• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Out of Context Thinking About Interns & Short-Term Teams

Some of you were probably wondering after reading my post from the other day (08.09.2010): “What was that innovative idea about using interns that David had come up with while on that trail in southeastern France?”  The idea was not what was most important. It was the principle(s) which caused me to look at a project from a different perspective, an “out of context” perspective, and which gave rise to innovative ways of approaching a project, namely working with interns. 

Priscilla Stothers, in her article in the most recent eLink (July/August edition): Why Bother With Short-Termers?  A World Teamer’s Perspective, does an excellent job of rehearsing this very thought, that it is a principled approach that can give rise to innovative ideas.  She writes: “The missionary can play a key role, serving as a bridge between two worlds, preparing both the team and nationals for the enriching experience that will bless all involved. If a short-term team humbly offers their talents and resources to the church / community and invite missionary and national leaders to be involved in deciding how best to use their gift for the sake of the Kingdom, good things can happen. When both the team and the nationals work alongside one another in a mutual effort the team is challenged to listen to the “heart” of the host and to deepen their grasp of what God is doing here.”

Rather than seeing interns and short-term teams as an intrusion or a bother, Priscilla pushes us to consider how they can actually grow in spiritual character formation as well as help us (long term workers and national churches) complete needed ministry tasks while serving alongside of us.  The ultimate goal is not to give people a good experience, but to help them, and us, “deepen their grasp of what God is doing here.”  Now that would certainly change the way we approach workers and teams coming out on a shorter term basis.

So, what do you think?  Part of the Global Mobilization Project Plan approved by the WT International board in May 2010 is to increase the number of opportunities and avenues for people to experience and engage in cross-cultural ministry (short and mid-term workers).  What “out of context” approaches should we be considering or avoiding?

3 Responses

  1. We were just discussing this issue in our meeting with Chuck Sutton, Steve Miller and Bob Mackey. I have a conviction that having a “developmental mindset” is something that is crucial for a lifestyle of investing in others’ growth and development. I’m not sure that this is something you can train others to do. It seems to me that it is something people innately or not. I would think leaders would want to develop it, but if they don’t I’m not sure how we can “develop” it in them.

    • “Developmental” is crucial.

      In mobilization/recruitment, there is 1. the recruitment model [we need someone desparately for (insert position here) and the kingdom cannot advance as well without them; 2. the placement model [a growing sense of awareness of other organizations and what they do is important to this model, providing candidates with knowledgable referral/placement to other agencies; and there’s 3. the developmental model [begins with something akin to a theologically/biblically informed life coaching journey, helping people find their place in the Kingdom, developing their giftedness in a way that advances the Kingdom – no matter where they will work.

      All of these models are important to Mobilization, but the heartbeat of the recruitment cycle must be developmental, especially with RACE as a tangible goal. While assessing the candidates/leads in initial stages, we can correspondantly increase their levels of self-awareness (what did God have in mind when he created me?), God-awareness (what is God really like? What does he want me to do? Can I trust him?) and World-Awareness (what are the greatest needs? How can I join with God in blessing the nations?)

      First, we need to help people grow in inital interviews/important conversations: personality, passions, talents, skills and spiritual gifts; then we can get into a placement sort of conversation.

      Having the right questions is essential, so you can find out if the person you are talking with has the right amount of self-awareness in order to be placed or respond to the recruitment need (models 1 and 2). Then ask the questions: Are they interested in being developed? Is World Team the one to help develop them? Do they fit a developmental approach (flexibility, teachability, humility, maturity, etc.).

      In looking at mobilization this way, the following frustrations/needs are organically and faithfully (as service) overcome/met: the maturity level of candidates, their ability to articulate calling, their giftedness/fit are observed and served.

      Mobilization in the US is looking at recruitment as the first step in a developmental process that will continue through RACE, the appointee process and finally to the field, helping the candidate/lead articulate calling and map God’s work in the life and the giftedness He’s blessed them with. And even if they don’t come with World Team, the initial conversation can develop in them a way of looking at their lives as belonging to Christ, who equips them for the work He has prepared for them to do, all things working together for this good.

  2. Great thoughts, David. Internships provide opportunity for mutual sanctification to be sure, grace sharpening grace.

    In Mobilization, we’ve also been paying close attention to the opportunity internships present for sanctifying churches and even family relationships – building bridges from field church to local church.

    Our approach to engaging interns in 2011 will involve a deep commitment to incorporating the Body of Christ more fully into the intern sending process. This means communicating with pastors and inviting them to come alongside World Team in the initial orientation/planning/praying stages. Pastors can then invite World Team into greater/broader involvement and discussions, to include presenting the internship candidate to the church while also presenting World Team.

    If coached properly, interns can spur whole congregations, exposing them to the need and opportunity presented to them on the field. (This has implications for development relationships, as well.)

    In a recent study conducted by Priest, Wilson and Johnson, entitled U.S. Megachurches and New Patterns for Global Mission: Missiological Considerations, they found what we all know by now: “the large increase in expenditures for ministry abroad [is not] channeled into a corresponding increase in support of career missionaries.” Approach to candidates has been more individual with large churches/institutions acting as sponsors.

    Surprisingly, Robert Wuthnow estimates, “nearly a third of all U.S. mission funding is currently channeled in support of short-term missions.” The resources are there; the interest is there.

    Donald Miller issues an “immodest” proposal: “every church in the United States should create a relationship with a church in the developing world.”

    Mobilization’s local church and hub church relationships can work to implement such a proposal, especially as the reported order of priority in church-to-church partnerships lists church planting, missions to the unreached, and evangelizing the Muslim world as their top three.

    World Team internships can meet that prioritized demand while creating relationships with churches that can translate into ChurchLink partnerships, further individual recruitment leads, and/or additional prayer and financial support.

    Internships should be congregational, in that each intern is a member of the local Body. Contextualizing the internship within their congregation creates the further opportunity to communicate the field and cast the vision presented by the field to the local church via an ambassador.

    Furthermore, church leadership and church pastors need missiological resource and help. Internships provide another opportunity for World Team to serve the local church.

    Prioritizing church relations in our internship efforts will create a greater network for Mobilization, but it will also serve the local church’s prioritized missiological concerns/needs, not to mention coming alongside one of their church members together for strength and support in decisions of calling and commitment. Just another way Mobilization can serve servants.

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