Imagine that a farmer planted a crop, but did not cultivate it. Would we be surprised if he lost the crop? Planting the seed is just the first step of a process.
Sadly, we sometimes fail to apply that principle to ministry. It is wonderful to hear testimonies of spiritual growth from short term missions. However, without follow-up, the fruit may be lost.
Here are a few suggestions from experienced STM leaders:
- Provide students with continuing opportunities for Christian service. Young people who worked with a VBS overseas can lead a VBS at home. Bus routes, prayer stations, and nursing homes are a few ways in which STM experiences can be used at home.
- Give young people a platform for testifying and ministering in their home church.
- A pastor can maintain spiritual accountability after the STM. Simple questions such as "What is God teaching you in daily devotions?" or "What are some concerns I can help you pray for?" provide continuing support for young Christians.
- Keep missions central in your local church. Great missionary biographies can fan the spark that was ignited by a STM. Make current missionary literature available. Host guest missionaries. Let your young people see their missionaries as true heroes.
Without follow-up, much of the benefit of a STM can be lost. Let's not waste precious spiritual fruit!
1. Debrief: Roger Peterson (Maximum Impact Short-Term Mission) writes, “the debriefing process, a time of reflection after your short-term mission, is more important than the actual mission.”
Dave Miller, executive director of Adventures in Life Ministry (mission trips in Mexico) says, “the most effective people in God’s kingdom are the ones who take seriously the need to stop, reflect, and consider what God is saying to them through their mission.”
Sample debriefing questions: http://www.thebanner.org/departments/2012/07/ten-questions-for-debriefing-after-a-mission-trip
2. Direct them to connect practically and personally with missionaries.
Here are ways they could connect: “Email or call missionaries periodically. Drop them a quick note letting them know your church prayed for them today. Remember their anniversaries and kids’ birthdays. Send them e-books or electronic gift cards from Amazon or iTunes. Ask them how you can serve and care for their personal needs” (Mike Pettengill, missionary, Equatorial Guinea).
3. Dream with them
Instead of seeing the STM as the end of a dream, consider it the beginning of an exciting vision for their lives and look together for new ways for them to stay connected to their “missionary motivation.”
When your STM people return home, encourage them to dream of how God can begin using them in a greater measure here at home for the cause of missions.
Serving with Eyes Wide Open; Tim Dearborn and Dr. David Livermore