Church Plants and Volunteer Mission Teams, Part 2
Mission Trips can be powerful tools for growth of individuals & churches. As a church planter I consider every mission team as a force multiplier, multiplying the impact of our churches outreach in the community. Yesterday I wrote about five rules of thumb for church planters. Today, we turn to the sending church. Here are seven key things to know if your church is taking a trip to help a church plant:
1. It’s not about you.
Every Mission Trip should be about the people that will be served by your church. But sometimes when our expectations are not met or we see things or are asked to do things out of our comfort zone, things turn inward. Train your team to expect to be uncomfortable & no matter what happens make the trip about the community, church, & people you’re serving. Love the Navy Seal axiom that applies well to Mission Trip Preparation: “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
2. The Planter is caring for you PLUS trying to pastor a church.
The church planter is concerned about you, but he also has a job or two. He may need to make hospital visits, prepare for Sunday’s sermon, lead a small group Bible Study, etc. As much as he may want it to be, his full-time job will not be to be at your beck and call. If you need that, explain that ahead of time so arrangements can be made.
3. The people at their church are probably new to this.
One of the most frequently asked questions from mission teams is “Where are the people from your church? Why aren’t they helping?” Well, most likely if it’s during the week, they’re at work. Just like you do not hang out at the church & help the pastor most of the time when you’re at home. Also, in most church plants, the people are new to faith, new to mission. The planter as disciple maker is moving them on a path toward engagement with faith & servant hood. Your presence will help as they see you taking a week or weekend to give of yourself. But don’t have unrealistic expectations & don’t be too critical if some of the people from the mission church seem immature in the faith. They probably are.
4. They love their community. Don’t trash it.
When you go on a mission trip, the community will be different from yours. There may be some things that seem strange to you. There may be some things that seem wrong to you. Hopefully, that’s why you’re there, to improve the community through the gospel & with your unselfish presence. Talking bad about what you see may put the planter on defensive or hurt those your serving in the community. Train your team to leave the community better than when you arrived through encouragement & servant hood.
5. Money is very tight. Bring some.
If you’re taking on projects that you know will cost a lot of money, consider footing the bill. Money is always tight for the church planter family & the new church. Ask them what they can afford to cover during the week ahead of time. Also, consider a love offering if they’ve provided housing for your team. Ask them if they took a day off work to help you around the community & consider covering that cost to them. And one of the best things your group could do for a lot of church plants is give the planter a date night with his wife.
6. Try to blend in.
If you made T-shirts for your team, wear them on your day off in the community or on the way home. Remember, it’s not about you. You are serving as an extension of the church plant. The church plant will be better off if after your mission trip the community is saying, “That new church in the community served us” rather than “a big church from ____ came here & volunteered in our community.”
7. Commit 3-5 years.
The mission teams who have had the greatest impact on our community, new church, & family are those who make return trips. Return trips will allow your church to see annual progress of the new church as they return each year. Anticipation will build naturally for each trip. A visit from the church planter to speak at your church could create a powerful relationship. You could even work it out with a church planter to help them develop one particular area of church life that your church is very strong in – VBS, Kids Minsitry, Evangelism, etc. In that way, you’re reproducing yourself in another community with each trip.
I’m excited to see the huge swell of support for church plants & more churches taking in country trips to help new churches. Use these 7 need to know things to train your team for maximum impact.
If you are a church planter or a church that has taken a trip, what else would you add to this list?
Mission Trips can be powerful tools for growth of individuals & churches. As a church planter I have considered every mission team as a force multiplier, multiplying the impact of our churches outreach in the community. However, they can also be a drain on a church plant &/or planter if proper planning, communication, & strategy development haven’t gone into the trip.
In the next two post I want to talk about some tips for producing win-wins out of Mission Trips to help local church plants. Today, rules of thumbs for Church Planters. Tomorrow, rules of thumb for churches going on a trip to help a church plant.
Five Rules of Thumb for Church Planters working with Volunteer Mission Teams:
1. Invite Others to join you on your mission to reach that community.
If God has called you to do something like plant a church, He’s most likely called others as well. He wants to call people from outside your context to be a part of your mission to reach your community. Start with churches that you have relationships with & invite them to consider supporting you through prayer, financially, OR by taking a mission trip to help you with outreach. There may be times when you help them, more than they help you. That’s part of having a kingdom view of your church plants place in history.
2. Ask for a Pre-Visit from a leader.
By far, the most productive mission teams always send an advance team to plan & prepare. That may look like a 1-2 person team several months before or a small team several days before the rest. As you’re planning for outside mission teams, always ask for a advance team of some kind to prepare the way. And the larger the group, the more necessary this will be.
3. Stay away from back to back groups. Unless you have a F-T Staff.
As a church planter, time for the important work of rest & follow up is always squeezed. You’ll need a week to recover & follow-up properly between teams. Unless you have a full-time staff taking care of details, then plan for at least 3-5 days between teams.
4. Set your calendar & strategy early.
Set your calendar early, so that when mission groups call, you know what times you have available & can receive teams & you know what you need done to grow your church at this stage in history. This will save you from an exhausting spring or summer that leaves you feeling that you didn’t accomplish anything toward the planting of your church.
5. Plan for follow-up.
Part of a great mission trip experience for a church is seeing the impact they had on you & your mission. Send thank you notes, send pics of the trip or the results, if they’ve promoted an event for you that they didn’t get to stay in town for. Send videos as you grow, so that they can feel like they’re a continued part. And invite them back.
Some of our best friends & partners in ministry are people that came on a mission trip to help our church plant. Some of them are now planting churches themselves. The investment in each other & relationship built between planter, plant, & church during mission trips is unique. Follow these rules of thumb for a great experience.
Tomorrow we’ll turn to some things churches taking a trip to help a church plant will need to remember to have the greatest impact.