Building and burning bridges on mission trips

Your choices will determine whether you are building bridges or burning them as you try to minister cross-culturally

How to build bridges

Doing incarnational ministry in a broken world

  • Include missionaries'/pastors' kids in activities.
  • Be punctual, and then be willing to cheerfully wait on others.
  • Be understanding of others.
  • Receive graciously whatever is given to you to eat or is presented to you as a gift.
  • Be considerate of others on your team (Remember: there is no "I" in teamwork)
  • Remember daily devotions.
  • Realize that in any occasion, "This is temporary . . . this too shall pass."
  • Write to your home church and to your financial and prayer supporters.
  • Keep promises.
  • Be friendly.
  • Be a willing and cheerful worker.
  • Be careful.
  • Willingly adjust to their culture.
  • Be open-minded.
  • Expect the unexpected.
  • Be ready to share your gifts (i.e., talents, skills, abilities).
  • Be alert to the country/city you are in and to its unique customs.
  • Recognize the intelligence of people in all cultures and positions.
  • Expect the Lord to use you.
  • Think before you speak.
  • Have a serious determination to be Christ-like in all things.
  • Encourage the missionaries/pastors/leaders.
  • Learn as much as you can about their language/culture.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Be excited about their pride in their country/city.
  • Be enthusiastic and present positive Christianity (not "Churchianity").
  • Represent Christ, not the USA (if overseas).
  • Keep your focus: Witness for Christ.
  • Be flexible!

How to burn bridges

Destroying relationships/ministry opportunities

  • Judge hastily.
  • Stick with your first impressions.
  • Talk bad or critically about missionaries.
  • Make light of another religion.
  • Be pessimistic.
  • Recoil in shock from poverty conditions.
  • Confuse disadvantage with ignorance.
  • Act as though you think North Americans are the only ones who know how to run a church.
  • Complain.
  • Be condescending.
  • Worry about your performance.
  • Expect to sleep late.
  • Expect your mission trip to be a tourist vacation.
  • Be nosy.
  • Be moody.
  • Be fussy about food.
  • Expect food to appear whenever you want it.
  • Be particular about where you sleep.
  • Share complaints, secrets or things you don't like with anyone . . . anytime . . . anywhere!
  • Be afraid of everything.
  • Make comparisons between various missionaries / pastors.
  • Take sides in the site's problems or issues
  • Argue or debate!

SNU missions course materials and syllabi

Cultural Anthropology    Introduction to Missions    Linguistics    Missions Strategies    Modern Missionary Movement (History of Missions)    Nazarene Missions    Church Growth and Christian Missions    Theology of Missions    Traditional Religions    World Religions
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Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma City, OK 73132  |  Phone: 405-740-4149 - Fax: 405-491-6658
Copyright © 2002 - Last Updated: January 22, 2015 | URL:

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