Short Term Mission Success… From Guest Writer Shane Thacker7
Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”
– Rev. 19:7-9 (NIV)
You’ve probably heard often that short-term missions do more damage than good. The most common reasons (at least I’ve heard) are relationally centered. You’ll struggle to lead people to Jesus if you haven’t developed a relationship with those you serve. You’ll struggle to know people’s needs, including the missionaries that have been there long-term. You’ll struggle to spiritually lead someone if you’re only there a week or two. You’ll struggle to make it less about the people and more about the project.
Full disclosure: If you’ve read my book, The Total Ministry Makeover, or listened to the podcast, you know how much I emphasize the importance of our relationship with the Lord and His Church. It’s no different with our missionaries and the missions we serve. They’re part of what makes up the Bride of Christ. From the verse at the beginning, how can we clothe the Bride with the ‘righteous acts of the saints when it comes to the missions our churches support?
We just got back from one of those short-term missions for our church. There are many ways you can do short-term missions wrong, doing more damage than good. So here’s the question:
How can local churches serve their missions in the best way possible?
Here are three major steps to curb the issues that generally come with short-term missions.
Develop a healthy relationship with those leading the mission.
The ‘Stepping Stones’ of The Total Ministry Makeover apply in any and every situation concerning ministry. Following these steps will dynamically change how you lead in your church, your missions, and your community. The first 2 Stepping Stones are as follows: 1) “Fall in Love With the Lord,” and 2) “Fall in Love With the Church.” In this case, I would alter step 2 to say “Fall in Love With the Mission.”
As you develop this healthy and holy relationship with the leaders of the mission, their passions will be shared, their needs will be voiced, and their hearts will be encouraged. This will naturally lead you to the next step:
Ask them what they need the most from you.
After all, they are there 24/7/365, and you’re not. How could we possibly know what is best for the mission without asking? If we’re not careful, we’ll tend to jump in pretending we’re the expert, which, again… will do more damage than good. Ideally, these leaders have aligned themselves with God’s will for them on the mission. What are their greatest needs, and how can you as a church body meet some (or all of) those needs for them?
If you take on the heart of a servant as Jesus calls us to have, you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll be received from the leaders of the mission and by those that the mission is serving.
The support for the mission should NEVER end after you leave.
Technology has drastically changed how we connect every day in ministry. We can easily speak to people all around the world. I messaged the leaders of one of the missions we support (AICM) from a thousand miles away, a ministry friend in Uganda. Information is so quickly at our disposal; it’s mind-blowing. If we’re really going to support a mission as churches, we need to be willing to lend them our ears, our time, and our resources. They’ve made no small commitment to being there; neither should we in our support!
So pray for them, check up on them, and encourage others to support them in any way possible. They’re constantly being spiritually ‘poured out’ and need to be ‘filled up’ to keep going. Pray for their relationship with the Lord to continually strengthen and show them how much you care, not just with words but also with actions. If you can support the missions in this way, it will dynamically change how you connect with them year-round and the level of impact that you as a church can make.
Go ‘all in’!
Whatever mission you’re serving, serve them with your first fruits; because far too often, they get the ‘leftovers.’ As you continue to develop this relationship with the missions you serve, my prayer is that your local church will clothe the mission with righteous acts in the best way possible. If your church is looking for a mission to serve, I strongly encourage you to check out https://www.AICM.org!
1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
– 2nd Tim 4:1-2 (NIV)
Shane Thacker has been on staff at Inola Christian Church since 2016 and has been in ministry for over ten years. His mission is to develop content that leads people to Jesus. He’s the author of the book, The Total Ministry Makeover, a program he designed to help church leaders everywhere on the right foundation for life in the ministry. You can find his podcast based on the book here.
You can find more info at www.shanethacker.org.