As you think about 2017, what are you looking forward to?
Is this the year to step out and sign up for a short term serving trip?
If joining a team to serve in a different country or context is something you are thinking about, here are a few things to consider:
1. What’s your motivation?
Being aware of what motivates you can help you gauge if now is the right time to join a team. Maybe you have heard stories of work abroad and want to see it for yourself. Perhaps you have felt a burden for people living in economic poverty and want to help. It could be that you need to get a new perspective. Or maybe you sense God’s invitation to connect with His Church. These are all great motivators.
As you consider your motivation beware of feelings of escapism or savior complex. If you need a restful vacation or want to conquer a new adventure, it is probably best to just book a vacation rather than join a serving trip. A vacation and a serving trip are both great, they are just two separate things. It’s important to reflect on what you’re looking for.
2. How do you define "serve"?
The impact of serving for the short term is exponential if done in the context of ongoing, committed relationships. In this new context, you will be a guest in other people’s neighborhoods, work relationships, and lives. It’s unlikely that you will solve a lot of issues for people in one week or even one month, however your presence can serve people in the community you are visiting who do the work day in and day out.
Here are 3 ways you can serve:
Encourage - Visiting from far away to cheer others on in their work can be a great encouragement. The question that should be considered before planning and engaging in any activity with the church or community is, “Does this activity demonstrate solidarity and affirmation to the ongoing work.”
Fellowship - Building relationships, sharing meals, and worshipping together is service. Serving others in the world is an opportunity to bring the body of Christ together in an act of mutual respect and appreciation.
Learn - Humbling ourselves to learn from another culture, their leaders, and the church in another place communicates value. When we have a learning posture we serve others by acknowledging their expertise and God-given gifts they have to share with us.
3. Are you willing to be engaged for an extended period?
It might be hard to answer this question before you take the trip but it is worth thinking about from the beginning. You are going to expend a lot of resources- time, energy, and money, to take this trip. How could you steward those resources to ongoingly impact the mission of those you plan to serve? You may only be physically in the same place for a week or so but your impact could go on much longer if you are intentional about your engagement. Here are a couple of ideas for making the impact endure:
Make a 1 for 1 donation - the money you spend on the trip largely covers your own expenses. What would it take for you to donate that same amount to the organization you served with in the year following your return? At ENLACE, a short term serve team spends about $1200 per person. If four people from any given team gave a 1 for 1 donation, we could fund a Church and Community Coach for a year!
Become an advocate for the organization - if the people you met and work you experienced inspired you, tell others about it. You can continue to serve the people in the community by inviting your network to give and serve. Host your own welcome home party and share your experiences, direct your Christmas gifts to the serving organization, build a team to raise money by running a 10K race. The possibilities are endless.
There are many things to consider about joining a short term serve team. For more insights, download ENLACE’s Mission Pastors Guide Part 1 (even if you’re not a mission pastor).
If your church or business is interested in bringing a short term serve team to El Salvador in 2017, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org