8 Ways to Lead an Ineffective Mission Trip

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Editor’s Note: We’d like to introduce you to Ellen Adkins, a recent graduate of Kennesaw State University with a degree in Cultural Anthropology, who served as our intern during the Spring 2015 semester, and is currently attending Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY for her graduate work. She has served in Ireland and the UK, including field site demographic research for the IMB. Ellen attended the “Help! We’re Going On A Short-Term Trip!” seminar in January 2014, when it became obvious she and CULTURELink shared a common passion: enhancing cross-cultural effectiveness through discipleship. Over the next few months, we will be sharing several of the articles she wrote for us during her internship.

8 Ways to Lead an Ineffective Mission Trip

  1. Don’t worry about team selection.

If they are willing and able, let them on the team. Don’t bother with things like background checks or personal references. Hypothetically, yes, you could have an application process, but that would resolve the majority of problems you will encounter on the field. (Refer to Session 1 in your manual.)

  1. Pre-trip training? Nah.

If you really want to make sure your team is ineffective on the field, don’t meet on a regular basis prior to departure. Meet for the very first time at the airport. Team building… preparation… bonding… these are all things that will dramatically increase the effectiveness of your team. (Refer to Session 5 in your manual.)

  1. Put the wants of your team above the needs of the local church.

Wait… aren’t we paying them to host us? The local church you are working with should be grateful that you came at all. If they say go left, go right. You probably know best anyways. If you are concerned about building bridges rather than burning them, then you should consider the needs of the local church before your own. (Refer to Session 3 in your manual.)

  1. Remember how lucky they are to have you.

Remember, you are from the USA. You are there to save them. We have everything that they need. They are lucky to have you. Establish your superiority from the start and reinforce it through out the trip. If you don’t, you may end up being humbled when you see the vastness of our God and his creation. (Refer to Session 3 in your manual.)

  1. Don’t bother with cultural research.

If you want your team to be ineffective, skip this step all together. Better yet, play into the “loud, ugly American” stereotypes. Doesn’t everyone know that they should be more like the United States? Proper research can help ease culture shock and break down cultural barriers. (Refer to Session 2 in your manual.)

  1. Be judgmental about differences.

This may seem like a simple concept, but it’s worth mentioning. Sometimes, judgment looks like a permanent grimace and turned up eyebrow. This is will alert locals that you think they are above them. If you encounter a practice that seems strange to you, don’t ask why the locals do this. By asking the simple question of ‘why?’, you will learn to differentiate between what is actually sinful and what is simply a cultural practice. (Refer to Session 3 in your manual.)

  1. Sweep conflict under the rug.

If you should have a disagreement with a missionary or teammate, allow it to fester. Rather than deal with the issue and make amends, grab a match and burn that bridge. There is nothing like clear and open communication to make a team more effective.(Refer to Session 5 in your manual.)

  1. Focus on what you don’t have.

It’s hot. There’s no air conditioning. The locals don’t show up anywhere on time. Keep your eyes focused on the small, petty discomforts and annoyances. This will keep your eyes away from what God is doing around you and off of what He is doing in your heart. (Refer to Session 3 in your manual.)

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