This morning, we sent a group of eleven people to spend a week with one of our church planting missionaries in the Pinecrest Missions family. This afternoon, we will send another group of eight people to a church planter that is sent out of Pinecrest Baptist Church to spend the week with he and his family as well! As I prayed with the group this morning before they left to go to the airport, I was thinking about how misunderstood and how important a missions trip can really be.
Having served as a church planting missionary in London, England for over five years, I had some groups that were a tremendous blessing. I also had others who were a tremendous burden and left me, my family, and the ministry that the Lord gave us suffering when they left. Let me quickly say, a missions trip can be a great blessing to the church planter or it can be a great burden. Below are a few thoughts that I have about short term missions trips that will come from the perspective of a pastor and a church planter:
1. The First Goal of the trip should be to ENCOURAGE the church planter.
"We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth." - 3 John 8
Before both groups left, I met with both men who will be leading the trip and told them their goal is to be a blessing to the church planter and his family while they are there. Here are a few ideas:
*Follow the church planter's lead
*Be Flexible with the schedule
*Be willing to conform your ministry practice, standards, and philosophy to his while you are helping in ministry.
*Take a generous love offering to give to him, his family, and their ministry
*Take them to a special place for dinner while on the trip
*Find out if there is a pressing need in the ministry and communicate that need to your pastor
*Take interest in their children (Learn their names & give them a kind gift while with them)
*Take interest in the city where they minister
*Take interest in the people and ministry
*Babysit their children one night and let the church planter and his wife go to dinner (They do not get to do that often, I promise you!)
*Do not criticize them if they do things culturally different than your home church
*Do not give them a doctrinal lecture about your pet peeves in Scripture; your pastor has already checked them out long before you partnered with them.
*Do not press them for attendance numbers, growth, etc, every field is different
Every missions trip I have taken, I have told the church planter, "I am not coming to be a financial burden but a blessing, I am not coming to take but give, I am not coming to educate you but encourage you, I am yours for whatever you need me to do, say, or be for the next week!"
Basically, look for ways to be a blessing to them, do not come with a preset agenda and drive the church planter's family and ministry into the ground all in the name of missions.
2. The Second Goal of the trip is to EXPOSE people to the need for church planting.
Jeremiah stated in Lamentations 3:51 "Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city."
Our goal should be to expose people in our congregations to the needs in cities all around the world in order for their hearts to break for souls. When a missions team returns home, there should be a greater burden for souls at home and around the world because they have been exposed to places that need more churches that will get the gospel of Jesus Christ to the community. If someone returns from a missions trip with souvenirs, sunburn, spiritual dullness, and no burden for souls, the missions trip was a waste of time, money, and effort.
3. The Third Goal should be to ENLIST more members into missions and ministry.
"And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, 'Come over in Macedonia, and help us'" - Acts 16:9
While on a "missions trip" the Apostle Paul received direction from God for his next ministry endeavor to get the gospel into the Macedonian region. I have found that it can work the same way today while taking a missions trip!
Having preached in many churches and met many wonderful servants of God, I can tell you that many of them surrendered to vocational ministry while on a missions trip or while hearing the testimony of a missionary in their church. Missions trips can be a powerful way to enlist more members into ministry but it can also be a powerful way to enlist more people into giving to the missions program of the church!
4. The Final Goal should be to EXCITE the church family about the missions program.
One of the dreams God has given me as a pastor is to one day be sending more money to the mission field than what we keep at home to operate the daily administration of the church! Some call that a unrealistic dream, but let me keep dreaming! The only way that goal will be accomplished is if people are burdened and excited about the missions program of the church. One of the great ways to keep the fire burning in the hearts of the membership, is to organize opportunities for them to see what God is doing through our missions giving and missionary family!
If your goals are unclear, do not go on a short term missions trip! If you have no intention of being a blessing to your church planting missionary, do not go on a missions trip. If you have ulterior motives for going on the trip, do not go, you will hurt the gospel, people, and the church planter!
Go with a purpose and go with a philosophy and watch God do great things in your group and through your group as they minister on a short term missions trip!