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7 Keys to Effective Mission Trips

For over 35 years, Forward Edge has mobilized more than 20,000 individuals on nearly 1,600 mission teams to many parts of the U.S. and 34 countries. Over this time, we’ve learned tried-and-true principles that allow short-term teams to help without causing harm.

1. Support programs that are directed, designed, and implemented by nationals.

While there are worthy programs overseas directed by missionaries, it is best to support programs directed by nationals. Nationals know their own culture, and how to effectively function and minister within it. Indigenous church and government leaders, as well as program beneficiaries, also view programs directed by nationals more favorably.

2. Don't do things for people that they can do for themselves.

This may be the most common mistake made by short-term mission teams. Short-term missionaries can help with needed projects, but they should always serve alongside local people. In many cases, local people should even be financially compensated for their efforts. Doing things for people that they can do for themselves robs them of their dignity, and fosters a never-ending cycle of dependence.

3. Focus one empowering people vs. creating dependence.

A key to mission teams bearing fruit that remains is a focus on empowering vs. enabling. And the best way to empower people is to equip them to be more effective in their God-given callings and professions. Teams that include pastors, health-care professionals, businesspeople, and schoolteachers can have an enduring impact on the mission field if they focus on equipping their indigenous peers.

4. Build long-term partnerships.

Sending churches that have the most positive impact in the lives of those they seek to serve — and those they send — are the ones that invest in the same location for an extended period of time. It’s all about relationships, and real relationships can only develop over time. Long-term partnerships also allow for a clearer understanding of what kind of assistance is truly needed and helpful.

5. Make sure your financial investments are used as intended.

Sending churches have a responsibility to ensure that their financial support of churches or ministries in the field is being properly stewarded. Partnering with a credible mission agency that already has accountability policies and procedures in place can be a wise solution to this very important need.

6. Send teams that are well prepared.

Too often, mission teams are sent without being properly prepared. Sending effective mission teams requires more than lining up a project, recruiting team members, and making flight arrangements. To be effective, short-term missionaries need to enter a foreign country with the right motivations for service, an awareness of cultural differences, and an understanding of how to work together as a team.

7. Help team members see the connection between their mission-trip experience and the rest of their lives.

Before and shortly after returning home, short-term missionaries need to be given opportunities to process their experience, and to prayerfully consider how it relates to the rest of their lives. A short-term mission trip should be more than a fond memory. It can and should be a catalyst for ongoing ministry in one’s home church and/or community.

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Habari (Hello), my name is Betty Rhema

  • location

    Uganda

  • 18 yrs. old

    08-27-2003

Entered the Program: March 2020

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