As we continue to look at the tensions and the shift we sense in the world, I wanted to dive a bit deeper into this from a Western perspective.
In the context of missions and global outreach, a noticeable transformation is underway, particularly in Western churches and mission agencies. This shift is marked by a reevaluation of traditional strategies and a responsiveness to the new ways God appears to be working around the world. Below, we delve deeper into this evolving landscape and the factors contributing to this shift.
In the post-Covid world, a significant trend has been observed: many Western agencies have pulled back from various countries, sometimes entirely. This has several contributing factors, including:
In contrast to this Western retreat, there is significant growth in local, indigenous movements, especially within countries that have traditionally been resistant or closed to Western influence. This is a change we should celebrate! These movements are characterized by:
As Western agencies observe this shift, they are grappling with several important questions:
This change is not without its challenges for Western missions:
As we challenge ourselves, consider some practices that might just be assumed within your organization. One example that I’ve heard a few times is the requirement of full-time missionaries to be an employee of a US-based organization. As Latin America and the Global South are rising in mobilization, take time to consider how you might adjust this practice in order to partner and help guide non-US based missionaries as they head into the field while wisely balancing the cost/benefit of doing so within your own organization.
The shifting landscape of Western missions is a poignant reminder that the work of God is not confined to any one culture or strategy. It seems clear that a significant part of the Western church’s role moving forward will be learning how to effectively and humbly partner with what God is already doing through local movements around the world.
In this season of change, our prayer should be for Western missions to be marked by humility, a willingness to learn, and a steadfast commitment to unity and partnership in the furtherance of the Gospel. Would you join us in this prayer?
Do you have other thoughts on this shift? We'd love to hear them in the comments.
One of my favorite quotes is “Change is the only constant in life.” (Heraclitus 535 BC)
Change is challenging, isn't it? If your instincts align with mine, you might find that you have a somewhat inherent resistance to change. Our human nature is often predisposed to avoid it and yet, change is a fundamental aspect of life. We like others to change more than ourselves, right?
However, here lies the conundrum. In recent months, as we’ve had conversations with mobilizers and agencies, a recurring theme continues to emerge, suggesting we might be amidst a significant shift in missions. Knowing my own inclination to resist change, this notion both challenges and invigorates me, particularly as I learn more about how various organizations are thoughtfully adapting.
Before we get too far, it’s worth acknowledging that numerous, insightful individuals are wrestling with this topic as well. Given the vast scope of the subject, I won't attempt to present a universal solution. Rather, I aim to highlight some of the tensions I’ve been hearing and experiencing in hope that this will invite you to engage as well—to question, reflect, and discern where God might be directing us.
I invite you to share your perspective or help draw attention to elements I may have overlooked.
Firstly, these tensions in the realm of missions indicative of the complex nature of the realities we face. These are not binary choices or “either-or” scenarios. Rather, we are called to navigate the world, holding these tensions in balance, while wrestling with where God has called us, both as individuals and as part of a larger organization or tribe.
Secondly, it is important to clarify that some of the following statements are generalized observations. They may not resonate universally across all cultures or communities. They are, however, reflective of the challenges and experiences regularly arising in our conversations, and thus, merit consideration.
So let’s explore some of these emerging tensions below.
This duality raises a compelling question: Is the locus of Christian missions shifting? And if so, how do Western organizations fit into this new paradigm?
These young hearts yearn to enact meaningful change in the world, yet there seems to be a noted lack of resiliency within this generation. The notion of ‘packing up your coffin’ and committing one’s life to a singular mission in a foreign land appears to be waning. How do we reconcile this paradox, and what new forms of engagement might emerge?
However, as we hopefully navigate towards more sustainable and meaningful impact, does this bring its own set of challenges? What are the implications of this trend, and how does it affect the way missions are designed and executed?
In sharing these tensions, this post is an invitation for all of us to grapple with the changes we perceive, to ask challenging questions, and to prayerfully seek God’s direction in this evolving landscape. After all, we are participants in God’s grand narrative, called to faithfully serve while continually adapting to the changing tides of our world.
Did we miss other tensions that you are facing? Are there other perspectives or thoughts that you would like to share? Please join our conversations at Missions Made Simple as we would love to hear your thoughts and perspectives.
And if you, by chance, have insights or have navigated these tensions successfully, please share your wisdom with us!
This is a space of exploration, and your voice matters. Let’s journey through these changes and uncertainties together, with open hearts and a steadfast faith.
We all know that the days and weeks following a trip are brimming with potential. Everyone is excited about what just happened and how they are changed by their experience. However, whenever I ask how that energy is getting captured, focused, or shared, I hear a lot of organizations and churches say things like “Yeah, we really should do this,” but if we are being honest, this is very rarely enacted or done consistently across all teams. Even within your teams, you will find that some teams or team leaders might do this well, while others completely ignore this critical step.
Why are we so inconsistent with this area if we know it’s a valuable part of the Mission Journey?
In my experience, this topic is often overshadowed by the excitement and anticipation of the mission trip itself. Unfortunately, without this key step, we miss an opportunity to cement life change and, I would argue, this results in short-circuiting the potential for discipleship and future engagement with those participants.
We believe what happens after the trip is over is just as integral to the mission journey and a golden opportunity to deepen your impact, both personally and within the community. Here are four ways to better understand our tensions in this area and create a culture within our organizations that stewards well the entire process, including the time after the trip is over.
In the wake of a mission trip, many of us heave a sigh of relief, tempted to say, "Whew… it’s over.” Unfortunately, this mindset can lead us to overlook a critical stage of the journey: post-trip engagement. It's essential to resist viewing these gatherings as simply "nice to have" or as an afterthought. Instead, we must recognize that each trip isn't a standalone event but rather a crucial milestone in a person’s broader missional journey.
By placing the trip within this larger narrative, we begin to grasp the importance of the return home and the subsequent communication about what transpired during their mission. What God has done in their lives during this time is a powerful story that needs to be shared and honored.
Once you capture this larger perspective, it impacts your communication with your team. By providing a reason why and being aware of your own mindset, you can communicate the importance more clearly and help establish the mindset that you want.
Here’s an example of how you may express this mindset via email to your participants. It might sound like this:
“Phew, you're back from your mission trip. Your suitcase may be empty, but your heart's likely full. Now, it's tempting to breathe a sigh of relief and think, ‘All done. The trip's over.’ But wait! There's one crucial part of the journey we often overlook: the post-trip get-togethers.
Let's break the mold and think of these meetings not as an ‘oh-by-the-way’ kind of thing or even just a reunion, but as a significant part of the overall mission. Why? Because a mission trip isn't a one-off. It's a stepping stone on a bigger, beautiful journey. It's a chapter in your unique story of how you're making a difference in the world… and how those moments made a difference in you that you hope to continue to cultivate.
So, don't rush to close the book on this chapter. Savor it, share it, and let's talk about what God's been up to in your life.”
The groundwork for effective post-trip engagement begins even before departure. Ensure that your team understands the expectation for participation in the form of a debrief meeting upon their return. This sets the stage for open communication and active engagement. If anyone misses this meeting, a follow-up should be arranged to communicate the importance of this step, preparing them better for future missions.
By setting these clear expectations and being proactive in your follow-through, you facilitate an environment where individuals feel more involved, heard, and integral to the mission's success. Additionally, you set yourself up for success in the following years. Think of this as a “line in the sand” moment and by establishing and enforcing expectations over the next couple of sending seasons, you will start to see incredible results.
Engaging your participants effectively in their experience of the trip shouldn’t begin once you're home. We believe it should begin while you're still in the field. Encourage your leaders to facilitate a debriefing session regularly, or at least soon before your return home. This simple yet impactful practice presses for the participation of everyone and primes the team for more in-depth conversations when they return home.
Open-ended questions such as, "What was one highlight that encapsulates our time here?" and "What personal challenge, mindset shift, or behavior change did you face during this mission?" can stimulate thoughtful responses. As you wait for your return flight, encourage participants to summarize their experiences into a two-minute account and jot it down on a notecard. On the route home, they can expand this into a detailed journal entry, documenting three key take-aways that profoundly impacted their lives, perspectives, or missional journey.
Back home, the participants' experiences can be a powerful catalyst for drawing others into their journey or alongside your organizational mission. Sharing your stories can inspire others to embark on their own journeys, and maybe even join you on your next adventure! Therefore, encourage participants to share their stories and make it easy for them to do so.
Pro Tip: Find a way to capture those stories, the lessons, and the examples of life change that occurred in your debrief. These details will touch the hearts of your donor base, encourage future participants, and help others feel the impact that was made by the team.
Make it easy for your participants to share information about your organization, field partner, or church. As a small example, as your participants have conversations, you can encourage them to connect those people with your social media. This additional engagement not only grows your potential participant pool but also allows for continual dialogue about missions, further fostering a vibrant community that is engaged, inspired, and ready for more missional opportunities.
The mission trip might be over, but its ripple effects are just starting. It’s an ongoing journey of growth, sharing, and inspiration. So let’s keep the conversation going and continue making a difference together.
What have you found effective in post-trip debriefs? How have you leveraged the stories and insights to improve in your next season?
For 14 quick tips on running a successful post-trip debrief, check out our quick guide here.
So what in the world is mission trip software?! Great question. Essentially mission trip software are tools that help you run the logistics of your short term missions trips. But all things are not created equal. It all starts with understanding your overall goals and then evaluating the tools that make the most sense for you. Let’s navigate a few key tips to set you up for success on selecting the mission trip software that’s best for you.
Everyone has a different set of goals but we believe there are a few that we all agree on and ones that we see quite often. Most everyone is looking for ways to do the following:
Reduce Stress - there are so many logistical items for managing a short term trip - the software should help relieve some of that stress.
Save Time - the average short term trip takes around 150 hours to manage - the software should greatly reduce that amount of time.
Expandabilty to Grow - the reduction in both stress and time should allow for the expansion of your missions program.
Keeping People Engaged - short term trips should always have a way to keep people engaged with your organization and in a life of missional living.
You have an idea in your head about what features matter most to you. Take a moment to write those down and talk those over with your team. And if you need some ideas for features that you should be considering, take a look at our free Guide to Choosing the Best Technology to Grow Your Missions Program. The best thing you can do is map out your desired features and then start evaluating which tool works best for you.
There may be a ton of questions you want to ask about any technology, as you should. Many of these questions you can answer on your own as you look through their sales site and explore features. But there are other questions you’ll have that might be specific to your needs or processes. Be sure to contact the tools you’re exploring to help answer those questions. Here are a few questions we recommend considering when looking at any new software:
Does it manage online fundraising?
Is it simple for our staff to use?
Is it simple for our participants to use?
Can it scale to our ultimate vision in missions engagement?
Does it help mature our participants toward greater life engagement?
Do applicants need to fill out application data from scratch each time?
Can you control what each trip admin can and cannot do?
Do trip members have dedicated fundraising pages?
Are your trip participants notified of financial progress?
Does it help you tell your organization’s missional story?
Don’t make this decision on your own… certainly don’t feel the weight of the decision needs to be completely on your shoulders. Consider engaging your boss, your finance department, your IT department, your communications department, your team leaders, and whoever else helps make the whole world of short term missions a reality at your organization. You will be thankful for their wisdom and insights.
You know what you’re looking for in a mission trip software solution. As you look through various options and solutions, create a simple comparison chart of your own that helps you see things side by side. You know what’s important to you so, in some ways, you’re the only one who can build that chart. Feel free to take a look at our comparison page to get an idea of how to start building your comparison chart.
Most of all… have fun! I know, how is selecting a technology fun? But it can be… this season of exploring is short-lived and it really is one that can help you dream of what you could be doing. Enjoy this exploration as you investigate all the possibilities and narrow in your selection.
We invite you to learn more about how Missions Made Simple —the digital course in missions—can help you achieve greater engagement with your program
Louisville, KY-- Mobilizing people to short and long term missions can be cumbersome and confusing. Thousands of missions programs and missions leaders across the globe need more training to equip and engage their teams for short-term and long-term missions trips. We have the tools you need to overcome these challenges and see exponential growth.
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Many ways. Here are three major ways we can help you:
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Level-Up Your Short Term Trip Program will be a game-changer for your missions program. Here you will talk through 10 strategic categories critical to your enhancing your short term trip program.
We're certain these sessions will help you and your team achieve greater engagement and program success.
Here's what you will get from this course:
Sign up today... we're certain this will help you better your short-term missions program in no time!
“This course isn't just for ServiceReef members. This is for all missions leaders to watch and learn—so you're equipped with the tools you need in your missions toolkit." said Will Rogers, Co-Founder of ServiceReef.
The course aims to encourage and equip every missions leader and your team to achieve greater engagement and program success.
ServiceReef has set up a special page for missions leaders to be encouraged and equipped with resources to help you grow, connect with others, and give you the confidence you need to lead well.
Find out more details and learn about creating a free account today right here.
ServiceReef knows managing mission trips can be time-consuming and stressful. ServiceReef brings all the pieces of missions - participants, forms, team leaders, fundraising, donors, meetings, & more - into a single platform so you can reduce stress and focus on leading your teams. ServiceReef is everything you need for missions Learn more at https://servicereef.com/.