Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Pre-field Training Page 1 of 2

follow-up and reinforcement of training

I don’t really know if the training went well

How can we know if it is effective?

I have spent the last 10 years of my life in training missionaries. Training events have taken me to more than a dozen countries. Through online courses, workers from at least twice that number have participated in training that I have led. Furthermore, I head up our organization’s training department and so have the privilege of leading a great team of trainers and facilitators. But despite my experience and travels, the question does not go away. How can we know if our training is effective?

Recently I saw that the parable of the sower sheds some light on this question.

The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. – Matthew 13:20–21

Biblical understanding

Jesus’s explanation of the seed falling on the stony ground shows us that a joyful response to the hearing of truth is no indication that people have understood the Word. As is clear from Matt. 13:15, a biblical sense of understanding is to understand with the heart, resulting in a change of behavior. We can only say that there is true understanding when the person repents and turns from their previous behavior to adopt new behaviors or habits.

Book Review: Well Sent

51xanlIajuL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_QL70_I have frequently been asked about resources for local church missions programs. In 2015, Steve Beirn, Global Ministries Pastor at Calvary Church in Lancaster, PA, published Well Sent: Reimaging the Church’s Missionary-Sending Process. Steve served at our sending church in Holland, Michigan before going to Calvary so I know him well. He writes with passion and experience. In the introduction he writes:

This book seeks to elevate the role of the local church in the sending effort. The trend in missions today is to place the individual at the center of the sending process. Sometimes the agency is placed at the center. This book places the local church at the center of the sending process. – Well Sent, p. 17.

The Vine Project: A review

Jesus told us to go and disciple all nations. That means that those of us who have been called and sent are to be disciplemakers who equip others to be disciplemakers as well. The question that I have been asking myself recently is, “Are the sending and training structures that we have established to help get people to the nations effective in equipping them to be disciplemakers?”  We train people to raise their support, learn and adjust to a new culture, learn to speak a new language, prepare for various security risks, educate their children, and get along with their teammates – but are they learning to become disciplemakers?

I read The Trellis and the Vine a number of years ago. This short book differentiated between the work of actually discipling people from the work of creating and maintaining the structures and programs that support this disciplemaking.  The former was called “vine work” and the latter “trellis work”.  The authors, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, made the sobering and accurate observation that often trellis work has taken over most of the church’s time and energy, so that very little actual disciplemaking is happening. The book called for a radical mindshift that would prioritize disciplemaking over programs and building organizations.

A lot more preparation required

My wife loves to host people.  She is a great cook, and will often spend most of the day preparing a meal for our dinner guests. My participation in the preparations is decidedly less.  Maybe all the guests are thankful for that.  Admittedly, I don’t know much about how to prepare a great meal for guests.  But I have watched someone who does!

In a parable-like format, Proverbs 9 presents two different women inviting people to a meal.  The same invitation rings out in both Prov. 9:4 and Prov. 9:16:

Let all who are simple come to my house!

Tanks and training for missions

God can transform the most painful experiences of our childhood into preparation to bless others.  Joseph told his brothers many years after they sold him into slavery, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:20).

I just finished listening to a similar story.   In The Tank Man’s Son: A Memoir, Mark Bouman shares his gut-wrenching account of pain and misery, while growing  up in rural Michigan. He was the son of an abusive man who owned a tank, and ran a gun range near his home where military weapons of various kinds were regularly (and illegally) fired.  His memories are terrifying – and at times comical – but always highly unusual. As a young boy, he suffered shrapnel wounds while helping his dad with the shooting range.  He found a huge tree root sticking through the roof of their home when their father used too much dynamite to blow up a stump.  He watched his father and his friends play war games in his backyard at night. His parents’ home was unfinished, marked by holes in the floors and broken fixtures, and situated on 11 acres of garbage and various items crushed by the tank or left to rust.  But above all else, Mark’s childhood was ruled by fear of his father’s totally unpredictable outbursts of anger and regular physical abuse.

Training vs Development

Recently, I have been thinking about the difference between training and development. Both are important, SEND U is committed to both, but they are different. As Steve Moore said in a recent Missio Nexus webinar, training is oriented around the needs of the organization, while development is oriented around the needs of the individual.

Let me illustrate. Our Member Orientation Program is a training event. SEND U has put together a list of objectives for MOP, describing the learning activities and content that we believe will help a new missionary develop the competency they will need.

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