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Posted September 23, 2014

How can we lead effective short-term mission teams even in difficult places

Initiated by: Mission Whiteboard

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How can our church be strategically involved around the world using short-term teams? We want to make a long-term impact so is there specific training we should offer? What are some best practices? Are there security concerns we should be aware of? How do we join or even help develop a long term strategy? Who should go on trips?


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3 years ago
David Bosworth

Regarding resources for addressing risk in travel to hard places, the organization I work with (STM Toolbox) has catalogued many of the top organizations which assist with advance planning, risk mitigation, policy and procedures, etc. Additionally, we have posted several articles on topics such as

"Should we cancel our trip if there is a US State Department warning?"

"Is risk taking biblical?"

"Strategies for risk mitigation"

Here is the link to these resources...!resources_risk_management/c1pr2


3 years ago
Larry McCrary

One thing I would suggest for teams going to difficult places would be to either do video training for security or have a security trainer come to the church to help the group prepare for the trip. There are several good resources out there. I personally like this one.


3 years ago
Ellen Livingood

The Chalmers Institute has just published a new book: Helping without Hurting in Short Term Missions: 

  • Garland Alford wrote: This book is a very good resource for short term teams. A lot of valuable information.
  • Larry McCrary wrote: Will you be doing a review on this book anytime soon? Sounds like a great read.

3 years ago
Debbie Stephens

These are all great questions! 

  • Cast the vision God has given and invite people to be a part of a prayer group for that vision. 
  • Invite influencers to be a part of the vision team that goes to the area, people that will help you to advocate for the people group and help you to cast vision to the church.  Include both men and women, prayer warriors, visionaries and implementers. 
  • Make it mandatory that each team meet together several times before the trip to train, study God’s Word and pray together.  This is important!
  • Provide meaningful training that not only covers logistics but serves as discipleship for the team members.  
  • Also include more specific information pertaining to the peoples you will be serving such as information on Islam, Hinduism, etc and how to best contextualize the gospel.

Building long-term impact will be done by investing in your ‘team leaders’ at your church. Investing and discipling your team leaders will produce the long-term impact you are seeking as they carry out the vision by mobilizing others.

There are always security concerns no matter where you are going.  When casting vision it is important to emphasize God’s calling and His warning in Matthew 10:16 (ESV) “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Will they still be able to say, “God is good!” even if things don’t go the way they plan or something catastrophic happens?  

  • Ed J wrote: "Will they still be able to say, “God is good!” even if things don’t go the way they plan or something catastrophic happens?" Great question and how do you see it when God redirects your plans? Can you see/admit the difference between lack of planning and God moving your team to where you need to be?
  • Larry McCrary wrote: Very good word Debbie. I really like to see groups do number one - "Cast the vision God has given and invite people to be a part of a prayer group for that vision".

1 year ago
br van

My first suggestion would be for you to contact missionaries who live in those areas to find out what they would suggest teams need to know because each location is different and requires different skills and equipment. My second suggestion is for those specifically going to sub-Saharan Africa. The IMB offers training called base camps that they offered throughout the United States that helped prepare people for coming to sub-Saharan Africa. If you're interested in coming to sub-Saharan Africa I would love to give you more information.


3 years ago
Ed J

I have had great teams going into a difficult place for the last five years. We have seen decisions but there is definately obstacles to overcome leading people into these areas. The two things I am mentioning are not descriptive of my teams but yet areas we have to overcome. A broad category I will list my two thing under are The Western Mindset. 

1) If I don't see any danger then danger must not be present. In difficult areas there is a real temptation for teams to become "comfortable" in their environment.  

2) Sunday School classes praying for teams. I know this one sounds strange and prayer, as you would expect, is not the problem. However, praying from a Western mindset has been a problem. I have had classes praying for those taking a trip in a hard plce and thier prayer was that the individual from thier class would "just go for it". In our western mindset that translates as overcome your fear and share the gospel; again a good thing. However, in difficult areas we must share the gospel but it must be when Jesus presents opportunities and it really has nothing to do with "just going for it". However, it has everything to do with listening to the Holy Spirit. Otherwise their is no reason to go! 



3 years ago
David Bosworth

One of the most helpful resources in regard to evaluating the effectiveness of your short term mission ministries is US Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission ( 


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