives and raise up more laborers for God’s global harvest.

Seize the opportunity we have to change lives through short-term missions.

Our goal: every person transformed. If they were not, it was not a mission trip. It was a vacation.

Reflection Questions

How have you prepped for missions in the past?

Was the trip well planned or your students well prepared to get the most out of the experience?

Based on this article what could you be doing to plan and prepare for your summer missions better?

Is there anything that this article doesn’t mention that you have found to be helpful when preparing for short-term missions? Any tools or resources that you have used that everyone should try? Share in the comments section below!