SEND U blog

Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

baton transfer

Finishing Well: Transferring the Baton

We are finally getting to the finishing part in our series on finishing well in a ministry assignment. In a relay race, transferring the baton is crucial to finishing well. For example, the US 4 x 100 meter relay team was disqualified in the 1988 Olympics for a late handoff. In a similar way, how we transfer responsibility and leadership defines to a large extent whether we finish well in a ministry assignment.

The incoming runner has the primary responsibility for the transfer of the baton. Specifically, he/she places the baton so that the outgoing runner can grasp it most efficiently. In a church planting assignment, the missionary is directly involved in the training of emerging leaders. However, in administrative assignments, there is usually less involvement in selecting a successor. Nevertheless, one can leave behind a “Policy and Procedure Guide” or a step-by-step manual for the next person filling that role. So, what characterizes a good transfer when we finish our ministry assignment?

The Transfer is Intentional

Throughout his book, Passing the Baton: Church Planting that Empowers, Tom Steffen emphasizes “a comprehensive, phase-out church planting model” (p 7). From the very beginning, the church planting team intends to transfer responsibility and leadership. In other words, this transfer plan guides the whole process of church planting.

Likewise, in an administrative role, we recognize that others will follow us in the role. We are intentional in passing the baton to those who follow us. Successfully transferring responsibility may include cross-training others in the office prior to our departure. 1Cross-training is the practice of training your people to work in several different roles,2 or training them to do tasks that lie outside their normal responsibilities (from Cross-Training – Team Management Skills From MindTools.com). Furthermore, putting together an up-to-date procedural manual will contribute to a smooth transfer. Of course, we also need to spend adequate time in the transition zone. More about that later.

emotional baggage
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Helping People Move Past Their Past

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This ninth pillar was co-authored by Jim and his wife Bev. It deals with how to help mentees deal with their emotional baggage from the past.

A friend asked me a great question some time ago. “What are some of the emergency brakes in your life, which if released, would bring you to a whole new potential for Christ?”

There are both external and internal brakes. External brakes are things such as lack of funds, not being on an effective team, or not having the skills we need to be effective. But internal brakes are things like emotional baggage, lies we believe, and idols that limit and enslave us.

Dealing with emotional baggage

We all have a personal history, but it is the negative feelings and responses we have about the past that we call emotional baggage. These need attention so we can move ahead in our lives and go on to maturity in Christ.

This is not easy to do, as Kierkegaard reminds us:

It is really true what philosophy tells us, that life must be understood backwards. But with this, one forgets the second proposition, that it must be lived forwards. A proposition which, the more it is subjected to careful thought, the more it ends up concluding precisely that life at any given moment cannot really ever be fully understood; exactly because there is no single moment where time stops completely in order for me to take position [to do this]: going backwards.’

Soren Kierkegaard

This is a hard topic to tackle in one blog post. We are basically only opening the subject here. But it is vital that we address it. We have observed the effect of unresolved past issues both in our own lives and in the lives of others. Here are a couple of thoughts on the subject:

  1. Working through issues of the past is a process that we come back to through various stages of our life’s journey and the seasons of our life.
  2. All of us deal with areas of dysfunction (after all we’re human!). In times of stress, we tend to revert to coping mechanisms we picked up as children.
  3. We need to be alert as to when it is necessary to refer people to professionals for the type of help we cannot provide due to our lack of training.
online training skills
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Online training: sharpening your skills

Online education and training have been around for a long time. But over this past year, many of us have had the opportunity and necessity to experience online training like never before. This is also true for the training of missionaries getting ready to head to the field. Facilitating an online training session is inherently different from facilitating a training module face-to-face. Since online instruction is likely here to stay, those of us involved in training missionaries should continue to sharpen our skills for facilitating online. Here are some things we have learned in the past year that help promote an effective online learning environment.

Use a variety of methods

A good principle of education is to use a variety of different teaching methods. Doing so connects with the various learning styles of your learners. This principle also holds true online. Asynchronous courses with forum discussions have existed in online learning for over 10 years. Some learners will thrive in this kind of setting, particularly if they like to carefully think through their answers before responding. In an asynchronous environment, they can read books, blog posts, and watch videos, reflect on them, and then respond when they are ready in writing through forum posts.

More recently, video conference platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Teams have become popular ways to facilitate. In this setting, other types of learners will thrive. They have a set time to connect and a more immediate response in the discussion.

So, when you design an online curriculum, seek to cater to as many personalities and learning styles as possible. Maybe your training course can include both asynchronous forum discussions and some live video conference sessions as well.

Break the ice

It may feel natural to introduce yourself to a fellow learner or a facilitator in a physical classroom setting when you first walk into the room or during a class break. But this can feel much more awkward in a virtual setting when you enter a virtual “room” that is already “full” of people, and no one is in closer physical proximity to you than anyone else.

running well
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Finishing Well: Running Your Leg of the Race

Let’s continue thinking about finishing well in a ministry assignment. In our last blog post, we talked about receiving the baton well. So now we are running our leg of the race. We are now fully engaged in our ministry assignment. Furthermore, we have a working knowledge of our host language and culture. Yes, we will want to continue to grow in these areas as we serve. But it is now our turn to run well with the baton we have been given.

How we run our leg of the race will significantly impact finishing well. Of course, we want our ministry to further the progress of the gospel. We want to make a contribution to the contextualization of the gospel in our host culture, building on the progress of those who served before us. In the New Testament, Paul and the author of Hebrews use the race analogy to describe ministry and the Christian life. At the end of Paul’s life, he writes, “I have finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:7). So, what gave him a sense of finishing well? I see four ways we can run like Paul to finish well.

We Run with a Clear Purpose

Paul’s life was guided by a clear purpose. We see this in passages such as Acts 20:24, 1 Corinthians 9:23, and Philippians 3:14. In Acts 20:24 he describes his life as “my course” (the same word translated in 2 Timothy 4:7 as “race”). Notably, Paul identifies his purpose as completing his God-given work of faithfully “testifying to the gospel of the grace of God.” This goal drives him forward.1 1 Cor 9:23, Phil 3:14 He is focused on the prize awaiting him at the finish line. Eckhard Schnabel writes in his commentary on Acts,

soul rest
Photo by S Migaj on Unsplash

Vacation and Soul Rest

Vacation time

August is vacation time for many of us serving in cross-cultural missions. Whereas July is often busy with various camps and short-term teams, August is more often focused on spending time with family and enjoying the warm weather before classes and the fall ministry schedule begin again. As expected, in the last few weeks, I have received innumerable “out-of-office” notifications from my colleagues. This morning, I had only a couple of new emails and messages to which I need to respond. This is the predictable pause in August while colleagues take a break from ministry. It almost causes us to forget how very unpredictable and disrupted our lives have been in the last 18 months.

Finding rest for your soul

But a break from ministry while taking some vacation time does not always result in soul rest. Some people seem to need a vacation to recover from their vacation! Unfortunately, vacation does not nearly always result in people returning refreshed and rested. We may feel physically rested. But since most of us are not involved in much manual labour, physical rest is not the primary objective of our vacation. As knowledge workers, we want to rest our minds, our hearts, our center core, that which we call our soul. But as we sometimes ruefully admit to ourselves, taking some vacation time did not result in soul rest. How does one actually rest one’s soul?

receiving the baton

Finishing Well: Receiving the Baton

As we continue to think about finishing well in a ministry assignment, let’s return to the beginning of our leg of the race. Starting well sets the stage for finishing well. In a relay race, the team that exchanges the baton most efficiently usually wins. So beginning our lap by smoothly receiving the baton will increase the likelihood that we will finish well.

In a relay race, a runner must pay attention to the preceding runner. Particularly, one needs to know which hand holds the baton so a smooth transfer can happen. The assigned lane one’s team is running in is also essential to know. Moreover, the placement the previous runner has achieved is also important information for the team’s success.

We tend to act as if history started when we arrived on the ministry scene. I did when I came to Alaska back in 1978. Yet, it didn’t take long to realize there was much to learn from those who came before me. So, it is important that we begin our assignment by learning from previous runners. More importantly, how we receive the baton will prepare us to pass it on well to those who follow us.

a grace environment
Photo by Nicole Michalou from Pexels

Creating a grace environment

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This eighth pillar explains the importance of establishing a grace-filled environment in the mentoring relationship.

To my daughter Susan, the ambiance is everything. Even as a child her favorite way to help was to create a beautiful table, or to make welcome signs when friends were coming over. To her the atmosphere set the mood for loving relationships. It gave signals to those who entered our home that it was okay to be yourself, that you would be accepted there. She wanted people to feel that they could be at home in our family, that they belonged there. This desire of Susan for a loving environment flowed from her gifts of mercy and hospitality. To this day, this is still a vital part of Susan’s ministry.

Environment of grace

She was right! An environment of grace does release a positive response in people leading to powerful outcomes. In it, people sense the freedom to be transparent and vulnerable. They feel safe to express themselves, they trust each other and they learn to speak truth to one another. They forgive each other and often walk out of their darkness into light, revealing and confessing their sins to each other. Mutual acceptance and forgiveness are given, as is the freedom to fail and disagree.

In this environment, learning is made fun, and people celebrate each other’s lives with laughter and joy. A grace atmosphere pours through them to others, fostering creativity and hope, and nurturing the learning process and growth. It attracts others into the Kingdom. Just to be in such an atmosphere is to be bathed in a healing power and to experience the presence of God. Grace sets the pitch for the music of the mentoring relationship.

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