Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Church Based Missionary Training: Make A Plan

Stanley Davies writes, “The fundamental meaning of effectiveness is the achievement of planned results.” So, the question is, what’s the plan for Church Based Missions (CBM) and Church Based Missionary Training (CBMT)?

In this discussion series we acknowledge that the trend of missions in the U.S. today are local churches depending less on denominational and para-church mission organizations in sending missionaries and instead sending their own. Whether the mission project is a ten-day excursion or sending out career missionaries from their own congregation, CBM continues to grow in popularity. It’s estimated that between 2 and 4 million American’s go on mission trips each year. It’s important that there be a plan for CBM, but setting that issue aside, today’s topic is developing a plan for CBMT. Though not exhaustive, the graphic above is a starting point in addressing what should be taught through Church Based Missionary Training.

Short-Term Missionary Training - Even if a person is going to a field for a week or a month, there are certain things everyone should be aware of before landing in a foreign country. First, a crash course in cross-cultural communication is imperative. Issues of male and female interaction, touching, tone of speech and even eye contact has cultural implications. Second, understanding how other people see their world is vital. Though on this planet of over 6 billion, we humans share common experiences, not everyone sees the world as we do in the West. How do others see their world and what difference does it make? Third, the problem of cultural bias is an important issue to address before going to another country. Ethnocentrism is a subtle attitude of superiority/inferiority. It’s a problem with career missionaries and therefore important to talk about if one is only going to visit a country for two weeks. Fourth, the issue of money is always a concern, especially if the short-term project is in a developing country. Should American’s be open handed in giving clothes, food and/or money to a national church? Can generosity be a bad thing?

Good training goes beyond a study of behavior. It’s not what people do in other countries that’s important, but why they do it. Good CBMT for short-term groups should be at least a 20 hour classroom intensive, spanning at least a month, with reading and research requirements. For the best CBMT find a trainer who has lived through the experience of field missions and not just a short-term expert.

The longer the period of time on the field, the more training should be required. We will look at the second level of training next time. In the meantime, I invite readers to weigh in on this topic. What training do you think is important for short-term missions? What model have you seen that works?