In This Issue: Ten ways to tank your trip
- Short Summer Shot #2: Ten Ways to Totally Tank Your Short-term Mission Trip
- Related Articles
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Ten Ways to Totally Tank Your Short-term Mission Trip
Our last edition of Practical Mobilization offered ten reasons to get out of Dodge. Now, at the height of short-term mission season, I thought it would be fun to take a few minutes for a tongue-in-cheek celebration of a few of the innumerable mistakes that earnest short-termers (like me) often make.
In other words, here’s what not to do when you take to the road.
1. Keep people at home up-to-date on your trip.
You’re smart, so I’ll shoot straight: that title is actually code for “maintain the amount of social-media connectedness that you’re accustomed to regardless of what else is going on or the lengths to which you have to go to do so.”
This is a quick way to tank your trip. Prioritize tweets, status updates, and overly filtered sunset photos over serving and telling your new friends about Jesus. Even better, Google “international phone cards,” and get your cell phone set up to text and talk all the time.
2. Resent your host culture.
After all, if they weren’t so needy, you wouldn’t be here. In fact, if they just showed a little more initiative, maybe got a job or something, you wouldn’t need to come. You could be at the Junior Show Rider Equine Camp in Estes Park like that stuck-up Brianna MacPherson who is so lucky!
3. Envy your leaders.
I know, I know, they’re having all those little meetings off to the side. What are they talking about?!? Maybe it’s something really cool and important. And then when you have to go paint that really big wall and they’re off counseling a sad teammate.
(Some insider knowledge: the meetings usually aren’t that cool, and while it might be nice to drink coffee rather than paint in the hot sun, the burden of leadership is heavy. Really. For a dose of reality, next time take your own team!)
4. Dictate the menu.
Insist on high protein, low-fat, organically grown macrobiotically sound, “normal” food. And if you’re in a Christian’s home and are offered a beer or glass of wine, be sure to bring them up to speed that real Christians don’t drink.
5. Let your quiet time slide.
Heck, this whole trip is dedicated to God, right? Do you really need to spend special time with him? Surely not.
6. Prioritize your team relationships over local friendships.
After all, your teammates are the people who will go home with you – that’s why, right? The fact that you can understand their English without extra effort and that they laugh at your jokes has nothing to do with it.
7. Call fear and culture stress anything but “fear and culture stress.”
Chances are you’ll be asked to do stuff on your short term that you don’t do in normal life at home (although maybe you should!) This will generate fear and culture stress. But no one wants to be a pansy, so do this: just say you are really tired. And suffering from extraordinary jet lag (It’s tough to make this case – but doable – if you flew straight north or south. Or drove.) Or go all Ferris Bueller with “good, non-specific symptoms” that will make your team leader let you stay inside where it’s not so scary and foreign.
8. Compare yourself to the rest of the team.
Comparison is so versatile. Think you’re better or think you’re worse. Either way serves to sever your relationships.
9. Don’t try the local language.
Chances are “the nationals” will get a better job if they speak English, so help them out. While you’re at it, expand this avoidance to include local culture, transportation, time, and really anything that feels “local.”
10. Catalog the many ways your host culture is “different” from your home culture.
Repeat your leader’s mantra: It’s not better or worse, it’s just different. Sure. So go on, keep a list (and share it frequently) of the ways America (or wherever you call home) kicks this place’s tail.
11. Bonus item: fall in love.
(By all means, fall in love with the people you’re working among, but do so in a general, non-specific and/or individual sense! i.e., I love the Indianapolis Colts football team, but I’m not even thinking about dating any of them! Unless you brought your spouse on the trip, don’t date anyone on your team. And by “date,” I mean anything north of a second glance. This includes one-on-one counseling sessions, any empathetic listening after 9:30pm, and sitting next to one another on a train, bus, taxi, tuk tuk, auto-rickshaw, or camel.)
Are you up for a little mid-summer vulnerability? Click over to the Missions Catalyst website or our Facebook page and let us know which of these errors you’ve personally committed. Me? At least 2, 3, 5, 8, and 11. Although, regarding number 11, truth be told: though I fell in love with my wife-to-be on a short term, we obeyed the team’s “no dating” policy (almost totally 100%!).
As usual, if you can think of someone who’d benefit from reading this list, or maybe who’d smile and nod knowingly, please hit the forward button and encourage them to subscribe. Thank you. I’ll be back next month with the third and final “Super Short Summer Shot.”
Assessing and Processing a Mission Trip – Have you ever looked back on a mission trip or other ministry experience and wondered whether it was worth the time and money?
Seven Deadly Debriefing Debacles – Sometimes in the adventure and excitement of pulling a trip together, the sum-up section gets overlooked.
Vacations with a Purpose on the Rise – Have you seen Boomers in your church moving from a desire for success to a desire for significance?
Shane Bennett has served in missions mobilization since 1987, much of his energy going to recruiting, training, and sending short-term teams. He’s been on research teams in Bangkok, Bombay, and Turkey. He coauthored Exploring the Land, a guide to researching unreached peoples, and has written numerous articles.