'Do you know of any Bible study materials for teams on short-term mission trips?'
This was a question e-mailed to me a few months ago by a member of the Short Term Missions Forum in the UK. Apparently several members of the group had searched in vain for resources to help their teams once they were abroad. With a growing number of teams from established mission agencies, local churches and student groups involving themselves in mission, it seemed surprising that there was nothing to meet this need.
I had to admit that I didn't know of anything either. Of course there are a few books to help with orientation, but despite the flood of group Bible study materials on the market, we could find nothing geared towards cross-cultural ministry. So, we decided to write our own.
We wanted something that would help teams to reflect on their experience in the light of scripture and help them to understand the basic principles of missiology. We wanted something that could be the foundation for team devotions, drawing them together as a group. And we wanted something that would help them see their trip in the wider context of God's plan for their lives. We also came up with some other criteria:
Easy to use - nothing too complicated. For some, it would be their first time leading a group, and for others, who don't get to church too often, it must not assume too much.
Relevant - touching on the subjects that really matter. We identified 15 key topics, like understanding culture, dealing with pressure, spiritual warfare and preparing for re-entry.
'Remember to include something on social justice,' someone said, 'most of our teams are doing building projects and they need to see where it fits in the scheme of things.'
Portable - small enough to fit into a rucksack! We decided to limit each study to one side of A4.
Flexible - to be used either before a team sets off, or when they get there, or a combination of both. Also for teams going for as little as 3 weeks (daily studies), or for those staying much longer (weekly studies).
Adaptable - we decided to provide just the notes themselves and to give users permission to style them as they wanted. Some organizations have excellent graphics people who could take the simple outlines and make them visually exciting.
Thus, TIME OUT came into being. The materials are ready now, but have still to be 'road tested'. We look forward to feedback from those who use them.
Were we right in our conclusion that nothing like this is presently available?
What topics would you consider important for short-term teams to cover?
How do you currently resource your teams of young people?
Over to you ...
The 'Time Out' studies are available online for download at www.oscar.org.uk/timeout_full.pdf