The world is hungry for connection and I believe the Church is the answer with missions.
This year has been hard. As a leader of a ministry that depends on gathering people together to build community, I can only imagine the challenges you have had to work through. I’m not here to discuss the impact of COVID-19. I’m here to share with you what we have heard from our partner churches and what we are witnessing God do during this season.
Starting in late June, our organization (Praying Pelican Missions) began to lead a limited number of mission trips in some of our domestic locations. These trips required a high level of collaboration between our team, local officials, the mission team, and our host pastors to ensure that our COVID-19 guidelines were effective and the ministry was meaningful. We could feel the weight of responsibility to our teams and to the communities we were serving and naturally wrestled with the question of whether the ministry was worth the risk. I’m here to tell you that those trips were not just successful, but they were among the most impactful moments of ministry that we’ve ever seen.
The effect of COVID-19 and social distancing exposed a huge need for real, deep connection. Church members, ministry leaders, and community members shared, often through tears of joy, just how meaningful it was to have a group of people love them in very tangible ways. At PPM, we’ve built our entire ministry around relationships because we’ve seen that true impact is not so much in the work project, but in the connection people have. I often use the analogy of a log being thrown on a fire to describe the impact of a mission trip that focuses on relationships. When followers of Christ from all different backgrounds and cultures come together, the fires of ministry are stoked and God does incredible things.
We believe that God is getting ready to do something new and exciting in the coming months. As we have talked with our partner churches and continued to engage with our host communities, we have plainly heard God calling the Church to be active and to be ready. The time is now, our world is hungry for true connection and for meaning during this time, and we believe the Church is the answer. The Church is where the power of relationships draws people into the redemptive work of God in our own lives. We cannot sit on the sidelines; it’s time to go.
I want to encourage you as you continue to work through the challenges of this season to lead your community forward with missions.
Lead with bold faith. Proverbs 1:7 teaches us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge and only fools refuse to listen to instruction. As followers of Christ, we’ve been called to go, to share the hope of the Gospel with the whole world. For many of us that means we must step out of our comfort zone and allow God to stretch us. So we move forward with discernment, but we continue to move forward because of our faith in God.
Extend your timeline for planning. Our greatest challenge as a leader is to lead with clarity and certainty when both are in short supply. These are certainly uncertain times which are going to require us to lead our people forward even when we don’t have all the answers. We believe that people will have a great desire to go on mission in 2021, but if we wait until we have complete certainty, then the opportunity may not be there. This is the time to be setting our plans for what will happen when we turn the corner on COVID. By leaning into those plans early, we have the ability to adjust as we go along but we avoid the pitfall of getting caught without a plan.
Resource your team with credible information. Over that last few months, many of us have become experts in the latest CDC recommendations and guidelines for how to mitigate risk. We’ve found that it is helpful to provide proof of concept when it comes to the information we are providing to people. At PPM, we have been able to develop a clear plan with a proven track record of effectiveness for leading mission trips during this season. I invite you to view our resources at ppm.org.
Find ways to say ‘yes’, instead of reasons to say ‘no.’ The word responsibility comes to mind here. We are leaders and, as such, hold a level of responsibility as we lead our groups. We want to ensure that we are making responsible decisions when it comes to church gatherings, worship, mission trips, etc. But we balance this with the responsibility we have to actively guide our following. Focus your energy on finding responsible ways to say ‘yes’, creating opportunities for healthy engagement.
Look for the good news. It’s out there! As I write this, the fourth company in the United States has begun its final stage of trials for a COVID-19 vaccine. Treatments are getting better. Risk mitigation strategies are advancing. We are learning more and more each day about this virus. The day is coming where the pain of this season will largely be behind us. Don’t spend your days consumed by the bad news but instead, look for the good news – and more than that – find ways to create good news. Love your neighbor, invest in your community, be a creator of hope and encouragement.
I’m here to encourage you that the time is now. The needs facing our world right now are immense and it’s going to require the Church to mobilize like never before to meet those needs. Our world is hungry for connection and we believe that the Church is the answer.