Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Missiology 101, Session #1: Feeding the Children

Yesterday I wrote about why I've been silent on issues that really matter to me and gave you a glimpse of some of what I’ve been doing lately. So many of you shared the post with your friends that my readership numbers skyrocketed overnight. So, I’ve decided to take a deep breath and take a stab at offering some coaching on mission programs via this blog. Let’s start with some low hanging fruit, shall we?

Actually, hold that thought for a moment. When I visit my parents, at some point during the visit my mother will inevitably point out ways in which I’ve let my appearance slide and then drag me into the bathroom with tweezers, scissors and cosmetic chemicals in hand. She knows that with a few easy adjustments I can go from homely to chic, so she feels it’s her duty as a mother to intervene. She’s made me promise that when her eyesight starts to fail that I’ll do the same for her. I share this because when I start talking about mission programs, I don’t want to critique strawmen. I want to use real examples, which means that some of you might think you know where I got my example and then word spreads that Taylor’s been badmouthing “X” project or congregation and people get mad and it all spirals down from there. 

So here’s my request if we move forward with this conversation and you suspect I’m talking about you or your congregation. Please think of me as that daughter/mother/sister who just really wants to give you a makeover. I don’t hate you or think you’re ugly. I wouldn’t bother pointing out the issues if I didn’t care and didn’t think improvement was possible. And, I wouldn't use your project as an example if others didn't have the same blindspot. So please don't pull your funding from an FPM-greenlighted project in Congo just because you think I'm writing about you. Pretty please? 

With all that said, let’s begin with our first example. This year I attended a worship service at a healthy mid-to-large sized Methodist congregation in the USA. They are involved in some terrific ministries in both their town and around the world. Good people; fantastic leadership team. I couldn’t help but notice, though, the flyers on their doors about an upcoming mission trip. They were going to a country that receives many honeymooners, eco-tourists, and mission teams. The advertisement promised that team members would have an opportunity to feed local children.

Your assignment: Critique this mission trip (or, at least, the way in which it was publicized)

Yes, I could tell you what ran through my mind when I read the flyer and why my knee jerk reaction was to face-palm, but you are a smart person; I want you to figure this out. If your mind doesn’t immediately start whirling, then give it time. When you have some ideas, share them with me.  You can put them in the blog’s comments section, write them on my Facebook link or send me a private message.We can even start a missiology discussion group if you'd like.

If you have no idea what was unhealthy about the flyer, then begin with some thought exercises. Imagine if a group of foreigners came to your town on a similar mission trip. Try to put yourself in the shoes of a parent or caretaker. Any emotions bubbling up? Have you ever fed a child that was not your own? What was your relationship with the child and/or the child's guardian? What kind of relationship exists between the mission team members and the primary caretakers of the children they are going to feed?

Bonus question: Any thoughts on ways in which a church group going to this country could be helpful? (Let's leave the discussion on the problems of offering help that’s not requested for later)    

I look forward to reading your submissions.  

Feeding my little Ood

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