Last Sunday my town was hit by an ice storm. The weather forecast had called for some snow, but all we got was rain, sleet and freezing temps. That added up to a layer of ice on trees, power lines and roadways. Many area churches canceled their regular services or moved them to a later time. For large churches, a notice on the local TV station got the word out. Others used Facebook. My congregation includes many folks who don’t have computers or smart phones, so we relied on our landline phone list and prayer chain.
Sometimes things are as simple as A plus B plus C equals success. Other times things are R plus S plus F equals Sunday morning scrambling around coming up with alternative plans.
A friend of mine asked last week if I had any information for his new leadership position at his church. I found an old copy of a booklet from the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship that had information for his job in his church. While I was looking, I remembered that January is a time when many United Methodist districts will offer leadership training. Last week I saw that there was a training session happening in my annual conference for mission volunteers. It seems that January is “training season” for volunteers of many kinds in the church.
My friend had a look at the information booklet and said “there’s a lot there”. It can be overwhelming when you’re suddenly in charge, and you know that the church is important to people so you want to get it right. In fact, the information booklet for leaders in charge of mission at their church has this interesting quote: “There is no magic formula for a perfect mission program. Don’t think that 2 mission trips + 50 UMCOR Health Kits + 1 mission study = success!”
That is SO right. There is no formula for a perfect mission program or a perfect mission trip. I’ve been on mission teams that used the pre-trip team meetings to decide the schedule, the vacation activities, and who would bring the Vacation Bible School project supplies in their second suitcases. However, those meetings didn’t spend any time on learning the language our hosts would speak, learning about our destination’s history and current context, or considering what problems we might encounter on our trip. There are always problems to encounter on a mission trip. The group might have had a better experience if we’d been a little prepared for difficulties – or at least hadn’t expected perfection.
My work as a mission consultant would be a snap if I could advertise it as “Four Easy Steps To The Perfect Mission Trip!” or “Three Easy Steps To Revitalizing Your Mission Outreach!”. Truth is, there is no magic formula. But there is joy in the journey. Each mission team or outreach committee is made up of dedicated people who are ready to put their hands and hearts to work, to be involved in disciple-making for the transformation of the world. When they feel a bit overwhelmed like my friend, then I’m ready to come alongside and guide the mission team or outreach committee through the work of discerning their particular goals, to help them prepare for their trip, or to have a post-trip retreat to unpack all their feelings and questions about their experience. It really helps to have someone walk with you through your work in local church missions, beyond a booklet or an hour-long workshop at the district training session.
If you are new to mission team preparation or you’ve just accepted a role on your church’s outreach team and you’re not sure what to do, contact me for a phone consultation or a video consultation. We can create a plan to help your team be ready for missions and avoid the last-minute scramble.