A note from Kelly King: Have you considered taking a small group of women on a short-term mission trip? If not, I would highly encourage you to take some steps toward opening the eyes of your women to God’s heart for the nations. Whether it’s joining with missionaries connected to your church or praying for an opportunity to establish a new partnership, Ashley Chesnut gives some excellent tips to prepare your women to “go” and “be sent.”
“I think God might be calling me into ministry overseas. Will you go with me on a short-term trip?”
That’s how I ended up leading my first mission trip, and that particular college girl and I ended up going on two short-term trips together—one to Southeast Asia and one to the Middle East—as she discerned God’s call on her life. Through those trips, she was exposed to ministry in two very different contexts, was able to share the gospel with Buddhists and Muslims, and got the opportunity to hear from ministry partners who left family and comfortable lives in the U.S. to move across the globe in order to share Christ with unreached people groups.
Now, I’m in a ministry position where leading a short-term trip each year is part of my job. While every trip and every part of the world is unique, here are three things I’ve learned that can help you spiritually prepare others for a short-term mission trip.
1. Prepare with Prayer and Fasting.
You cannot pray enough. Before one trip to the Middle East, our ministry partner there encouraged our team to set aside one day a week to pray and fast for the two to three months leading up to the trip, and I’m so thankful we did. That was the hardest trip I’ve ever been on. Before, during, and after the trip, we encountered spiritual warfare—everything from health issues to phone issues to conversations shutting down for weird reasons as soon as someone expressed an interest in what we were sharing.
It reminded me of the parable of the sower and the seed and the seed that fell on the path and was devoured by birds before anything could be done with it (Mark 4:4). We watched that happen over and over again in conversations. Something would happen, and the person would get a phone call, someone would interrupt our conversation, or a toddler would get shut up in the refrigerator. (That actually happened not once but twice when talking about spiritual things with a group of ladies.) The gospel seed would be eaten before it could even have a chance to be planted.
Our enemy is real, and he does not want God’s gospel to advance. So pray. Pray for God to prepare the hearts of those you’ll encounter. Pray for team unity. Pray for health. Pray for boldness in sharing and wisdom in what to say. Pray and fast in the weeks leading up to your trip. We prepare physically with our shopping lists, travel insurance, immunizations, etc., but be sure to prepare your own heart before going and encourage your team to do the same.
2. Learn about the culture and context you’re visiting.
What do the people there believe? What people groups are represented in that context? What do you need to know logistically about transportation, money, communication, etc. in that context? If you have people who have done ministry in that context before, have them share with your team, or if schedules don’t allow for that, meet with them yourself to pick their brains and hear their stories.
I usually try to have at least three to four team meetings before taking a team overseas, which is the recommendation of the church I attend. One meeting is a get-to-know you meeting for the team. One is used for evangelism training. Another is for discussing culture, meeting with a ministry partner, etc., and a fourth meeting is reserved for logistics and preparation related to what we’ll be doing when there. At each of these meetings, we’re also spending time praying together as a team.
In addition to the team meetings, I’ll give the team things to read about the people, religion, etc. related to where we’re going. Usually for me, these recommendations come from the ministry partner. For example, if you are going to a Muslim context, read something about sharing the gospel with Muslims such as Breaking the Islam Code by J.D. Greear, or if you’re working with a culture that is a shame/honor culture or a collectivist culture in contrast to typical American individualistic culture, read something on cultural sensitivity such as Cross-Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer. Resources such as these help us to be aware of how we can avoid cultural misunderstandings and how we can share the gospel in a way that is best understood by the people in that context.
3. Practice sharing the gospel here.
Our church requires all short-term teams to spend at least one team meeting learning how to share the gospel and going out to practice. What we do on a short-term trip should be indicative of what we do in daily life. It’s not that sharing the gospel on a mission trip meets some sort of quota until we go on next year’s trip. The Great Commission—to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20)—applies to every believer, and we should be obedient to this command throughout the year in the spheres God has placed us.
Whatever evangelistic method you use to train your team (the bridge, 3 circles, any 3, etc.), make sure they have an opportunity to practice in the team setting to gain confidence in what they’re sharing. But don’t just stop there. Go out into the harvest in your own community. It might be a shopping mall, door-to-door in a neighborhood near your church, at a park, or at a mosque or temple in your community. But go out together then come back to debrief how it went and to pray for those you encountered.
Will it be uncomfortable? Yes. Will conversations be awkward? Sometimes. Will you struggle with boldness or with how to transition the conversation to spiritual things? Maybe yes, maybe no. But I think about a statement Elizabeth Bennet makes to Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice when he excuses his unsociable behavior at a dance by remarking that he is “ill qualified to recommend [himself] to strangers.” Elizabeth replies that she doesn’t play the piano well, “But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault—because I would not take the trouble of practicing.”
Yes, the Holy Spirit does give some believers the gift of evangelism, but while that is not my gift, I can grow in my ability to communicate the gospel. I can and should practice telling others about the hope that I have in Christ. To be honest, I’m not always obedient in this, and I often struggle in conversations. A friend and I recently shared a dinner table with two Muslim girls in a mall food court, and after the convo, my friend and I debriefed our response to a particular question. In the moment, we both felt like we could have and should have said more, but in the moment, nothing came to us. We talked through how we could respond differently next time, and we prayed that God would work in the girls’ hearts. At the end of the day, God is big enough to work through what we say and despite what we didn’t say, so I put my trust in Him—not my abilities or communication skills—knowing that He loves those girls more than anyone else in the universe.
Going back to that college student who asked me to take her on a short-term trip, she’s now graduated, married, and parenting two littles, and God used our two trips together to confirm that He was indeed leading her to marry her husband and to serve with him overseas. Each month, I receive their email updates and get the privilege of praying for them as they build relationships, equip local believers, and share the gospel in a very difficult context. While not every person who goes with you on a short-term trip will end up overseas as a missionary, God often uses short-term trips to change our perspective and, hopefully, to affect how we live when we return.
We can and should share the gospel in the neighborhoods and community in which we live. We have unbelievers and unreached people groups living right here in our states and in our country. Whether you lead a short-term trip somewhere in the U.S. or somewhere overseas, pray and fast as you prepare, learn about the culture and context you’re visiting, and practice sharing the gospel here before you go do it there.
Ashley Chesnut serves as the Associate Singles 20s/30s Minister at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. She has a Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School and a Certificate of Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. While Ashley has a passion for discipling young women, she also loves her city and has written a children’s book about it called Down in the Ham: A Child’s Guide to Downtown Birmingham. When she’s not at the church or meeting with girls, you can probably find her at the farmer’s market or trying some new local restaurant.