To me this was a big shift for me regarding the use of time with short term workers or volunteers. Often churches (myself included) want to send groups over to "do" something. It needs to be tangible is something we often hear.
- We need to put on a program
- Hold a concert
- Hand out bibles or Jesus films
- Pass out water bottles
We need to fill the time with activities that are tangible.
But what about the intangible things that are "done" on a mission trip? Are they significant? Can they make a difference? YES!!!!
My friend Spencer in Birmingham told me that we need to talk about "The intangible mission trip". I like that idea.
How does a church prepare for that? ( I would love to hear your thoughts on this)
How does the church feel "fulfilled" by going on such a trip? Often the questions that people want to hear when they return are:
- how many people came to the event?
- how many times did you share your faith?
- how many bibles did you hand out?
- how many churches did you start?
enter The Intangible Mission Trip -
I think this is a title of a new book in the making. Or should be.
The longer I am on the mission field in Europe the more I see that "the intangible mission trip" is of great value. We often see less and less interest in people coming to our programs. There are some good examples of exceptions. I will write about that later. It also has to do with relationship and credibility that you have in the community.
So since my conversation with Spencer I have been thinking. What does one "do" on a mission trip when all you are suppose to "do" is to "be"?
How do you prepare to go on such a trip?
What does your church call "success" on a mission trip?
I think it has something to do with the way a church is hardwired.
I believe some churches are "program driven" and feel most comfortable "doing stuff".
About 7 years ago I remember hosting a group of "doers" one time on a vision trip. The goal of that trip was for this group of leaders from the church to come and pray and get a glimpse of what God wanted of that church. Then they would return to their church and seek the Lord's direction in that partnership. By the second hour of their week they were so preoccupied with what they could do. They wanted something to hand something out or to do or to start some program in the city. I finally had to tie their hands together (just kidding) It was a daunting task to simply have a "vision" trip for this group. They were "doers".
I had another group that came to our city some time later that was from a church that was highly relational in their approach to evangelism. As they did the prayer walking and vision thing I was expecting to hear about all of the programs and stuff they wanted to do but their response was different. However they told me that they felt that they could best two things.
1. Help my family connect in the community in a natural way with activities that are already taking place there: tennis team, golf, fitness club, etc...
2. They felt as a church when they came over to help that they would bring small groups where they could connect as naturally as possible in that culture. They would go find a group of guys playing basketball or soccer in the city and simply play and hang out with them and then afterwards go for drinks (coffee of course) and hopefully get to know them. They were completely dependent on the Holy Spirit to guide them and put them into conversations. At the end of their week they were not concerned about the numbers to report but they were able to meet some people, have some spiritual conversations, pray for people. From what they told me they felt "fulfilled".
I am a "doer" by nature. I want to see results and "do" stuff.
I sometimes confuse "busyness" with "success". It may explain why I write out tasks after I complete them on my "to do" list just so I can feel accomplished. grin.
I have had to re-program myself in some major ways in order for me to have a sense of fulfillment in this type of mission trip. I am still learning. It is still much easier to do something but part of my journey is learning it is not always about me.