Make It Personal: The Key to Short-Term Missions Partnerships

When my wife and I served as missionaries, volunteer teams were one of the greatest encouragements and blessings to our disciple-making and church-planting efforts. In the five-plus years we served, we worked with more volunteer teams than I can count.  Those teams played a strategic role in opening doors for gospel ministry while also ministering to our teammates, our children, and to us in ways that we would not have experienced without them.

One of these volunteer groups came from a partner church in the US. They developed a relationship with a security guard near our team-led community center. That relationship opened many doors for gospel witness.

Another short-term team helped us fix up and open that same community center. It was a place that facilitated countless gospel conversations, individuals placing their faith in Jesus Christ, and discipleship opportunities.

Various volunteer groups brought our family and team things from America, cared for our and others’ children, and even provided pastoral care and counseling at times. These  are just a few examples of why short-term mission trips are such a great opportunity not only for you but also for those you are going to serve.

“I am convinced that everyone who is physically able ought to at least prayerfully consider going overseas on a short-term mission trip.”

Now I am back in the US, and I have been a pastor nearly as long as I was a missionary. One of my ongoing challenges to my church family has been mission commitment and partnership through short-term trips. Having gone on a short-term overseas trip before serving long-term and having experienced so many times how effective these trips can be, I am convinced that everyone who is physically able ought to at least prayerfully consider going overseas on a short-term mission trip.

Our Church’s Journey to Short-Term Partnerships

When I began pastoring our church, I immediately started talking about my hope and prayer to see us develop, as a church, an ongoing partnership overseas for the sake of gospel ministry. I showed videos. I shared my heart. I told stories. I even planned a trip. But not a single person from our church joined me. I was discouraged, but I went anyway, along with a few other individuals from our state.

After returning from that trip, I continued to pray for God to raise up more people from our church to go. Though some expressed interest, no one seemed genuinely excited or even willing to participate. But, I have continued to pray, continued to challenge our people, and continued to share the need for missions involvement.

I noticed there seemed to be a common hesitation, though, based on two factors: fear and cost. Was I asking too much of people to go from no mission trips to a $2,500 trip across the ocean? Sure, many people have been on local and stateside trips, but very few have left the country. Perhaps I was asking them to leap too far at first.

Making It Personal

In light of these hesitations, I decided to try something a little closer to home, something a little less intimidating, and something much less expensive. A couple of years ago, I invited a friend who runs an orphanage in Guatemala to share about his ministry for a few minutes during a Sunday morning worship service. The service was followed by a lunch (we Baptists do those well!) where he could share more details.

I kid you not—after that lunch, ten people came to me and said they wanted to go to Guatemala. Some of them were in tears. They were burdened for the lives of the orphans and the opportunity for gospel ministry in another country.

This lunch gave our church members the chance to connect personally with a missions opportunity. The more personal something is for people, the more likely they are to respond. Let them hear stories from the mission field. Connect them with people, not just strategies, needs, or scenarios. After that lunch, we planned a trip and took ten people from our church to Guatemala.

“The more personal something is for people, the more likely they are to respond.”

Though I had been praying for stronger and deeper partnerships with missionaries to the unreached, this trip to Guatemala was a good start. Now, the passion for missions is spreading. More people are wanting to get involved and we have another team going to Guatemala this summer.

Furthermore, I am taking another trip to an unreached people overseas, and this time, two church members are going with me. Though progress may be slow, our church is catching the vision for taking the gospel to unreached peoples around the world.  

Patience, Prayer, and Perseverance

What happened? Just a couple years ago, I wondered if anyone from our small church of one hundred members would ever take a short-term mission trip overseas. I did not know what to do. I thought I had tried everything. I tried to lead by participating in missions myself. I kept praying. I kept casting vision by sharing stories and talking about the need. I have shown every video the IMB makes available for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and people have generously given and supported mission partnership.

The turning point for going, though, was when things got personal. It was no longer just the pastor talking. Others got on board, and the fire started to spread.

If you desire to increase partnerships with missionaries and lead your church on short-term missions, reach out to the IMB to see how you can make things personal for your church. One of the IMB’s main purposes is to help you navigate such an important partnership.

See if they have a missionary on stateside assignment who can speak to your church and connect with those interested in missions. Gain an understanding of the need for more churches and individuals to partner with the IMB, catch the vision, and help others in your church do the same.

David Nichols is a pastor in the Midwest. He and his wife are the parents of five children and previously served as missionaries for six years.