Everyone Benefits from Short-Term MissionsA short term mission coordinator describes how church networking can facilitate short term missions within a fellowship of churches.
Testimony (T): What is a short-term mission (STM)?
These experiences have forced me to confront the reality of a lost world …
Lee Primeau (LP): Short-term missions is a local church initiative to train, mobilize and send individuals or teams to work alongside a career missionary in either a Canadian or international context. It can last from two weeks to three months.
T: Why do we have short-term missions?
|Lee Primeau, Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) national short-term missions coordinator|
LP: In our existential society, people want to experience first hand what God is doing through the church globally in order to connect and develop passion for the lost. Second, the local church is able to nurture an ongoing relationship with a community of believers in another part of the world.
Third, it helps people consider the part they play in reaching the lost over a longer term. For example, it could be a young person exploring his/her future or an adult considering where to invest his/her time, money and energy in the second half of life. Many return from an STM trip committed to missions. Fourth, the local church benefits when returning STMers reinvest their expertise and passion to share the love of Christ in their home church.
T: How did you get started in missions?
LP: My spiritual mother, Mrs. Gravel, helped lead me to Christ and disciple me in 1976. She encouraged me to share my new-found faith, which I was eager, yet terrified to do. My first mission field was my high school where I shared my passion for Jesus with friends and teachers in school hallways and classrooms. That summer I got involved with Youth With A Mission at the Montreal Olympics. Later I shared Christ on the streets of Montreal.
After graduating from Southeastern College in Lakeland, Florida, I got involved in STM on a larger scale at Scarboro Gospel Temple, in Toronto. Under George Atkinson's leadership I participated in the 1984 Olympic Outreach in Los Angeles, the Vancouver World Fair, and an evangelistic outreach to western Europe. These experiences have forced me to confront the reality of a lost world and convinced me that STM can transform people's lives.
T: What is your current involvement with STM?
LP: At a meeting in July 1999 at Tyndale College in Toronto, the PAOC asked me to develop a national network of local church leaders to facilitate and mobilize STM teams. Our mandate was "to empower the local church to take on the responsibility to serve the whole fellowship generally in the area of short-term missions."
In 2002, we evaluated our relevance and progress and identified that a short-term missions coordinator was needed for a two-year period. Furthermore, a nine-person implementation team was formed and five local church "hubs" (churches of influence) were appointed to begin networking local churches to share resources, experiences and opportunities in short-term missions.
T: Where does the local church need the most assistance in short-term missions?
LP: Simply be aware of what other churches are already doing well. As a fellowship, we need to establish a forum where congregations, irrespective of size or budget, can pool and share information and resources.
T: What do you hope to have in place at the end of the two-year period?
LP: A national network of local churches able to fulfil the mandate struck back in 1999. For instance, Ian Stokes, missions pastor at Calgary First Assembly, is promoting an outreach to Greece for the STM Network. Calgary First Assembly will provide the training, financial assistance and logistics for anyone in our fellowship who wants to participate in this trip.
Let's say there's a church in a mid-sized city with a passion for short-term missions, but the pastor needs someone to impart his vision and passion to his congregation and leadership. The STM Network can connect this pastor with the right person.
Another church wanted to send their pastor and spouse on an STM trip, but didn't know how to go about it. A "church of influence" within the STM Network stepped in and connected the couple with a team headed to Cuba.
Basically, we want a functioning network to help out in these kinds of situations and to see better trained teams ministering alongside our career missionaries.
T: How does a church or youth group get started?
LP: Commit to following the "best practices" *1) embraced by our fellowship and created by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC). EFC's best practices can act as a checklist and/or benchmark for short-term missions.
Good training and support for participants are a must. You need to carefully research the mission destination. Who else has gone to this field? What do they recommend? Ensure that your participants are well cared for and properly trained.
Consider also pre-departure orientation, on field support and re-entry. Early on, mistakes were made in sending STM teams. Over time, we realized the importance of proper setup and training, and the exercise of good re-entry planning. You can also network with experienced STM people and learn from their mistakes.
By 2000 the EFC estimated that more than 250,000 people had participated in various STMs.
T: As our fellowship makes the transition from central funding to shared funding, what opportunities exist for the local church regarding short-term?
LP: By the early 1980s an estimated 60,000 people were involved in short-term missions. By 2000 the EFC estimated that more than 250,000 people had participated in various STMs.
T: What outcomes can we expect from a short-term mission trip?
Participants will experience:
• a heightened awareness of the world's need to hear the gospel;
• the power of individual participation ("I can make a difference.");
• an intimate and direct relationship with a PAOC missionary; and
• a renewed commitment to the ministry of their local church and community.
The experience of an STM trip will be enhanced as the three main groups—the participant, the missionary and local church leaders—come together to assess not only their objectives but the accrued benefits to all concerned. Team care cannot be overstated. Pastoral leadership is all about taking care of people; that's what we do. When this element is present, our entire fellowship benefits from the short-term mission concept.
1) To download The Code of Best Practice in Short-Term Mission, go to www.paoc.org/missions, click on the Short-term Mission category and select Code in Best Practice in STM.
Originally published in Testimony, October 2003.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2004 Christianity.ca.