This past week, our church had a mission team in town helping us canvass neighborhoods, put on block parties, and do flash mobs around Ogden. Yes, flash mobs! But, not the kind you normally see on Youtube. The team this week was a youth choir, and many of them played other instruments. Two girls had violins, one of the kids played a djembe, and seven or eight of the guys hit these percussion tubes with different tones in each one. They sang songs based on the Gospel and then passed out cards inviting people to come to our block parties. It went incredibly well! The team talked to people, shared the Gospel with people, and had a great attitude about all that they did. I’m excited for every single mission team that we have coming the rest of the summer!
I love weeks when mission teams come to help. They’re always encouraging weeks, filled with excitement, and a lot of awesome ministry happens in a short period of time. Each summer that we have teams, we are able to multiply the ministry, and it is usually a growing period for us as a church.
But, I do know that not all of my church planter friends have the same enthusiasm for mission teams. That is unfortunate because I believe mission teams can be a tremendous asset to a church plant. To see them as an asset, a church planter has to overcome several excuses and problems in order to use mission teams effectively.
1. Church planters are already pulled in a thousand directions.
Many church planters are bivocational, trying to spend time with their families, meet with people, plan sermons and Bible studies, build ministry teams, organize small groups, develop new leaders, disciple people, and somehow not go crazy in the process. When they try to think about a mission team, they don’t know even where to begin. Part of the problem for church planters is being able to see that mission teams can do things for them that they are struggling to manage. A church planter can consolidate his tasks through the use of a mission team that’s intentional and focused.
2. Church planters don’t know how to articulate their needs.
Church planters usually have the temperament to be entrepreneurial. That means they are really good at having new ideas and executing new ideas. But, we often struggle in the area of preparation and foresight. To prepare well, you have to know where you are going and being able to articulate the needs along the way. Once you articulate your needs and the roadblocks you have in achieving your goals, you can start to think through solutions and ways that the mission team can help accomplish those goals. Again, this takes time to plan and prepare. It’s too easy to be caught up in what seems urgent and missing that which is important.
3. They can’t afford the ministry activities in which a mission team will be engaged.
As young church plants, we are missing one of the main resources to do all the ideas we want to do. That resource is money. It’s the one that is most needed but the hardest to acquire. When we think mission teams, maybe the problem is that we think we can’t afford to pay for the activity. One solution to this problem is to ask the mission team to help pay for some of the activities. Many of the churches want to be a blessing when they come. They don’t want to be a drain on the church plant but a help to assist the church plant, but often what happens is the church planter is too afraid to broach the subject of money and need. So, instead of the trip being a win-win for both parties, it becomes something else entirely. I know of one church planter who plans all the logistics and lodging for the mission teams coming in and then charges the team a per-person fee to cover expenses of logistics and to cover ministry expenses. He’s upfront with costs which again helps the church plant and helps the mission team prepare appropriately.
4. They don’t have the time to direct a mission team.
Money is one of the hardest resources to acquire, but time is another. Everything is fighting for your time, so a church planter may think that he does not have the time to work with a team on the ground. There are some ways to deal with this though. Again, planning and preparation are musts. You can’t just wing it when they get there or they’ll have nothing to do. Also, you can find others who can help out with that task inside your church. We’ve got three interns this summer that are helping us by working with mission teams, assisting them in their needs, and plugging them into valuable ministry activities.
5. They are unsure how to plug in a mission team.
Many planters are not sure what to do with a team when they get there. We use mission teams for a variety of things, but I see several main goals we are always trying to achieve.
The first is that we are always trying to share the Gospel and further the message. That means we can get the team involved in personal evangelism or other activities where they can interact in the community. One way we do this is by going to our local university and getting them to talk to students around campus.
The second is to get the word out about the church. We meet in a rented theater and don’t have a permanent sign that is up every week. A team can canvass neighborhoods, put up signs, and pass out flyers in a short timespan. They wear T-shirts, swarm local restaurants, and are noticed in the community when they are here. It causes good conversation and allows the team to share why they are here.
The third is that it allows us to be visibly generous to the community. We want to always be a church that is generous, but when a mission team is here, we can make a more visible impact in the community. We do this in a lot of ways. Sometimes, it’s a block party. Other times, we’ll send them to businesses with candy bars or donuts and hand them out for free.
Mission teams can be a great benefit to a new church plant that lacks resources such as time, finances, and people. They can help support a new plant by taking on big tasks and furthering the mission of the kingdom, but it takes a good deal of planning and thought beforehand.