The Great Commission is clear; we must go to the world. Every day we walk outside our home we are going, but we also must go outside our normal patterns, our normal life path. When we get beyond our day to day life we are given the opportunity to grow, to be challenged, to learn new things, to explore new paths and perhaps to hear something fresh from the Lord. This is one of the best things about going on mission trips and one of the reasons church leaders want to see their members on mission trips both near and far.
But where will you go? How will you decide where to go? I can’t say I know where you should go, though I’d love to make a few suggestions J. I can say I have a learned a little over the years about how to find the place that fits your church, your goals and your ministry.
- Always begin with PRAYER. The number one goal is to find the place where God wants you to go. If we can agree that the Lord has called us all to go, then the only question is to discern His leadership as to the place. Don’t get so spiritual here that you are looking for God to form the clouds in the shape of the country, but do begin by seeking His guidance and asking Him to guide you as you seek His direction.
There are some practical things you can do that I believe God uses to help us understand what He wants. Don’t throw darts at the map, prayerfully seek Him as you work towards His guidance.
- What is your budget and how much will you ask people to spend on a trip? It is not unspiritual to ask this question. Funds are a limiter for most people and groups. Obviously the more you have available the farther you can go, but that doesn’t mean you should go as far as your money will take you. It can mean that you understand the limits you have on where you will look.
Of course, the Lord can burden your heart and provide the funds to go beyond your perceived ability, but don’t take that step before the Lord has led you to do so.
- What kind of group do you want to take? Think of this in two ways, size and age. Are you taking youth, families, senior adults, median adults? Different ages can go different places to do different things.
Are you planning to take 150, 50, 25, or 5? Again, the size of your group directly affects the places you can go and be helpful. A large group may overwhelm a small church and leave large numbers of your group with nothing to do. A small group may not be able to accomplish the task, meet the need at one location but would fit perfectly at another.
- When are you planning to go? How long will you be gone? Will this be a summer trip? Spring break? Fall? Of course, this affects who will go but it also impacts how far you can go, how long you can stay. Don’t plan a week-long trip where you will spend 2 days driving up and 2 driving back, leaving only 3 days for ministry. At the same time, it’s difficult to recruit people to spend $3000 to go overseas if they only get to spend a few days in the country. Not many people will give up their entire spring break for a mission trip either. Plan accordingly.
- What skills do your church members, potential mission team members, have? What have you done in the past? Consider not only what you have done on mission trips but also at your own church, in your own ministry field. Do you have people who will go who are good at construction or experience working with children or teens? The answers to these questions may help guide you as you explore opportunities to serve, but don’t limit yourself to past experiences.
- Are there some things you haven’t done but would like to do? The mission trip can be an opportunity to train your team in new skills that will be useful on the trip and also when they return. Jump start evangelism training by taking your team on a trip where part of the task is street evangelism. By training to do something on a mission trip they will learn skills to use at home and gain confidence to share their faith at work or school. I learned to share my faith while I was in high school, preparing for a mission trip to Pittsburgh.
- God often uses past relationships or passing acquaintances to open doors for you. Who do you know already who is in a place that could use your group? Who have you met recently that might be able to open a door for ministry? Call them or send a quick email. They may not need a team but they might know someone who does.
Ask your friends in the ministry where they have been. Talk to other pastors, denominational leaders or mission leaders to discover good opportunities.
- Finally, consider what kind of strategy you want to have as a church as you approach the world of mission opportunities before you. I’ll talk more about this in a later post, but you should begin to ask questions like: How do we want to impact the kingdom? Where in the world is the heart of our church? Do we want a long-term relationship?
Pray, Pray, Pray. The Lord will lead you and your church to the opportunities He has for you.