Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Team Time

My current writing project, It’s Tuesday.  Now What Do I Do? is a guide for first term missionaries.   Often new missionaries are not really sure how to get into culture and begin ministry when they arrive on the field.   Tuesday gives tips on what people can do their first year overseas.  In one chapter I discuss what NOT to do.  One thing I suggest a missionaries not do is spend all their time with people from their own culture.   An expatriate who is always with people of their own culture will have a hard time learning language and making friends with people of the host culture.   I am not suggesting they never visit people from their own country, but moderation and discipline needs to be applied if the missionary hopes to adjust to their new surroundings.

One trap missionaries get into that keeps them from getting into culture is team activities.  “Teams” are a popular concept in missions today.  Some organizations spend a great deal of effort in putting teams together believing that a team is more effective in ministry than individual effort.   Jesus had his disciples, Paul had his Barnabas, Silas, Luke and Timothy.   No one person has all the gifts for ministry and there is wisdom in developing teams to maximize efforts on the field.  I have observed, however, that sometimes team activities are so numerous that there is little time left for actually doing the work.   Because learning language is a chore and making friends with people who are not like you is challenging, it’s pretty easy for some people to just hang around the team, in fact team becomes THE ministry.  There are team meetings, team retreats, team prayer time and team dinners.  To have good teams there are team leaders, regional team directors and even team pastors. 

Adapting to new surroundings and adjusting to a new culture is not an easy task.  The enculturation process is hampered if we spend too much time with our colleagues.  The team should be in place for support in ministry.  Team activity can too easily become just busy work that keeps us from actually doing ministry.