I noticed that when my kids were younger they had very different swings and very different strike zones. My son Alex, for example, liked the ball low and away. That was his “wheelhouse.” If I pitched the ball in that spot it usually ended up over the fence.
When Christian was just taking his first tries, his swing was really high — almost over his head. If I threw a pitch in a normal strike zone, it would zip right past him.
My technique, then, at each batting practice session, was to say “show me how you swing the bat.” I watched the swing and then adjusted my throws to where the bat was going to be. That’s what a batting practice pitcher does. His aim is to pitch home run balls, not strikes.
Organizing a successful missions trip reminds me of those times. The technique I learned in the backyard works just as well for short-term teams. It is my job to figure out what a home run is for each member and then adjust as much as possible to make that happen.
It is a lesson I have learned the hard way, by making the assumption that everyone enjoys the same type of missions experience that I do. For example, I always plan my trip itineraries to be as jam-packed with preaching and teaching opportunities as possible. Many conference speakers and authors I travel with appreciate that, since their time is short and the cost of traveling is high and they want to absolutely maximize their time.
But not everyone considers that a home run.
Some people like to be involved in a large event, reaching as many as possible. Others would me more content visiting small churches. Some find sightseeing to be a time-waster. Others find it exciting and educational. Some are content with fellowshipping with their translators and the other members of the mission team. Others hope to develop deep friendships with the people we are visiting. Some like to see as many places as possible in our host country. Others prefer to arrive, set up shop, and invest heavily in just one location.
I am endeavoring, therefore, to be a better mission team leader, by asking each member the following questions:
• What would make this trip a “home run” for you? (What is the key to making this a successful missions experience for you?)
• What are some specific things you desire to accomplish during our time together?
• What is at least one thing that you secretly hope to do, place you want to visit, experience you dream of having? (Write it down even if you think we won’t have the time, money, or team-wide interest to do it. What is it you are hoping for?)
May the Lord continue to help me improve my pitch!