Jul 22

Put a Bow on Your VBS Ministry

Is your Vacation Bible School program over for this year? Or will it be ending soon? If so, you no doubt have many wonderful memories of God’s message of forgiveness, life, and hope being shared through his people.

As VBS ends, you may be tempted to clean up as quickly as possible, putting everything VBS away, and quickly shifting your focus to the details of fall ministry. But before you do that, add a bow, the final touch, to all your hard work in VBS.

What do I mean? Just this: don’t leave two important jobs undone. Before you close the books on VBS 2014, you need to 1) connect one last time with those who participated; and 2) create a thorough summary to use next spring.

Connect with . . .

  • Your volunteers—Write thank you notes, mentioning how grateful you are that they donated their time so unselfishly. Cite specific ways in which their service led to success in this year’s VBS.
  • Families of the children who attended—Develop three different letters, one for your church families, another for families who have another church home, and one for families who do not now have a church home. The families who are unchurched may also welcome a friendly phone call or even a home visit. Use these contacts to ask how your church could support them and to let them know about other opportunities available to their family.

Making these connections lets both of these groups of people know their help and participation is valued and appreciated.

Create a summary that . . .

1. Includes as many VBS details as possible, including:

• The planning timeline you followed
• Times you met with volunteers and the main agenda points
• Publicity and registration processes
• Daily and weekly scheduling
• Details of building and room usage
• Class lists, including all volunteers and their areas of service
• Supplies purchased, donated
• The snack menu

2. After gathering all the factual information, evaluate the event based upon your reflections and the evaluations received from volunteers. Answers questions, like:

• Did we give ourselves enough time to accomplish our goals? For example, if you wanted to create a complex prop for the opening, did you consider the idea soon enough to get it made? If not, how will you change your planning for next year so you have time to do this?

• What was helpful at the volunteer meetings? List the parts of the agenda that worked and list things to include next year.

• Did our publicity reach and motivate new people to join us? Was the registration process user friendly? Do you use online registration? If not, could you have that as a goal for next year? Did we gather enough information from each child?

• Were we resourceful in the way we gathered supplies? Should we consider starting that the process sooner next time? Did the volunteers have the supplies they needed to be successful?

• How would our volunteers rate their experience? Did they feel prepared? What additional training would be helpful? For example, would additional ideas about developing relationships with children be beneficial?

• How do we feel about the snacks we served? Are we providing children with healthy snacks? Did we purchase the right amount of food?

3. Create a list of possible volunteers for next year. Try to include names of people who did not help this year, but may be available next year.

The time you take to evaluate VBS 2014 will help you create even better event next year—and in even less time than you spent this year.

When you finish these two tasks—contacting and compiling data—you can breathe a sigh of relief and pat yourself on the back, knowing that you have “tied a bow” on this year’s program. Whoever leads VBS next year will have a great resource as they plan—even if that person is you!
© CTA, Inc.

 

Jul 21

Zero Failures — a free devotion for this week’s meetings

Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. 1 Kings 8:56 NIV®

Today’s Scripture verse comes from a blessing King Solomon spoke over God’s people on the day the nation dedicated the temple. By that point in history, Moses had been dead for well over 400 years. God had given his people ample time to observe his trustworthiness. Solomon testifies to what they had experienced:

Not one word had failed of all the good promises the Lord gave through his servant Moses. Still today, God’s people can make the same claim. Not one word has failed of all those good promises!

What makes Solomon’s testimony especially stunning is the fact that during those many years, God’s people–like we ourselves today–had chalked up a spotty record in the faith and obedience department. Yet the golden cord of God’s faithfulness winds its way through every day of all those decades and centuries. Not one word of our Lord’s good promises had ever failed. He had proven himself fully trustworthy.

And he will continue to do that in your life!

Are you counting on specific promises today? Or are you worried that your faithlessness or disobedience might have voided God’s promises to you? Then turn in repentant faith to the cross of your Savior. Confess your sins and cling to his promise to forgive and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Then claim all the other promises you need as well. They are yours in Jesus.

Prayer: Father-God, you are always faithful. Your promises never fail. So now . . .

 

This devotion has been adapted from one that appeared in CTA’s devotion book for women, God’s Promises to a Woman’s Heart. This title is no longer in print, but we have several similar devotion books available for both men and women. Check them out! 

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com

© CTA, Inc.

Jul 15

Train Every Volunteer!

Employers train new hires. Teens are trained to drive. Personal trainers help you reach your exercise goals. Training is common everywhere . . . except the church. Most churches feel they’re doing well if they offer Sunday school teacher training. The reality is that every church volunteer should be trained for ministry.

But aren’t most volunteer tasks simple enough that anyone can do them? Can’t they just learn as they go? Who has time to plan and lead training sessions, or even attend them?

Actually, volunteers want training. They want to do the job right. They don’t want to embarrass themselves. They want to learn the nuts and bolts. They want a safe place to ask questions.

Even if I already know how to do a task, training tells me how that task is done here, what the expectations are, how the equipment/schedule/procedures work here. It tells me how this task relates to other tasks in this setting, and how it fits into this church’s mission and ministry.

Training . . .
• can be scheduled or offered ‘on demand’;
• helps both new and long-term volunteers;
• can be led by leaders or fellow participants;
• communicates new information or reinforces previous information;
• can be combined with fellowship or appreciation activities; and
• should be fun!

Training can take many different forms, developed by you or others . . .
• written instructions;
• audio/video recordings;
• a buddy system or mentoring;
• group classes or one-on-one instruction;
• website information (and assessments);
• commercially available trainings;
• books, magazines, articles; and
• conferences.

Training builds leaders and it often goes beyond specific ministries. For instance, conflict management and communication skills are useful for nearly everyone who serves. Faith-sharing is a key skill, since serving often opens doors for sharing the Gospel within and beyond our church. Leaders often value training in how to effectively recruit, delegate, supervise, and train those with whom they work.

So many options! Our challenge is helping each ministry, and the church as a whole, determine the how, when, and what of specific trainings. When the importance of training is emphasized from the top down, when the topic is regularly revisited and people are held accountable, training becomes expected and, eventually, taken for granted.

Training advances the church’s mission. It reduces conflict and many other common problems. It builds teamwork and unity. It increases volunteer retention and improves results. It’s an investment in the body of Christ.

Here are some training resources you may find helpful.

These resources have been developed by the author of this blog:
• free worksheet for planning specific trainings
• for purchase, a package of two presentations, focused on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of training, with participant handouts and leader’s guide.

In addition, check these out:
• A list of training resources
Free webinars from Volunteer Match
• Betty Stalling’s 55-Minute Series, Training Staff to Succeed with Volunteers, is practical, succinct, and cost effective.

 

© 2014 CTA, Inc.

Jul 14

Yes! And Amen! — a free devotion for this week’s meetings

No matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV®

God’s promises to us are yes in Jesus, yes because of what our Savior has done. In Christ, God forgives. In Christ, God is with us forever. In Christ, every challenge we face becomes a blessing. In Christ, all our needs are fully met. In Christ, all the many promises God has made are fulfilled.

That’s one reason we pray “in Jesus’ name.” The formula isn’t some magical incantation. Instead, it reminds us that in and of ourselves, we have no claim on God or his blessings. As sinners, forgiven in our Savior, we come to God, asking him to fulfill his promises because of what Jesus has done for us.

Enfolded in Christ’s love for us, we can say a glad “Amen” to every one of God’s promises. Most importantly, we can say “Amen” to that specific promise we need to claim right now. The Hebrew word amen means, “Yes, so be it” or “Yes, it shall be so.”

This word, placed at the end of our prayers, expresses trust that our promise-making God will do what he has said. And then, as Scripture points out, God is glorified.

Prayer: My Father, when you gave Jesus into death for me, you demonstrated your intention to fulfill all the promises you have made. Still, trust often comes hard . . .

 

This devotion has been adapted from one that appeared in CTA’s devotion book for women, God’s Promises to a Woman’s Heart. This title is no longer in print, but we have several similar devotion books available for both men and women. Check them out! 

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com

© CTA, Inc.

Jul 08

Sharing Spaces — how to make it work

As we work together in our church buildings, most of us share rooms or spaces with others. Meeting rooms are usually used by many different groups. In some settings, preschool or day care classrooms are used on Sunday mornings for Sunday school classes. Common areas are used by many people coming and going to a variety of events.

Based on my experience both as a day school teacher and as a volunteer, I can vouch for the tension that often arises from this kind of sharing. There are ways to minimize the tension, though, when everyone using a space willingly shares the responsibility of caring for that space.

As you plan for your fall ministries this summer, use the opportunity to think this through. How will you help to set a positive tone for sharing space with others? Here are a few ideas of my own. Maybe you will come up with others.

Meeting rooms
Since many different groups use meeting rooms, you will want to cue people in on how to help keep the space tidy for others. For example, clearly labeling drawers and cabinet doors will help people put things away. Posting a check list of “Things To Do Before Leaving” will also help. Use positive statements to indicate what needs to be done. For example:

To help get this room ready for the next group that will use it, please take a few moments before you leave to . . .

• Put away all the equipment and materials you used.
• Clean the tables. (Wipes are in the cabinet).
• Put tables and chairs back where you found them.
• Pick up any trash and take it to the dumpster.
• Turn out the lights.

Thank you for helping take care of our church!

Shared Classroom Space
When volunteer teachers share classroom space with day care workers, professional preschool teachers, or day school classes, everyone needs to work in partnership. As a first step, the adults need to sit down together to talk about how they will work together. This meeting can set a positive tone for the entire school year.

During this meeting, the teachers who use the space throughout the week create a welcoming place for the weekend volunteers. For example, they can . . .

• Provide a place for the Sunday morning ministry to store materials.
• Specify any materials that are okay to use on Sunday.
• If necessary, share a map of the room arrangement to help weekend volunteers put the furniture they move back into place.
• Share contact information, so they can get in touch when need be.

During this meeting, volunteers can also communicate their respect for the learners and teachers who use the space during the week. For example, they can . . .

• Communicate their commitment to clean up thoroughly before leaving. This is so important, because most classrooms are cleaned late on Friday or on Saturday and will not be cleaned again until Monday evening.
• Plan to use their own set of consumable materials, understanding that materials in the classroom are meant for use in the weekday programs.
• Help their students refrain from using equipment and materials that belong to students enrolled in the weekday programs (e.g., pencils, crayons, Bibles).

When everyone agrees on these boundaries and abides by them, a sense of common ministry can grow and respect prevails.

Blessings as you support one another with an important nuts and bolts aspect of working together in ministry!

 

© 2014 CTA, Inc.

Jul 07

Layers of Blessings — a free devotion for this week’s meetings

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. Psalm 95:2 NIV®

Did you catch it? Not only does Scripture promise us God’s presence, it also invites us to come—to come intentionally—into his presence. Think of that! You’re invited!

Of course, God is present everywhere, all the time. But he invites us to come into his presence on purpose, responding to his goodness in our lives, especially his goodness to us in Jesus, our Savior, and in the cross and empty tomb of that Savior. We can come, as the psalm says, “with thanksgiving . . . with music and song.”

• As we worship, he reminds us of his forgiveness and his love for us.
• As we worship, he works his Word more deeply into our hearts so that it can strengthen and encourage us.
• As we worship, he assures us we’re not alone. He’s present with us—and we belong to his family.

Prayer: Lord, your promises add layer upon layer of blessings to my life. As I worship with your people, please . . .

 

This devotion has been adapted from one that appeared in CTA’s devotion book for women, God’s Promises to a Woman’s Heart. This title is no longer in print, but we have several similar devotion books available for both men and women. Check them out! 

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com

© CTA, Inc.

 

 

Jul 01

Old Glory–a free devotion for children’s ministry

Introduction

Have you ever heard someone talking about “Old Glory”? Do you know what it means? (Show an American flag.) Our flag got this name in 1831. A famous sea captain, William Driver, was about to set sail when some friends gave him a flag to fly on his ship. At that time, the United States had 24 states. How many stars do you suppose his flag had? Yes, 24 stars for the 24 states.

When Captain Driver unfurled the flag, an ocean breeze caught it. It was beautiful! Captain Driver exclaimed, “Old Glory!” Six years later, Captain Driver retired and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. He took “Old Glory” with him. Almost everyone in that city knew about his flag, and when Tennessee seceded from the Union, the Confederate army was determined to find Old Glory and destroy it. But no matter how often Confederate soldiers searched his house, their searches came up empty.

Finally, on February 25, 1862, Union forces marched into Nashville. They raised the only flag they had with them over the capital. It was small and not very impressive. Patriots in the city saw it and started asking Captain Driver if he still had Old Glory.

Driver went home and ripped open the mattress on his bed. Inside, lay the flag, just where he had hidden it. He gently pulled it out and hurried back to the capital. Soldiers from the Sixth Ohio Regiment there took down their small flag and raised Old Glory. They began telling and retelling the story of how Captain Driver honored the flag and cared for it. As the story spread, more and more people began calling every flag, “Old Glory.”

Captain Driver is buried in the Nashville City Cemetery. That cemetery is one of only three places in which Congress has authorized the Flag of the United States to be flown 24 hours a day.

Getting to the Heart
Why do we honor our flag? (Let volunteers respond.) Yes, the flag reminds us of the country God has given us and all the blessings we enjoy here. What are some of those blessings? (Again, invite volunteers to respond.)

Most of all today, we are thankful for God’s glory. That glory is very old. In fact, it’s eternal! It always has been and it always will be. Sometimes people think that glory is God’s power or his holiness. Of course, God’s glory does include power and holiness.

But most of all God’s glory is his goodness to us, especially his mercy and grace in Jesus. It is God’s glory to forgive all our sins because Jesus died for us. (If time will allow, read Exodus 33:18-19.)

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for our nation and for those who have been wounded or even killed so that we can be safe and free. Thank you for the freedom to worship you. Thank you especially for our Savior, Jesus, and for the glory of his love and forgiveness. Teach us to treasure that glory always and to share it whenever we have an opportunity. Amen.

 

Looking for patriotic items that will remind the children you serve to pray for their nation and its leaders? CTA has a variety of appropriate choices–all value priced!

© CTA, Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 30

I’m Getting’ Hungry! – a free devotion for this week’s meetings

Are you hungry? Well, where would you like to eat? Vacations often mean eating out, and our options are plentiful! If you’ve driven to a vacation spot, there’s a good chance that you’ve made several stops at fast-food restaurants. If you’re camping, you’ll almost certainly be eating out—eating outside!

God is so good in making sure we have food to eat in our various circumstances. Sometimes it might not be a lot, but he still provides it for us.

God put many stories in the Bible about hungry people. When the Lord led his people out of Egypt toward the Promised Land, he fed them with manna from heaven. But the people complained and wanted meat, too, so God provided them with quail to eat (Numbers 11).

In Elijah’s time, there was a great famine in the land, but God had ravens bring him bread and meat every morning and night. Sometime later, Elijah stayed in a house that was just about to run out of food, but God performed a miracle and made sure that the jar of flour and a jug of oil would never run out (1 Kings 17). Can you think of other times God provided food for his people?

Do you know the story of the time Jesus fed 5,000 men, plus the women and children with them, using just five small loaves of barley bread and two fish? You can read about it in John 6:1–15. Jesus fed everyone, yet they had so much food left over. What a miracle!

Hungry? Jesus hears when your stomach growls and wants to help. He knows what we need and has plenty of answers for us. Let’s give thanks to the Lord!

Read Psalm 118:1. 

Prayer: Dear Jesus, please forgive us for the times we take for granted that we have plenty of food to eat. Thank you for all you provide. We know we’d have nothing without you. Help us to see your miracles and always give thanks to you! Amen.

Editor’s note: If you’re looking for ways to stay in touch with families while they vacation this summer, consider printing out one or both sets of free family devotions for vacationers CTA makes available FREE on our website. Or simply share the link with members in your June newsletter. 

 © 2014 CTA, Inc. 

 

 

Jun 25

3 Keys to Women’s Ministry that Works Today

Our women’s ministry draws only women in their 70s. How can we get more younger women involved? 

We used to have 20-25 women show up regularly. Why is our attendance dwindling? 

St. Startup down the block has a gazillion women in their women’s group. What are they doing that we can imitate? 

We don’t have a women’s ministry. How can we start one?

Are you asking yourself one or more of these questions? If so, take comfort in the fact that church leaders have been asking these same questions for at least 40 years now. How do I know? I’ve been around long enough to hear them, first-hand. Even so, women’s ministry has not disappeared. Nor has it grown irrelevant.

As you might guess, though, women’s ministry has changed and adapted over those 40 years. You and I both know it will go on changing and adapting. If we could listen to the candid comments of the women in our churches, we could learn a lot about productive future directions. If we would listen—and if they would be honest with us, they might zero in on three keys to change and adaptation from their perspective. Do candid comments like these, written from the viewpoint of non-participants, apply in your own setting? How might you check?

Key 1: Successful women’s ministry is purposeful.

As Christian women, we know how busy life can get. We homeschool our kids or help with homework night after night. We often work outside the home, whether on a full- or part-time basis. We care for infants and toddlers, for growing teens and preteens, for an elderly parent, or for one or more family members with special needs. We serve in our communities. We volunteer at church. Most of us do many, most, or even all of these things!

So whether we are 23 or 83, don’t ask us to meet at church just because the calendar says it’s the second Tuesday of the month. Our lives are far too busy for the salad luncheons that churches planned for women in 1953.

Instead, create a meaningful, over-arching purpose:

  • Answer the “whys” for women’s ministry. Involve us in wrestling through the process of creating a motivating mission statement. Invite us. Survey us. Talk to as many of us as you can, one-on-one. Then align your strategy and tactics with the mission that ignites our passion.
  • Make every study, every session, every encounter, purposeful.
  • Help us focus outward as well as inward. Help us serve our community and world, as well as our group and local church.
  • Balance the needs of women from each generation, but don’t segregate us in ghettos defined by age. We all have much to learn from authentic, faithful women of every generation.

In short, when we invest time and energy, we want it to count. And we count on our women’s ministry leaders to help ensure it does.

Key 2: Successful women’s ministry is scriptural.

As Christian women, we recognize our need to be encouraged, energized, challenged, and supported by the words and promises of God. Lydia of Thyatira was among the first to hear the Gospel in Europe and enthusiastically support its proclamation. The apostle Paul writes “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16).

This “power” of which Paul writes comes from a word related to “dynamite” and “dynamo.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ revolutionizes lives. It transforms hearts. It carries us through life’s most difficult challenges and most wrenching changes.

As God’s daughters, as Christ’s sisters, we need this power! There’s nothing else like it! So . . .

  • Don’t apologize for centering women’s ministry on Jesus Christ. Don’t shy away from anchoring women’s ministry in the Word of God. Don’t hesitate to declare, “Thus says the Lord!”
  • But be real! Don’t pretend temptations and troubles bother only people outside the church. Don’t fake it when you should be saying, “I don’t know.” Don’t promise to pray for us unless you will.

In short, we want to grow stronger in our faith. We want to become more like Jesus. We want to be more able witnesses of the hope that our Savior gives. And we count on our women’s ministry leaders to help us encounter the Word of God in authentic ways, ways that make growth in grace possible.

Key 3: Successful women’s ministry is relational.

As Christian women, we know that relationships matter. We know that relationships grow when we deliberately cultivate them. And we know that no relationship runs smoothly 100% of the time. This means that . . .

  • We will gladly invest time in getting to know one another. We understand that laughter can break the ice and that shared memories cement sisterhood. Small talk and snacks open doors to the vulnerability that authentic sharing requires. But don’t expect us to be happy talking for an hour about questions like, “If I were a tree, what kind of tree would I be?”
  • You can ask us for things other than money, especially if there’s a relational purpose behind the request.
  • Even when it makes us uncomfortable, we know it’s important to deal with conflicts and disagreements head on and face to face. We know, deep down, why Paul wrote, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). But sometimes we need help in cultivating the courage and skills needed for healthy conflict resolution. It’s one gift the church can give us.
  • Communication is essential, but in today’s world we expect to receive information through new media as well as old. Use the church newsletter and service folder. But set up Facebook and Twitter accounts, in addition. Start a blog. Use Skype and text us all simultaneously. And don’t forget that some of us still use e-mail, too.

Purposeful. Scriptural. Relational. Would the women in your church point to these things? It’s very likely! These are the keys that unlock women’s ministry in today’s world. Actually, these are the keys that have always unlocked women’s ministry! Today, as in every age, you will need to jiggle them a bit in the lock. But as you do that prayerfully, you will fulfill the ministry the Holy Spirit is entrusting to you.

Editor’s note: Mother’s Day is over, but ministry with and for the women in your church can’t be! Check out the many resources for year-round women’s ministry CTA makes available—many downloadable and free!

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 © 2014 CTA, Inc. 

 

 

 

Jun 24

Making Mission Trips Meaningful

Where are you going this summer? 

In years past, people would have answered the Grand Canyon or Door County, Disney World or the Badlands, Grandpa’s farm or my aunt’s condo in Florida. Lots of people do still enjoy spending time relaxing in those places.

But many Christians today are just as likely to spend part of their vacation time building a new house in New Orleans, constructing a school in Mexico, or helping out in Haiti with a short-term medical team, assembled by Christian physicians from the local hospital.

Ready or not, the world has experienced a surge of Christians from North America ready and eager to show Jesus’ love. Most of the time, short-term mission trips do make a positive difference. But those receiving ministry have seen their share of silliness, too. (Rumor has it that a school somewhere near the Mexico/US border has been painted 12 times in the past three summers!)

On a much sadder note, visitors to countries with customs and cultures different from our own have sometimes damaged the work of established, full-time missionaries. Such harm is, thankfully, rare; but it has occurred.

So how do well-meaning groups make sure to make a positive difference? How can you plan your trip so that everyone involved benefits?

Think Through the “Why”

First, be sure you have crystal clear purposes in mind. Be realistic about the impact your group can make in just a few short days. This is especially true if you don’t know the language of the people to whom God is sending you. Some experts recommend against taking “drive-by mission trips.” They point out that the paint will soon fade, the flowers you plant will eventually die, and the soccer balls you bring will go flat. But when you set up an ongoing partnership, returning year by year, results multiply. The apostle Paul returned several times to check on the Christians in the churches he planted.

If you do decide to make only a short-term commitment, understand that you are a participant in God’s process. Just as the Holy Spirit has used many people to bring you to faith and cultivate that faith, so too he may use you as one of the people he sends to show Jesus’ love in a tangible way. Your acts of love will open doors for those who follow you.

Perhaps your purpose involves giving individuals from your church, interested in a longer-term missionary opportunity, a chance to see what that might be like. Perhaps you want to stir up the zeal of your congregation’s members for funding missions and praying for them. Perhaps you want to share the love of Christ by making life a bit less painful or dangerous for a specific group of people. Perhaps you want to begin to build a long-term relationship with a specific church or village and then return year after year to increase the impact you will make there.

Whatever your purpose, keep it clearly in mind—and help those you lead to understand, remember, and enact it, too.

Think Through the “Who”

Next, spend time in advance building relationships among the members of your team. The more comfortable group members feel with one another, the more smoothly the trip is likely to go.

Several months prior to your adventure, spend  Tuesday nights together in someone’s home, working through a small group Bible study together. Set aside a Saturday to do some team-building activity; participate together in a local Habitat for Humanity project, for example, or volunteer as a group to paint an elderly member’s garage.

Whether you spend a week in Alabama or a month in Guatemala, tensions are bound to arise as team members tire or differences of opinion pop up. The more secure team members feel with one another before this happens, the more readily they will be able to resolve conflicts, working through difficulties in love and trust.

One additional point. If your team focuses on building relationships with the people you are serving, in addition to a focus on completing the project goals you have set for yourselves, team members and those whom you serve will be more likely to experience a greater heart impact. Remember, growth in discipleship does not happen in a vacuum, but rather, in relationship.

Don’t Go It Alone

Don’t neglect to do your homework, especially if this is your first or second trip! Many websites include detailed information on practical matters like scheduling, safety, leadership training, different kinds of service opportunities, and the like. To access them, simply type terms like “short-term mission trip” into an Internet search engine and begin to explore the sites that you find.

This initial research should prepare you for more focused conversations with your denomination’s missions board or with a representative of other, reputable missions organizations that work regularly with groups of volunteers from North America. But remember that It’s just good common sense to ask for references and to check with other groups who have linked arms with any potential partner.

Be sure you understand the boundaries your ministry partners set up. Then respect those boundaries. This will avoid duplication of efforts. (Remember the school with the 12 coats of paint!) Respecting boundaries will help ensure that your group helps—and avoids hindering—ongoing efforts in the region. It will make planning much easier. And it will help reduce safety concerns.

Maintain Interest and Support at Home

Be sure to involve your congregation from the beginning. You might pair those who send and those who go—giving the name of each short-term worker to a dozen or more members back home who will agree to pray for that person while he/she is gone. Consider giving everyone a Gospel Colors bracelet  and inviting prayer partners to write one another’s names on the inside of their bracelets as a reminder of the link of faith and prayer that unites them.

When your group returns, schedule a time to tell your supporters about what God has done with their prayers and dollars. Consider sharing names of individuals back at the ministry site, people for whom your group now carries concern, and invite listeners to write these names inside their bracelets now, too. You may want to have more bracelets on hand for those who don’t already have them and for those who want another as an additional prayer reminder.

Focus on Christ

Youth and adults alike will likely appreciate a time each morning to pray together about the day ahead. They will also treasure a time each evening to process what has happened in the past 24 hours. Schedule a brief time for personal prayer and journaling each day. Journals help participants recall details of the trip, record ongoing prayer needs, and process their feelings about the experience in light of the Word of God.

CTA has published, Adventures in Faith Mission Journal with this need in mind.  These are available at prices that make it possible to give one to each person in your group. These journals will guide users in thinking through their experiences in the light of specific, powerful Scriptures day by day.

Consider, too, how to share Jesus’ love in a memorable way with those whose school you build or whose children you teach. A few years ago, Tiffany, a CTA customer from North Carolina, noted:

Our mission team ordered the Gospel Bracelets because we thought they would be a clear and easy way for us to communicate the Gospel in a short amount of time without breaking our budget. We used them in several different ways. All team members wore a bracelet starting from the moment we left our church, and we carried a few with us in case we met anyone on one of the many long plane trips and times in the airport. We kept them on as we worked in the villages in Moldova. Team members would stop and talk with people they met. 

The Gospel Bracelets were both a quick way to share the message of Jesus’ love for them and a gift that we could leave with them to remind them of this message. Having a visual aid to explain the gospel was also a wonderful tool to help us cross the language barriers. 

In each village, on the last day of VBS, we presented the gospel and gave each child a bracelet. They were very excited that we gave them something exactly like we were wearing! Many wanted to know why we had come to their village.  I really think the bracelet helped to convey the message that we were there to share Christ’s love with them.

Mission trips offer those who send and those who go a genuine chance to make a difference. And what a difference you can make!

Editor’s note: If you’re looking for further mission trip resources, check CTA’s website

 © 2014 CTA, Inc. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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