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Mission Trip Leaders: 8 ideas for engaging your leaders

One big mistake we often make as leaders is putting all the focus on our staff and forgetting that we have an army of extremely “bought in” trip leaders. Shift gears and instead, think of your leaders as more than great people who lead your trips but people who can carry your vision forward.

To participants and field partners, here are some suggestions on how to engage your trip leaders to a higher calling: 

#1 Equip them. Remember, they might be your greatest tool for mobilizing your audience to mission. Help them become better recruiters, mobilizers, and senders. 

#2 Encourage and gift books. There are so many great mission books (When Helping Hurts, The Great Omission, Shadow of the Almighty, and so on.). Consider having an annual book you purchase and send out to all of your trip leaders to continue building their own personal mission philosophy and worldview. 

#3 Appreciation meals. Host appreciation meals for your trip leaders to pour into them, keep them connected, share what’s new and upcoming, and to allow them to build a tighter community with each other. Spread these out throughout the year to avoid the “see you next summer” mindset that some trip participants and leaders may accidentally fall into. 

#4 Provide trainings. Host at least one annual trip leader training. Whether it's by video or something else, the most successful we’ve seen is for organization to have a time where you stop thinking about everything else and focus on your larger purpose for mission trips. 

#5 Brainstorm sessions. Host brainstorms sessions throughout the year (especially out of peak trip season to keep leaders engaged) and collect feedback on ways to do things better: preparation, process, communications, resources, debriefs, and more. 

#6 Give note & gifts. Sure, giving gifts for a volunteer role may not be the norm, but think creatively about this. Sending a note card and a $5 gift card to Starbucks to say thanks for all they are doing goes a long way. 

#7 Recognize the work. While trip leaders may be working with you on the direct details of a specific trip, they are often mentoring and connecting with their participants long after the trip. Be sure to recognize and thank them for continually pouring into the people. 

#8 Invite to team meetings. Invite trip leaders to key team or staff meetings when you are working through short-term logistics, strategic changes that impact them, and/or celebrating key things. 

You have a unique opportunity to equip and send so many people. We often fixate on the trip participants and forget what amazing resources we have in our trip leaders. More so, these trip leaders really can essentially be your pro bono staff members giving you an army of equipped mobilizers. 

Action: Select at least one item from above that you can implement this week. Maybe it's having a zoom call over coffee with a few team leaders and asking them what they need most to be equipped well. 

 

This is just one strategy of five (5) we have for doubling your impact. Download all five (5) strategies you can implement immediately that will double your missions impact.

 

This post is written by Will Rogers. Will is the Co-Founder and CEO of ServiceReef.


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A Personal Reflection on Gratitude

During this time of year, it is common for us to reflect on the things in our lives that provide a sense of gratitude, and that’s good for us to do so. But like the subjects of “Rest” or “Sabbath,” if we only wait until we are on vacation or a rare chance at a sabbatical to truly rest, we won’t find it refreshing. These are meant to be practices spun into and through our chaotic lives to provide an alternative to the hectic pace our culture espouses.  

With the dawn of each new year, I spend time prayerfully considering a theme that God might have for me. Sometimes this eventually comes as a phrase or a word that I spend time throughout the year focusing on and journaling about. This past January, the word I received was “grateful.” I genuinely feel that I am a positive person and pretty grateful already, so I wasn’t super excited about it, but I wrote it down and went about my year.

However, as I reflect back on these past 11 months, there are so many moments for which I am truly grateful, even though they were extremely hard at the time (and some continue to be).  There are moments of loss in this year, but gratitude in that our family could travel and be there with the loved ones prior to their passing. There are moments of extreme challenges and changes in life, but gratitude to find myself doing things I love with the people I love the most.   

As we head into the upcoming seasons, I know this is hard for many, sweet for some, and stressful for most :-)  I am blessed to have had a prompting in January that helped prepare me for my own journey this year as it has allowed me to build gratitude into my daily/weekly rhythms and allows for me to reflect during this time of year over the multitude of small events that I would have missed amidst the normal storms of life.

Allow me to share just a few practices that have helped me this year… and consider which ones (or others) you might be able to incorporate into your daily routine this coming season to help you through it 🙂

  • At dinner, have each person share something from their day that they are grateful for.
  • Take a moment during the day to pause. Set an alarm or use a tool like the One Minute Pause App to spend 1-2 minutes during your day to just breathe!
  • Practice Benevolent Detachment.
  • Journal… I know it takes time, but just a few notes allows your soul space to reflect.
  • Take one day (or one morning) a month to get away from the keyboard and get outside.
  • Don’t watch the news (or limit your intake)... We all know that news that sells is mostly bad, but it expands your worries and concerns to things you cannot control.
  • Spend time with your neighbors and those people around you… most people are pretty reasonable when you get to know them… not all, but most *grin.*
  • Read a book that challenges your assumptions around resources. (e.g. I recently read “A Beautiful Constraint” by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden… which made me grateful even for constraints within my life/business as they provide motivation for creativity and a chance to embrace an abundance mindset,)
  • [Insert your own - exercise, time outside, Yoga, meditation, listening to worship music in the morning, etc.]

My friends… may you find ways to incorporate small amounts of gratitude and rest into your rhythms. I pray blessings over each of you as we head into this special season and especially as we head into December and reflect on how the God of the universe came to join us for a time (Talk about abundance of resources/creativity at our fingertips!)  

May your journey in the next few months have moments of gratefulness and sweetness, even amidst the pain!

~Micah

 

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Western Missions: Navigating a Changing Landscape

 

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.
 

The Retreat and Reevaluation

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:

  1. Health and Safety Concerns: The Covid-19 pandemic brought with it new layers of complexity related to health and safety that have forced many organizations to reconsider where and how they operate.
  2. Political and Social Instability: In an increasingly unstable global political landscape, some countries have become less hospitable to Western missionaries.
  3. Economic Constraints: Financial struggles due to the pandemic have caused many organizations to tighten their budgets, which has a direct impact on foreign missions.

The Rise of Local Movements

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:

  1. Local Leadership: These movements are often led by individuals from within the community, who understand the culture and context deeply.
  2. Cultural Relevance: Because of its indigenous nature, locals are often more adept at communicating the gospel in ways that are culturally relevant and sensitive.
  3. Sustainability: Local movements are not dependent on foreign support and are often more sustainable in the long run.
  4. Access to Closed Countries: Local leaders often have access to regions that Western missionaries might find difficult to enter or work within due to various restrictions.

Wrestling with New Roles

As Western agencies observe this shift, they are grappling with several important questions:

  1. Partnership over Paternalism: How can Western churches and agencies move from a paternalistic model to a partnership model, coming alongside and supporting these indigenous movements rather than leading them?
  2. Resource Allocation: How can Western churches best use their resources (financial, educational, etc.) to empower and support these local movements?
  3. New Models of Engagement: What new, innovative models of engagement might be effective in this changing landscape? This might include short-term specialized teams, virtual training and discipleship, or business-as-mission strategies.

Challenges in this Shift

This change is not without its challenges for Western missions:

  1. Loss of Control: Moving to a partnership model often means relinquishing control, which can be challenging for organizations used to leading initiatives.
  2. Relearning and Unlearning: Western agencies might need to unlearn some longstanding practices and relearn how to operate within a different paradigm.
  3. Navigating Diverse Theologies and Practices: Partnering with indigenous movements might mean engaging with Christians who have different ways of understanding and practicing their faith.

Real-World Example:

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.

Concluding Thoughts

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.

 


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Recommended Tech and Tools for Ministry Teams

Recommended Tech and Tools for Ministry Teams

This is for the staff of small churches and nonprofits! 

We all know that ministries often find themselves a bit behind the tech curve. But worry not! We’ve got a list of super accessible tools that can help you streamline your work and make collaboration a breeze. These recommendations are great for most people, whether you're tech-savvy or just dipping your toes into the digital waters. Most of them have either a free version or an affordable monthly subscription. Let's dive in!

For Team Communication: Slack

Slack is a game-changer for keeping everyone in the loop. This software-as-a-service (SaaS) tool is available both as a browser version and an app, making it super accessible. With Slack, you can:

  • Organize Communication: Use channels for specific purposes or topics to keep discussions focused.

  • Direct Messaging: Quickly send private messages to team members.

  • Voice & Video Calls and Recordings: Hold meetings or check-ins live or just send updates in the form of audio or video.

  • Info Storage: New feature! Store important files and documents per channel.

  • Privacy Settings: Control who sees what.

Imagine having all your communication in one place, organized, and easy to view. It's like having a virtual office where you can drop in anytime.

For Project & Task Management: Trello

Trello is a go-to platform for project and task management. It's perfect for organizing tasks and ideas with its board, list, and card system. Here's why you'll love it:

  • High-Level Organization: Create different boards for various projects.

  • Detailed Cards: Add attachments, checklists, labels, due dates, and more.

  • Team Collaboration: Assign team members to tasks and track activity in real-time.

  • Versatility: Some of our team members even use Trello for personal tasks like managing a shopping list or budgeting with their spouse.

There are other project management tools we’ve used that are great! But Trello keeps it simple as if you were adding stick-it notes on the wall during a meeting. Trello actually does follow the kan-ban method. With this tool, you'll have a clear view of what's happening, who's doing what, and what's coming up next. It's like a robust, digital to-do list!

For Content Creation: Canva

Canva is a lifesaver for those of us who aren't graphic design pros. This tool is incredibly user-friendly and perfect for creating eye-catching visuals. Here’s what makes Canva awesome:

  • Templates Galore: Build projects from a vast library of templates so you’re not starting from scratch.

  • Easy to Use: A gentle learning curve makes it accessible for everyone.

  • Versatility: Create social media graphics, presentations, flyers, and more

  • Free and Pro Versions: Start with the free version and upgrade to a monthly subscription, if needed.

With Canva, you can whip up professional-looking designs in a matter of minutes, even if you have zero design experience.

For Marketing Content: Castmagic

Marketing your content just got easier with Castmagic. This tool is perfect for generating transcripts, timestamps, and platform-specific social and email copy from videos you create. Maybe you already record sermons or teaching sessions in your organization. Maybe your team already has regular meetings and you could capture in video aspects of your culture or thought leadership if you aren’t already. From those videos, you could product a host of omni-channel content. Benefits of Castmagic include:

  • Video Transcripts: Automatically generate transcripts for your videos.

  • Timestamps: Add timestamps for easier navigation.

  • Content Generation: Swipe social media captions and email copy that the platform pulls and refines based on your video content.

Castmagic helps you repurpose your video content efficiently, making it easier to reach your audience across different platforms.

For Website Monitoring: UptimeRobot

Keep your website up and running smoothly with UptimeRobot. We use this with our website. This tool is great for:

  • Easy Integration: Quickly set up and start monitoring your site.

  • Notifications: Receive text-based alerts if your site goes down.

  • Simple Interface: Easily add and manage multiple websites.

  • Status Pages: Track the status of several sites at once.

With UptimeRobot, you’ll be the first to know if there’s an issue with your site, ensuring minimal downtime and a better experience for your visitors.

For Journaling: Moleskine Sketchbook

Sometimes, digital just won't cut it. A good old-fashioned journal can be perfect for brainstorming, reflection, and study. We recommend the Moleskine Sketchbook:

  • Non-Lined Pages: Freedom to sketch, doodle, or write without constraints.

  • Quality Paper: Perfect for any pen or pencil.

  • Durable Cover: Keeps your ideas safe.

A sketchbook allows you to jot down thoughts, sketch ideas, and brainstorm without the limits of lined paper. It's a great tool for creative freedom.

Bonus! Our CEO's Favorite Pen: Pentel EnerGel RTX

Last but not least, every great sketchbook needs a great pen. Our CEO swears by the Pentel EnerGel RTX:

  • Smooth Writing: The 0.7 mm tip provides a perfect stroke.

  • Quick-Drying Ink: No smudges!

  • Easy to Find: Available in most stores.

This pen makes writing a pleasure, whether you're taking notes, journaling, or sketching out your next big idea.

 


There you have it! These tools are not only accessible but also incredibly effective in helping your ministry team stay organized, creative, and connected. Give them a try, and watch your productivity soar! Here’s to enjoyable, purposeful work!

 

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The Journey Continues: 4 Keys to Keeping the Flame Alive After a Mission Trip

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.


1. Rethinking the Post-Trip Engagement: A Shift in Perception

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.”

2. Setting Expectations Before the Trip: The Power of Preparation

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.

3. In-Country Debrief: Harnessing Immediate Reflections

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.

4. Using Their Experience as a Call to Action: Spreading the Missional Flame

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.
 


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