Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Getting Started With Mission Team Preps

I've had a few people ask me lately about how to get started preparing a mission team. Here are some of my thoughts and some tools that I have used a few times that seem to work well. The two primary aspects of team preparation should center around team unity and expectations.

First - team unity. Your team should get to know each other. They should begin to interact. They should get to know you and the other leaders. The members of the team will soon need to act as one versus acting as individuals.
"For the Christian, there are strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, 'You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,' can truly say to every group of Christian friends, 'You have not chosen one another, but I have chosen you for one another.' The friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument which God reveals to us to each the beauties of all the others." - CS Lewis
I know I've quoted that before here on the blog but its worth quoting again. Essentially, you are trying to build a sense of community - but not community for the sake of community. The community is because of team's role and mission to the world. If not for the mission experience at hand, the team would not exist. Like they said at Origins - "fellowship is what you do while you change the world." And like the quote, someone else has been putting together your team, perfectly.

Building this aspect of the team can be intangible - it happens as you spend time together. Sure, some of your activities will center around activities designed to get to know one another, but most of it is going to be shared time and experiences. Your leader team will be a model for the team at large. A leader team that is tight, welcoming and warm will create an environment that will grow a team that is unified, empathetic and humble. And no surprise, your example matters the most.

Second - expectations. This is the more meaty part of your team preps - actual discussion and activities to prepare you for the actual experience - ministry activities and training, discussions and roleplays about culture, language training and that kind of stuff. You want to prepare your team as much as you can for what you know about. You also must prepare them to be flexible, to be innovative and creative, to be as improvisational as they can - because without a doubt, the plans you know of now are going to change.

On a broader scale, there are some expectations that you have of the team that will not be relegated by logistics or plans. Attitude, how they spend their time while on the field, and constant goals about witness and behavior are some good examples. For instance, no matter how our plans will change in Cameroon, one team expectation is that we are there to bless our missionary family. The expectation does not change even when plans do. If the plans for the camp fall through, the team knows the expectation is still to serve and bless these families, whether that is doing the dishes, taking their kids out for some fun, or organizing a pick up game of football with students.

Some tools that I have used in the past with good success:
- The Hardy Personality
- The Short Term Missions Workbook [I know, I know, you've heard about this a million times by now]
- Myers Briggs Personality Temperament
- The 5 Love Languages Tester
- StrengthsFinder - which I just gave out to leaders this summer for the first time

Here is a rough idea of what is left for my Cameroon team and their preparation:
- Shots and collecting all the rest of the visa paperwork
[Related to the visa paperwork, we get a notarized parental release form from all the parents for everyone under 18, and that gets submitted with the visa packages and we as leaders carry them everywhere we go. Also related, we carry scanned images of passports and those images are also uploaded to an email account just in case we need to get to them.]
- We will be talking about how to lead a Bible study, especially how to lead a Bible study for high schoolers - high schoolers leading a study for their peers.
- Breakout of team packing list which will include Bible camp supplies as well as special treats for our host families and stuff from the US for our GCC family
- A final packing party
- More discussion about the team as a body
- More discussion about a lifestyle of risk

The more I look at this list, the more sense Seth Barnes has about splitting between spiritual director and logistics - see previous post.

Photo: The first mission team I ever led, the summer of 1992. I'm the one with the really cool hat on.

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