A lot of groups are headed out on short term mission experiences locally or globally this summer.When these trips are done well I believe they can be significant in moving people towards missional living. These experiences can become more than a great trip and more than a memory for both those travelling and those being visited.
One key way to help this happen is connecting short term mission experiences to the whole church family.

Here are a few ideas on how to involve the whole church when you are sending out a short term mission team:

1. Get the church praying
a. Give a prayer prompter that goes around to different groups in your church (Sunday School classes, small groups, Senior’s groups etc) to pray for the team. One year when we were sending a team to Newfoundland we found a stuffed moose and put a lanyard around his neck with the team members’ names on it. That moose made his way through every group in the church.
b. Create prayer cards, like baseball team cards, of the whole team or each individual team member with prayer requests
c. Share the team schedule with daily prayer requests
d. Commission the team, to empower and release them on your behalf as they build this partnership on this trip
e. During the trip give short prayer updates via email or social media

2. Share, share, share
a. While on the trip find ways to stay connected with your church – skype, share pictures, use social media appropriately… (NOTE – at the same time, don’t use this as an excuse to hide behind your phone. You’ve got to be fully engaged where you are! These updates could be one person’s responsibility instead of every ones responsibility.)
b. When you return make sure the team has lots of opportunities to share stories and learnings or even share a new song, skit or skill they learned.
c. When the team returns invite the team to share their learnings that could be helpful in your context to the appropriate committees or leadership teams. I remember when a group of teens came back from a trip from Toronto and had excellent learnings for our community outreach board. Value their input and learnings!

3. Involve the whole church in the preparation
a. Have the church family create devotionals or letter for the team to read each day of their trip (Tidal Impact has created devos here.)
b. Have the church give supplies and financial support to the team, make sure they understand where this support is going and the realistic difference it will make.
c. Training – invite people to help in training the team. Who from your church family could help the team learn about being a team, travelling as a learner, being a servant, experiencing other cultures, the context you’ll be walking into…

4. Mentors
a. Pair up each team member with a mentor from the church who can pray for them before they go and debrief with them when they return.
b. Pair up each team member with a child in the church. The child is invited to pray for the team member before they go and while they are away. Be sure to thank the child after!

5. Continue the partnership
a. Is there ways the visiting team and the host team can continue to learn from each other and share resources? Who from your church could be the liaison for this? Form a team that looks at continuing the partnership.

We’d be thrilled if your churches would support Tidal Impact teams in this way!
Very shortly I’ll be part of a short term mission experience called Tidal Impact, where youth groups from all over Atlantic Canada will be joining forces in Saint John and Moncton to change lives and neighbourhoods. We are at 815 participants and still growing. I’m so excited these Tidal Impact Teams will be connected to local churches as they serve. Local churches are the mission hub in neighbourhoods – dispensing hope, healing, help, and grace.

What are your ideas to involve the whole church in a short term mission experience? Please leave your ideas in the comments.

-Renée @r_embree