Ways in which to strengthen congregational commitment to mission through mission team participation:
“The church exits by mission like fire exists by burning.” - Emil Bruner
Before a trip:
Pastor keeps before congregation that worship has God as “audience,” not the congregation; leads to realization that service is part of worshipping God
Worship regularly includes hymns, litanies, prayers of other countries and cultures
Part of the Prayers of the People and list of prayer concerns is for God’s call to some members of congregation to become part of congregational or presbytery teams.
Once those who have been called are identified, support teams for each person (or the group) are created, using the attached sheet as a framework.
Develop a “shopping list” of ways in which people can support the mission team participants and emphasize that everyone in the congregation can participate in the trip. The support team can be involved in developing this list.
Look for and get to know people in your community who come from the area where the mission team is going. For instance, someone from Mexico might come to a Sunday School class or a family night supper in support of the upcoming trip and tell about his/her home community in Mexico and what life is like for him/her here in WNC.
Have mission team member do “children’s moment” during worship and tell something about where he/she will be going. Leave the children with some questions that he/she will try and answer on return.
Make a prayer flyer for each family in the congregation that includes the prayer requests of the team, as well as the tentative schedule of those who are going (what they will probably be doing, where and when) so people can “see” their members as they pray for them. An expansion of this would be to have individuals sign up to pray for team member(s) for specific times of the day during the trip; be sure that person(s) have the list, and that it is posted at the church.
Have individuals write notes for participant to read while on the trip. Likewise, team member writes a short letter to the congregation to be read during worship on the Sunday(s) he/she is gone. (If it is possible, the participant could send an e-mail instead.)
Commission those who are going. (Some ideas are attached.) Send some symbol of solidarity with team member(s) and to the church(es) where he/she will be worshipping while on the trip.
Set date for meeting with support group and time(s) to share with congregation very soon after return. (Children’s moment; special program etc.)
During the Trip:
Support team (or others at home) and participants on team do parallel Bible studies.
Church is open for prayer at a specific time each day.
If possible, e-mails are sent from participants.
Keep team journal (one member writes each day). This could be reproduced for congregation.
Participant(s) should be jotting down ideas about how to relate what’s happening to congregation. Look for concrete items which will help congregation relate to the mission; for instance, bring back bread to use for communion service at church.
Pray regularly for church members while gone (and let them know this is the plan).
After the Trip:
- Support group should meet very shortly after return to give participant ample time to tell his/her story and to make specific plans about ways in which to share with the congregation. (Note: It is important to find ways that are integrated with the church’s already existing infrastructure, not create new activities.)
- Participant should have some very specific opportunities to share with congregation that will answer some of the questions left with congregation before the trip.
- Share results of parallel Bible study.
- Write a report to be included in the church’s communication network; publish or display the group journal and photos.
- Meet with those from the country visited to reflect on what happened during the trip.
Include individuals, specific concerns in the prayers of the people during worship, or in church’s communications network. Dividing these out over a period of time helps solidify congregation’s awareness of and concern for others.
- Connect the place and people where the mission trip was with other denominational programs, advocacy groups or world news. (For instance, programs supported by One Great Hour of Sharing.)
- Pastors need to be prepared to support the re-entry of participants.
- Intergenerational congregational teams are challenging and very enriching.
- Ginnie Stevens (firstname.lastname@example.org; 828-438-4217 or 828-258-8220) can help with orientation materials to prepare congregational mission team.