TEN QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER WHEN RETHINKING THIS SUMMER'S MISSION EXPERIENCES
By: Laura Beach Byrch with contributions from the MET Operations Team
With most mission trips, both international and domestic, being canceled this summer due to travel and gathering restrictions surrounding COVID-19, many pastors, mission directors, and youth leaders are beginning to look into alternatives. As you plan what’s best for your context to engage in mission this summer, here are a few questions to consider:
- Are you feeling internal pressure to create this mission experience or is it genuinely what your people want/need right now?
As paid church staff, we may be feeling an internal pressure to “produce” in order to justify or prove that we’re still working hard and delivering the same level of service as we were pre-pandemic. Before you begin planning a unique summer experience, check-in with your group (and perhaps youth parents, for youth trips). Is there genuine “demand” for a summer mission experience? Are they really craving an in-person local group experience? Virtual connection? “At home” or “family” mission opportunities? Or do they just need summer to rest?
- Are you communicating with your congregation, church leadership, and hosting organizations about your summer mission journey intentions?
Often, the summer mission is a great way to highlight how your church is engaging in the community and world. Communicating intentions at the same time highlighting your partnerships is a good way to share good news during this pandemic. Also, don’t forget to be in regular communication with your partner organizations as to any changes you may need to make this summer.
- Will gathering online be a means of learning and transformation or are you just trying to offer something “because we always do”?
Take time to think through the goals of your summer experience. Is it really about creating group coherence and learning for your group members? About meeting a physical/tangible need in the community? About sustaining a long-term partnering relationship? Make sure the format and content you choose align with your purpose.
- Would your group be better served by doing a deep dive and gaining a greater understanding of best practices in mission? Maybe the “pause” this summer is a chance to dig deep, reevaluate and look at how you engage in mission as a church and what shifts you might want to make. Possible resources to study together could be From Relief to Empowerment, Helping Without Hurting in Short Term Missions, and God’s Mission… Our Journey.
- What technology and virtual tools do your participants have available?
Many students are currently using school-issued devices for e-learning. These devices are often turned in during summer months. Also, some seniors may not have any internet-ready devices (or even email). When considering how to offer a virtual mission experience, think about who does, or more importantly, who does not have access to the technology you hope to use.
- Is there something already created and available that meets the need?
Many non-profits across the world have been creating free content, programming, and lessons for students of all ages. Rather than re-create something, is it possible to use what is already available and send a monetary donation to the content creator? For example, non-profits such as zoos, museums, educational groups are struggling to stay afloat after a decrease in entrance fees and donations. How might your participants learn from available resources and financially support ongoing educational and artistic work?
- Will asking your Mission or Community partner to engage with your group be an undue burden on them?
In all that we do, we seek to do good and do no harm. While asking an international partner (or even a local one) to connect virtually might be meaningful for your group, do they have the time, technology, and resources to engage with you? Will local organizations you seek to partner with actually benefit from your service or are they just coming up with a project to make you feel good, and diverting attention from the critical needs they are trying to meet?
- Is it possible to send the money you would have spent on travel, lodging, food, etc to the community where you were planning to go, so they can meet critical needs?
The community your church would have partnered with is likely facing the general economic impact of the pandemic, and may also be losing revenue associated with hosting mission teams. As your group is able, offer the opportunity for them to donate back refunded plane tickets or group registration fees (or give in other ways). Your partners might be able to hire local people to do the work, thereby giving their local economy a boost!
- Could this summer be an opportunity to learn more about your own community?
So often it is easier to go “over there” and serve. Perhaps this summer, your group (as individuals, families, or possibly together) could engage in practices that will invite you to see your own neighborhood, town, or city with new eyes. Consider participating in a Neighborhood Walk.
- If you gather in person, will you be able to take reasonable precautions to maintain social distancing and practice proper hygiene?
No one wants their mission team to become the next outbreak in your community!
This post is loosely based off “Considerations Before Opening”
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