Many of us have been working so hard to keep our own ministries afloat that the ministries and missions organizations that we are connected to have diminished. This is understandable, but it is now time to re-engage with our ministry partners. As our own church is attempting to do this, we are finding out that this is harder than it seems.
Some questions we are asking: “Do we even have the bandwidth to look outside ourselves?” “Do we have the resources to minister outside our context?” “Do we have the strength to re-engage in contextual, relational, cross-cultural ministry after this challenging year?”
We have answered yes to all of these questions. And as we begin to move forward with some plans, it turns out that there are some unexpected challenges. You see, in our context, we have lived inside for an entire year. And the idea of gathering students for a mission trip has set off a wave of panic that was unforeseen.
This means that part of our ministry commitment to missions must include engaging the families of our church as well. We need to walk slowly and intentionally with our people to rebuild their missions ministry muscles.
Here are a few first steps:
1) Relationally connect with your ministry partners.
Get face to face over Zoom as soon as possible. It is easy to think of missions as simply an idea. So we must be intentional about making the object of our missional heart have real-life people with who we are engaged and deepening friendship with.
2) Do some gathered ministry locally that is aimed at this ministry partner.
Write letters, collect items, make a group call, record a video, pray for them. The bottom line is that you need to just meet together. And if you have dreams to travel together, these experiences need to be in person, not on Zoom. (If that feels too costly, then you will understand even more how challenging this process will be.)
3) Do a local service day.
We have been isolated for so long that it has impacted our sense of self. This means that we are, even more, the center of our own universes. This is especially true for our students. We must help them look outside of themselves and put some feet to their growing faith.
4) Take a team away for a night.
This is a helpful barometer if your context is ready to begin planning a mission trip. Theoretically, we all want to go, but sending students away in the recovery phase of Covid is a totally different idea. Going away for a night helps you gauge how much risk your context is willing to engage in and helps you come to terms with all the new logistic challenges in place when traveling during Covid.
5) Plan a trip.
You will also need to be thinking about: Covid tests, Vaccinations, Quarantines. You will also need to understand and live within local, state, and national guidelines. Note that these are always changing. I recommend that you buy travel insurance.
6) Rebook your trip.
There is a good chance that the trip you are dreaming up with gets canceled for a wide variety of reasons. Don’t lose heart. Embrace the uncertainty, learn from it, leverage your leadership chops, and try again.
Good luck out there. There are plenty of people who are ready to go on a mission trip today, but there are even more who are paralyzed at the thought. A ministry trip is an opportunity to build unity, deepen trust, and leverage your leadership chops. Getting the first one under your belt after Covid will be an incredible feat. I will be praying for you as you dream, lead, and then go and serve in new and creative ways!