Pre-field missionary survey trips should include healthy questioning, explaining and praying by the receiving missionary team leader and key nationals. Expectations for the pre-field missionary on the Missioanry survey trip and the on-field missionary team leader must be clear. Earlier we examined the role of the pre-field missionary and home church, but the role of the team leader is important enough to have its own post.
“The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Jesus in Luke 10:2
It is significant Jesus used the term laborers for those He was sending out into the field in Luke 10. It is possibly of greater significance that Jesus infers the answer to too few laborers is prayer.
I suggest prayer is needed because when laborers are few, the few are often exhausted and capable of making poor decisions. In the felt urgency of the need for more laborers to join the work, an existing laborer can inadvertently allow people into their missionary setting who may ultimately cause harm to the team, nationals and themselves. Here are six points the on-field missionary can ask in relation to the pre-field missionary while on the survey trip.
Ask the Pre-Field Missionary about Expectations
Have honest, open and transparent conversations with the pre-field missionaries about work and life expectations on the field. This will likely be the best time to share a job description, including expected work hours and days, and ask if the pre-field missionary understands what is expected. Ask how long they are committing to the work, and how they expect to fit in. Explain the team structure and whom they will be submitted to once on the field.
Ask the Pre-Field Missionary to Accomplish Tasks
Do not babysit the pre-field missionary, but set goals to accomplish and help them accomplish them. This could be taking public transportation to investigate language school, sending them shopping, or a similar activity.
Ask Those Whom Matter
Arrange for the pre-field missionary to spend quality time with key national leaders in the work. It will probably be best not to structure the time with tasks, but to allow both to have the goal of developing a relationship. Ask the national ministry leaders for their input into the viability of bringing the pre-field missionary into the team and how they should fit in.
Ask the Pre-Field Missionary to be a Shadow
Do not plan ministry or special events around the pre-field missionary or family, but allow them to shadow your day, experience life on the field and ask questions. Presumably they experienced a short-term missionary trip, but the survey trip is experiencing the other 50 weeks of the year when there are no visitors.
Ask for a Few Dedicated Hours Before Departure
Debrief the pre-field missionary before they return to their passport country. Allow for questions and a significant time of prayer together. Allow a safe environment for baring of souls and ask if the call has been deepened, or questioned, in their survey trip.
Ask God for Confirmation
Jesus Himself said the laborers are few. The danger is to not complete the verse and simply respond to need by accepting warm bodies into His harvest field. Jesus said pray the Lord of the harvest to send out more laborers. Ask not only for laborers, but for the right laborers at the right time.
It is no secret that missionary attrition is directly related to interpersonal conflict among missionary teams. It is also no secret that interpersonal conflict is directly related to misunderstood or unclear expectations. This means the few laborers are leaving largely because of reasons that could have been avoided with preparation including prayer and purposeful discussions. While not taking away the role of the pre-field missionary and the home church, much of this responsibility falls upon the missionary already in the field.