January 20, 2014

Honest Questions Churches Should Ask Prospective Short-Term Missionary Teams

Here in Niddrie, we have found the following questions to be very helpful (from a local church perspective) when considering if and when we should receive outside ‘teams’ of young people who come to Niddrie Community Church for a 2 week ‘mission trip’. Obviously, they need to be contextualised to every situation, but they are more than relevant nonetheless.

1. How much time will you consume from me and my staff? How much of our time will be taken from our work in order to house, feed, and occupy you during your time with us? Is this a good trade-off for us?

2. Will your volunteering cost us more than it is ultimately worth? Is the effort of training, equipping, and teaching you far better focused on our own mission and teaching our own people? We have had many experiences when one or more of the people coming from a church/organisation have been a pastoral drag. They have brought pre-existing issues with them and have changed the whole dynamic of the trip(s).

3. Will we get any money from you? In addition to expenses, will we get money for use of facilities and for the time of our staff required to look after you? Again, very often we end up seriously out of pocket when it comes to hosting trips from overseas. We are not looking to make money, but we shouldn’t be losing it either.

4. How much time will hosting you pull us away from our own mission? Will you counsel, train, and support your own groups as you come, or are we required to do that too? Our main focus is the community, not the strengthening of outside local church groups.

5. Is this about serving the poor or giving a meaningful experience to your group? Will you help us support the vision when you have gone, or we will be forgotten about within six months? It doesn’t have to be either or but, again, very often there is the promise of ongoing support, but we hear back very little afterwards.

6. Will you share your contacts/networks with us? Will you introduce us to other friends who can help the vision too? Or will you go home, tell a few stories, and forget about our needs?

7. Are you more concerned with measurable results rather than faithfulness? Can you live with seeing no immediate changes and/or fruit as you work in a long-term context in partnership with us?

8. What is your true agenda? Is this about you getting some ‘mission experience(s)’? Have you always wanted to travel to another country? Do you feel sorry for the poor? What are your motives behind your trip?

9. Can you serve without feeling the need to take over? Can you hold back even if you see an indigenous leadership doing it ‘wrong’or who appear less proficient than you? Sadly, I have been in more than one feedback session when visitors have announced the cure to all our ills, pointed out our deficiencies (as they see them), and suggested the best way forward to improve our situation (in their eyes). All within a 10–14-day period. We are open to learning, but are you open to shutting up and listening?

10. Will you attempt to control us (overtly or otherwise) with money? Do your gifts have strings? If so, what are they? Let’s be upfront about the true nature of our relationship from the off.

Niddrie has a great relationship with partners from the UK (UCCF) and various churches in the U.S.A. who are particularly respectful of the church and what we are seeking to do here in our community. They offer wonderful support, and come with a truly servant hearted-attitude. My own conviction is to work with two or three groups exclusively, rather than a whole host of teams in order to establish and deepen true relationships and much closer ministry ties. These are important issues to for 20schemes as we raise funds and partners throughout the world for the ministry we are seeking to do here.

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