Case study: Salvaging a short-term missions trip

Case study: University students on a summer mission trip to New York

The "honeymoon" period from Youth in Mission training camp had ended sometime before, and Nathan was exasperated. They hadn't been in New York for very long when he began sensing that he and several of his teammates were not operating on the same wavelength.

"Oh, no," he thought to himself, "am I going to have to deal with this all summer?"

Youth in Mission training camp had been an exciting time. There had been the excitement of making new friends from other universities. The worship times together each morning and evening had been awesome. The team-building activities were a lot of fun.

During that week, Nathan thought he sensed that his teammates were looking forward to the summer together in New York. However, with the excitement of Training Camp fading into the background, everyone on his team seemed to be reverting to who and what they had been before the experiences of that wonderful week.

As the group settled in at their ministry site, Nathan began concluding that the reasons each of his teammates had applied for Youth in Mission varied greatly. Nathan wasn't even sure that his teammates wanted to be change agents for the Lord in New York. There was no sense of togetherness, no feeling of shared goals. They didn't seem to be on the same page.

Nathan felt like some had come merely for the excitement of spending two months in the "Big Apple."

Fred seemed like he was there to hang out.

Nathan remembered Nancy saying that what she wanted from the summer was "to learn something from the people."

To Nathan, his Youth in Mission group no longer seemed like a ministry team focused on shared goals. By the end of the first week, Nathan (who was intensely focused on doing Christ-like ministry) began feeling that his team was going through the motions, doing what it had to do, with team members following a schedule of activities because that was the schedule of activities.

Were his fellow teammates really that shallow? Had they been faking it at training camp? Had he read them wrong? Was he reading them wrong now? Was there any way to rebuild that sense of focus and oneness Nathan thought he had felt at training camp?

"I didn't come on this trip expecting to deal with conflict within the team," Nathan thought. But it looked like he was going to do just that.

Nathan thought long and hard about things for a couple of days. He didn't want to come off as "holier-than-thou" or something super-spiritual. On the other hand, he didn't just want to go through the motions all summer.

"I don't want to go through the summer just spinning my wheels," he said to himself."

Finally, Nathan decided . . . .

Written by Howard Culbertson,

Case studies are actual events. Names and places in this recounting have been changed, but the story is a real one.

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