SEND U blog

Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

affirmation
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The Power of Affirmation

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 eleventh pillar talks about how powerful affirmation can be in a mentoring relationship.

Every one of us is a flickering flame. We need people to both cup their hands around us to protect the flame from going out and to fan it into a stronger burning flame. They can do so by giving verbal affirmation. Encouragement, affirmation, exhortation, admonition, and blessing are all words used interchangeably in Scripture.

A study of men and women of God suggests that God uses both affirmation and the deprivation of it as tools in our formation. God uniquely designs adversity, pain, suffering, trials, and his discipline as well as adversity to shape us into His likeness. They are gifts from his loving hand. In this mentoring pillar, affirmation will be our primary focus.

David blesses his family

“And David went home to bless his family.” Two times in Scripture at least,1 2 Samuel 6:20; 1 Chron. 16:43 this phrase is mentioned about David. After he had led his soldiers into victory, David chose to go home and to bless and affirm his family. Nothing was so important to him at a time when his family needed to see him and he needed to be with them. Their relationship brought mutual encouragement. He found blessing from his family, and blessing his family was a supreme role to him as a father. David knew that no one could honor and bring verbal affirmation as powerfully as he could.

All of us know people who come from a family which was blessed by a father and mother, where grace filled the home. We know them, for they dispense grace and bless every one of us.

Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU from Pexels

Finishing Well: Cheering the Next Runner

What would you think of a relay runner who went to the locker room right after completing his or her lap? Perhaps you would think the runner had suffered an injury or had some other health concern. Aside from that, we would question their relationship with the rest of the team. A healthy relay team recognizes that success depends on the performance of each runner. Therefore, each member of the team who has completed their leg stays on the field and cheers on the remaining runners. They stay off the track and cheer from the sidelines.

In this series, we have been using the analogy of a relay race for finishing well in a ministry assignment. So, how do we cheer those who follow us as we complete our ministry assignment? How do we keep from getting in the way of their performance? Our relationship with those who follow us in ministry shapes our cheering for them as they run their lap.

Relationships Matter

Yes, it would be strange for a relay runner to go directly to the locker room. Similarly, it would be tragic for church planters to cut off the relationship with the local church leaders who succeed them in leading the new church. Tom Steffen wrote:

The seventh and final component is determining how church planters can maintain good relationships after the phase-out. They work themselves out of a job, but not out of a relationship. Continued fellowship includes prayer, visits, letters of challenge and encouragement, sending other people to visit, and cautious financial assistance.

Tom Steffen, Passing the Baton, p. 18.
intercession
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Intercession: The Indispensable Priority in Mentoring

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 tenth pillar emphasizes the importance of intercession in the mentoring relationship.

My mother’s intercession for me

Minneapolis was a great place to grow up. Its people gave me a positive spiritual heritage. My mother gave me to God as Hannah did with Samuel. She had lost her second child by miscarriage and then I entered this world. My mother never told me she had “lent me to God for His purposes” until I was 17. She only let me know when she knew that I had dedicated my life to Jesus as Lord and to ministry. I knew that my mother prayed for me often and that she enlisted others to pray for me.

God took her at her word, called me into ministry, shaped and transformed my life, and put key mentors in my life. All my life I have felt that I am reserved for God and His purposes only. Mother, now in the Lord’s presence, never knew the impact she had on my life by intercession. It was more important than anything else she ever did for me. The prayers she prayed for me extend on through my life and will influence my life forever. Thanks, Mom!

Chuck Swindoll has made a powerful statement:

There is no more significant involvement in another’s life than prevailing, consistent prayer. It is more helpful than the gift of money, more encouraging than a strong sermon, more effective than a compliment, more reassuring than a physical embrace.

quoted in When Couples Pray by Cheri Fuller, p. 58.

We need to both intercede for those we mentor and teach them to intercede for others by our modeling. There is no greater calling in our mentoring.

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
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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
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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,

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