Leading a short-term mission trip is both exciting and intimidating, but in the midst of it all, mission leaders should seize the opportunity to prepare their teams for more than just the trip at hand. Short-term mission trips provide an opportunity and a training ground for raising up new mission leaders, which should multiply a church’s mission efforts for a lifetime.
Excitement, Intimidation, and Focus
The work of leading a short-term mission team is full of many exciting moments as mission leaders see God’s people set afire for his mission to the nations. Mission leaders experience and share in the joy of seeing God prepare and use his people for his work among the nations. But leading a short-term mission trip is not just exciting work.
“Short-term mission trips provide an opportunity and a training ground for raising up new mission leaders, which should multiply a church’s mission efforts for a lifetime.”
Leading a short-term mission team is also intimidating. A short-term mission leader can quickly become overwhelmed by all of the roles that are required in leading a team to a foreign country. The leader may serve as a fundraiser, a travel agent, a logistics coordinator, a counselor, a manager, an accountant, a mediator, a negotiator, a teacher, and so much more. All of these roles and needs can be overwhelming.
However, the roles that must be filled in leading a short-term mission trip must never take precedence over one of the essential roles of the mission leader: multiplying new leaders for the mission. Mission trips are great “on-the-job training” for the work of the gospel among the nations, and leaders focused on multiplication should leverage every mission trip for multiplying mission leaders.
Jesus, Paul, and You
Multiplying mission leaders is not just practical; it’s biblical. When Jesus called his first disciples, he said: “Follow me . . . and I will make you fish for people” (Matt. 4:19 CSB). His strategy for multiplying mission leaders began with the simple call to follow him. These new followers started their training by watching, listening, and learning from Jesus’s words and actions. They knew they were being trained for a purpose, which was to fish for people.
After their initial training, Jesus commissioned his disciples, sending them out into the world to practice what they had been taught. This progression from learning to leading prepared them to become disciple makers, and as disciple makers, these men would call others to follow Jesus. They repeated this training process—calling, cultivating, and commissioning—in order to raise up others to fish for men in the future.
This pattern is also seen vividly in Paul’s general practice of discipling. Speaking of himself, he told the church in Corinth, “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1 CSB). Likewise, he told the church in Philippi, “Do what you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me . . .” (Phil 4:9 CSB).
“Mission trips are great ‘on-the-job training’ for the work of the gospel among the nations.”
Paul continually emphasized this pattern of discipling in his second letter to Timothy, a man whom he was raising up to be a mission leader. He told Timothy to “hold onto the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me” (2 Tim. 1:13 CSB). Regarding Timothy‘s own work of multiplying mission leaders, Paul wrote the following: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2 CSB).
Call, Cultivate, Commission
The pattern of disciple making that Jesus demonstrated and the early disciples duplicated is the pattern of discipling for us today as we multiply mission leaders in the church. As you seize the opportunity to leverage short-term mission trips to raise up mission leaders, begin with the end in mind. Here’s a simple three-step process to help you multiply mission leaders for the future through short-term mission trips.
Just as Jesus and Paul identified specific people and called them to a discipling process with a specific end in mind, the mission leader must do the same in cultivating new mission leaders. Prayerfully identify individuals on the team who display the gifting and the calling of leadership in the mission. Personally call them into a discipling process, recognizing their gifts and talking to them about the end goal—developing them into future mission leaders.
Intentionally cultivate the entire short-term team by training them to multiply the mission in the future. Utilize IMB’s Explore Missions course or Foundations document to help cultivate mission-focus and spiritual growth on your team. Make sure to invite the future leader(s) you’ve called out to come alongside and observe you in specific leadership roles as you lead the mission team. Allow the future leader(s) to see what’s involved in every step of the process, from planning and preparation to implementation.
Finally, when the new mission leaders have gone through the process of being cultivated, commission them to lead in the mission. Empower them to lead a mission trip, but be around to watch and support as they continue to grow and to learn. Most importantly, encourage them to continue the discipling process with their teams in order to keep multiplying mission leaders for the future.
Dr. Joel Williams is senior pastor at First Baptist Church in St. Francisville, Louisiana. He also serves as adjunct faculty for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as the director for Advance International Honduras and co-director for Advance International Dominican Republic. Joel and his wife, Tiffany, have been married for twenty-five years, and they have a son, a daughter, and a son-in-law.