Short Term Missions Checklist
- CLARIFY YOUR PURPOSE. Email me a concise statement of your purpose of the trip. Trying to do everything can mean not doing any one thing well: help the missionary’s ministry, provide a retreat or spiritual training for the team, hope the teenage rebel will “see the light”, have fun touring Thailand, etc.
- MAKE FINAL DECISIONS for recruitment and training early, at least 3 months before training. That means you have to start about 9 months before the arrival date. Our summer team schedules are usually booked by around March-April.
- BASIC CHRISTIAN DISCIPLINES should be included in the training, or even just basic disciplines, like waking up in the morning. Check and double check the team’s physical, emotional, social and ecclesiastical health. And don’t worry about money.
- MAKE SURE THE DATES of your trip are confirmed with your contact missionary. Try not to change the dates after confirmation; don’t confirm if you’re not sure of the dates.
- THE TEAM LEADER is the contact person for the missionary before, during, and after the trip; in rare cases, there might be a separate contact person. The missionary will discuss issues of schedule and budget (and any changes) with the contact person only, and will not intervene with your team issues. Different members can prefer different options; the missionary will get involved after the contact person declares the team’s final decision. If intervention is absolutely necessary, that’s when he will drop you off at the airport or the embassy.
- CHANGES IN SCHEDULE can be made prior to confirmation of appointments with mission centers and other ministry partners, but not after, and definitely not during the trip; but changes for team-only schedules may be made at any time without any reason because it will not damage the missionary’s ministry.
- GET VACCINATIONS and provide your medical information to your team leader. Special provision for your dietary needs or preferences can be arranged for more comfortable (and costly) vision trips but not regular mission trips.
- TRAVEL INSURANCE is recommended. Make sure you can get a refund if you cancel your trip due to unexpected events (like violent political demonstrations). Also, people sometimes need emergency health care and an insurance policy can be really helpful. Missionaries and mission centers typically do not have insurance for visitors, nor extra cash to lend for emergency hospital bills.
- MAKE COPIES OF PASSPORTS to carry around at all times, along with contact info of your hotel, the missionary, the embassy of your country, and family for emergency. It might also be wise to update your living will before departure. Another thing, many countries (including Thailand) require that your passport be valid for at least 6 months beyond the last date of your planned stay.
- DON’T LOSE ANYTHING! There’s no lost and found here! Tell your the team leader if you lose something precious to you; if the team leader is willing to declare an emergency we’ll discuss schedule changes. If it’s not an emergency don’t bother the missionary or other locals.
- PACK SOME TOILET PAPER and your team’s own first aid kit.
- TRAINING SHOULD REFLECT the type of mission work your team is hoping to do, as well as an orientation of the ministry context of Thailand. Better to cancel the trip than to suffer through irrelevant or boring training.
- RENTAL PHONE is something you might want. We recommend One-2-Call prepaid sim cards by AIS for a good connection in rural areas. If you want internet connection rent a smart phone with data options or bring your own “global” plan.
- ARRIVAL CARD has space for an address, put your hotel name and phone number.
- EXCHANGE CURRENCY before leaving the airport in Bangkok, unless you will be in Bangkok from day 1; we won’t have to waste time looking for a bank in the middle of rice fields. If you want better rates you can transfer money in advance. You get higher rates for $50 and $100 bills; and small banks reject old bills, so try to bring new bills.
- TURN RIGHT after you exit customs in Suvarnabhumi Airport, regardless of what the sign says. Don’t turn left! Come all the way until exit door #3, and look for me inside the air conditioned airport. Call me if you don’t see me.
- GET SOME STRONG PEOPLE to help the van driver with luggage; he’s getting old, and my lower back is not good. Or pack super light and hand wash your clothes. One big van fits 7-8 with luggage, 10 without.
The Short Term Mission
The ministries of the short-term team should be in line with the clear
purpose stated early on and acknowledged by the missionary. Short-term
is defined as something less than 3 years; a typical team comes for
about 10 days. Some common ministry activities include but are not
limited to: teaching English, leading VBS, preaching and sharing
testimonies, body worship, playing with children, visiting the elderly,
cooking and cleaning, cutting grass, listening to the missionary go on
and on about something or anything. Don’t get sick, and if you do stay
away from the team and locals (or stay in the lodge and rest up instead
of making things worse for everybody).
THE MOST WELCOME ATTITUDE in the mission field is a team that is willing and available to do anything anywhere. But it is more common for there to be specific expectations, and they should be shared early in the recruitment phase, in part because of the training that should be tailored for specific ministries and the ministry context.
ADVENTURE is what young people are usually looking for when they sign up for short-term mission trips. Some go so far as to say that we must be roughing it out in the rural areas for it to be “real” missions. If this is what you want, go for it! Make sure you pick athletic team members with excellent physical health. Also practice not showering for up to a week at a time, and get wilderness survival training. Eat anything and make Fear Factor look like a fairy tale. Come with signed release forms that indemnify everyone from anything and in the legal format that will be honored in your state courts. This is for your protection only.
MOST TEAMS that end up being sent by local churches can have a wide range of individuals, ranging from high school students to elders. Some physical inconvenience is expected but the younger students will do most of the hard work while the older adults (ie. medical workers or carpenters) provide other services and act as supervisors. Make sure everyone knows their specific roles so there’s no confusion while the missionary is trying to give instructions on the field. Also, plan to eat whatever the missionary offers with a thankful heart. If you’re worried about food or other inconveniences, a “vision trip” might be a better option.
VISIONTRIP is a suitable term for some of the short-term trips where people come to research or investigate more so than to perform actual services to the needy people in Thailand. It’s a great alternative to mere “vacations” if anyone is really interested in getting to know the mission field. I love vision trips. Expect a significantly higher budget.
In all cases and at all times the missionary is the point person and will have the final say in everything. Just clarify your expectations before finalizing the date and training plans 6 months in advance.
Options For Short Term Missions
A lot depends on the kind of a team you’re thinking of bringing. I
appreciate STM teams and think it’s a great way to impact the global
church. Basically, I try to help arrange a meaningful visit for church
teams, and I’ve done this over 50 times since 2006 for all kinds of
There’s the classic church and VBS ministry schedule in Chonburi Province 2 hours east of Bangkok, while teaching English in a local school; it’s probably the cheapest option. We can minister to Karen Hilltribes, the closest one’s just 3 hours west of Bangkok. We can also help refugees and asylum seekers in Bangkok, as well as women in the red light districts, or the slum communities in Bangkok.
There’s a great campus ministry in Phetchabun, 5 hours up north. We can also go further up north to Chiangmai or Tak for more rural action; Chiangmai and Tak are about 7-10 hours away from Bangkok by van.
My personal ministry in Bangkok is mostly Bible study in small groups, not much for a typical team to do, unless you bring a very small team, except for my Fri morning session at Rahab Ministries, which is a ministry to women in the old red light district.
Teams typically end up picking one major ministry and spend a few days visiting other areas for observation or secondary ministry; but some teams opt for a different kind of schedule that better suit their objectives. I can send more details and some links thru email.
Beyond Thailand Myanmar is another option, I’ve visited over 15 times since 2010 for some projects and it’s an exciting place for a vision trip and ministry with the local churches and ministry centers there; it’s more rough than Thailand and can cost a bit more.
Nepal and Cambodia, even Nagaland in India are places I’ve visited for ministry (or for Global Hope) that could be a third class of options. These are places that I have an active ministry relationship with and that I plan to continue investing in. The sky’s the limit.
THE TEAM MEMBERS would appreciate a significant time of
debriefing and orientation back home; “significant time” means more
than a pleasant lunch. Sharing with each other can help them in this
re-entry process. Actually, it’s really even more awesome if members are
given meaningful times to share regularly and frequently during the
trip. Also, if there is any unresolved issue from the mission field, now
is the time to sort things out. If any couple developed a romantic
interest with each other that probably will not be sustained back home,
the team leader should be “rewarded” with the bill for their first and
final dinner date!
BE CONSIDERATE to your local church or network of supporters by offering a well-planned report and presentation. It’s also a chance for the team members to share how God’s love was revealed through them in Thailand. The entire congregation can share in the blessings of short-term mission trips from the beginning till the end. These opportunities for sharing and listening can also encourage people to take steps toward becoming or supporting long-term missionaries.
Long Term Possibilities (2-3 Years)
EVERY CHRISTIAN is (or should be) in a wider sense a
long-term missionary serving God’s kingdom. But there is also a present
need for traditional missionaries, or vocational Christians who are
serving the smaller churches in foreign cultures. Some may elect to do
so as tentmakers. But, if it’s hard to be an effective witness while
working in your home country, it’s doubly harder to do so in a foreign
country; still, there is an urgent need for tentmakers (BAM) today in
many areas of the globe.
MANY BELIEVERS can find work to do as traditional missionaries. In addition to church planting or teaching in seminary, which pastors can do, many mission agencies will be glad to offer a list of over a hundred other jobs that need to be done in the mission field; you’ll most likely find something you love to do on that list. It’s not so much a matter of need or skill as it is about willingness and availability. For those of you interested, share your burden with your prayer partners or church leaders and consider whether or not God is leading you to the field for long-term service. Some people make longer short-term commitments (ranging from a few months to 3 years) to check things out first. Contact us and we’d be glad to help!