Monday, June 29, 2009

Thoughts on Missions Trips, Leadership & Life-Change

1999 - SEMP Chicago/ IMPACT Peru (Lima)
2000 - SEMP Toronto/ IMPACT Honduras
2001 - SEMP Toronto/ IMPACT Peru (Huallanca & Huarles)
2002 - SEMP Toronto/ IMPACT Ecuador
2003 - NYGO/ IMPACT Peru/ IMPACT Honduras
2004 - SEMP Toronto/ IMPACT Dominican
2005 - SEMP Toronto/ IMPACT Peru (Pucallpa & Lima)
2006 - Merge Toronto/ IMPACT Dominican
2007 - NYGO / IMPACT Mexico
2008 - DCGO / IMPACT Mexico
2009 - PhillyGO/ IMPACT Dominican

Above is the list of "Missions Trip Experiences" we have done since I came on Full-time at NMC. There are two types of trips we do. (Those in Bold are the ones I've led).

GO Trips: (this includes SEMP, Merge, and those trips with "Go" in them) We consider this an "entry level" missions experience. The name has dual meaning... GO as in the key word to the Great Commission, and also an acronym for "Gospel Outreach". The trip is centered on Evangelism Training and application. It is normally run stateside (or in Canada). Experience is marked with evangelism training (Conversation style), service projects, and getting on the streets to strike up conversations with people. Students are required to attend a GO Trip before being a part of an IMPACT team.

IMPACT: Again, dual meaning. IMPACT as in what we are seeking to do in the World for the sake of Christ. Also and acronym for Individuals Making People Aware of Christ's Teaching. The trip is always to a foreign country (to this point, we've stuck to the South, but continually dream of heading East). The focus is on coming alongside local churches and ministries in order to partner in whatever way possible.

In both situations, here are the key elements we see necesarry:
  • Application Process: Students need to go through a process where they understand the commitment they are making. We do not turn down any student willing to make the commitment to a GO Trip. For IMPACT, however, students are required to go through an interview process where their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual readiness is taken into account.
  • Pre-trip training: We do not see these these as simply trips, but as opportunities for discipleship. GO trips include 3 months pre-trip training with an Overnighter, and IMPACT trips have 6 months training with a 3 day retreat. Training includes pre-trip readings, scripture memory, testimony preperation, ministry assignments, and heavy accountability.
  • Leadership: This is most often the difference between a good and great experience. The right adults need to be there. They need to be individuals with a high level of trust in the primary leader. They also need to be at a spot where they understand that they are primarily there to invest in the students, yet they must also be able to dive into the trip for their own experience and growth.
  • Debrief: I call it the there/here principle. We head "there" to serve and advance God's Kingdom, but we feel like we fail if students are not able to bring some element of "there" back "here", meaning that this experience brings a transformative element to their everyday life. Ample time is spent nightly on the trips to allow students to process through what God is doing in them and through them. At the close of the trip, we block out a length of time for students to sumarize their experience as well as walk through next steps.
  • Partnerships: Those we partner with need to be aware of what our purpose and goals are, and we theirs. If we aren't on the same page, someone is going to be disappointed. When someone is disappointed in these situations, usually both sides end up disappointed. We haven't batted a thousand on this one. God has always done great things on these trips, but poor partnerships have caused for major frustration and confusion, as well put a ceiling on the opportunity for major breakthrough and growth.
  • Support: These experiences are expensive (GO trips average $600, IMPACT $1100). These trips are incredibly intense physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As a part of the "Missions Experience", students raise financial and prayer support to make the trip happen. The financial support is an awesome faith lesson, as well as an opportunity for the ownership of the experience to be broadened.

I would say that these trips pay ENORMOUS Spiritual Dividends. Here's just a few.
  1. Discipleship: It is incredibly hard to accomplish strategic discipleship in students. This is due to finding the students who are ready and available. Many who are available aren't ready, and some who are ready have trouble being available. The commitment to go on the trip allows for accountability for students to be commited to those elements connected to the trip. There are elements in the training that may have very little to do with the upcoming trip, but much to do in the spiritual maturing of a student.
  2. Blown Up Boxes: It happens nearly every time. Our students in the cornfield are exposed to poverty, a worldview, or a move of God in a way they will not experience at home. They come to grips with how holy and huge the Almighty God we serve is.
  3. Long-term Change: As I look through th lists of those who have been on a GO trip, I'm encouraged to see where the majority of those students are at in life. As I look through the IMPACT students from years past, the amount of spiritual crash and burns are very small (I came up with just over 10 out of nearly 200). Not only that, as I look at those students who are agressively serving the Lord in both the marketplace and the church, the shining examples were on IMPACT trips.
  4. Ministry Fire: I can't tell you how many times we have seen our Ministry set ablaze over what God has done through our IMPACT and GO trips. I will often make it a point to get together with leadership from both trips in order to see what "Megathemes" are present as we head into our Summer Camp. Many of our "What If?" moments have their roots in these experiences.

No comments: