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Bridges to More Fruitful Ministry: The Value of Short-Term

Bridges to More Fruitful Ministry: The Value of Short-Term

As a short-term worker during the summer of 2009, Marcy* taught a class of 12 students. She’s still in touch with 11 of them.

While Marcy had been on numerous missions trips before, her internship in the Middle East with Christar provided her with her first taste of ministry among the least-reached. During her two months on the field, she taught English through a summer language program run by long-term workers with experience among the local people group, giving her ample opportunities to get to know her students.

“I was surprised by the depth of relationships I could build in just two months not knowing much language, just teaching English and building friendships,” Marcy, now a long-term Christar worker, shares. “In the Middle East especially, relationships are so important to people, and they can really last a long time if you put energy into them. … I have a huge network that goes back over 10 years.” It’s within this network that she’s able to share the hope she has in Jesus with people who haven’t yet heard the good news.

Marcy’s 2009 internship was the first of her five short-term experiences in the same community, and on subsequent trips she and several others took steps toward establishing the first full-time long-term team in the community and opening a year-round English school through the Global English Project. While they looked ahead toward long-term service, teaching short term provided a wealth of opportunities to learn through doing.

Now, as part of the first long-term Christar team based in this city, Marcy can clearly see how short-term trips played a role in the formation of this team and many others like it. Three of the four current members of her team first served short term in the community, as did a former team member who’s now serving among Kurds in the United States.

Each summer, the team hosts short-termers to assist with teaching just as Marcy did, seeking to invest in each one even prior to their service in the classroom. Before these short-term workers dive into ministry on the field, the team builds on the Blaze training Christar provides, thoroughly training these workers in the local culture and in teaching the curriculum used at the school, as well as in a few basics of the local language. “By the time they start teaching, they’re usually pretty confident in what they’re doing,” Marcy says.

The investment continues as these workers enter the classroom. “We try to really build spiritually into our short-termers,” Marcy explains. Team members do devotionals with those who temporarily join them on the field and talk about issues, such as broken relationships and burnout, that they’d likely face as long-termers but might not experience during just a few months of service. And the team is intentional about providing opportunities for debriefing with the long-term team workers. “We try to give them the most holistic and realistic picture of what it looks like to be the healthiest long-term worker possible.”

This up-close perspective of long-term ministry among the least-reached not only helps short-term workers discern if God is calling them to long-term service, but it changes the way in which they pray. Marcy recalls how her own prayer life was drastically impacted by her first trip as she left behind new friends who didn’t yet understand the gospel, and she shares that all of the interns her team has hosted came away from their short-term experience with the ability to pray more specifically and effectively. “Paul gave the Corinthians an intimate perspective of his struggles and they were able to pray more effectively because of that. I can see that with our short-termers. They know better how to pray for us as long-term workers; they know how to pray for the lost people of our area.”

Short-term trips don’t merely benefit the short-term workers, however. They also play a vital role in helping the long-term team serve effectively in the community. For instance, when interns cover some of the classes typically taught by members of the long-term team, it frees this team to pour more energy into relationships. “While short-termers aren’t always doing ministry on the front lines, they are allowing ministry to take place,” Marcy explains.

In addition, short-term workers help the long-term team build new relationships by making connections with people and introducing them to members of the team. For example, interns may invite their students or neighbors to join them at the park and ask a member of the long-term team to come as well, assisting them in forming relationships in the community.

Marcy and her teammates encourage short-termers to limit their interactions with friends and family back in the United States and pour themselves into relationships in the community even though they know their time there is short. “We say, ‘Even if you’re here only two months and you never come back, you can still have relationships, you can still impact people for eternity.”  

“Short-termers have been bridges to more fruitful ministry,” Marcy explains. As she has seen, these bridges sometimes remain long after the short-termers return home—and sometimes until they return again. And she and her teammates rejoice in the ways God has used short-term experiences to build long-term teams—and ultimately to help build His Church.

Participate by Praying:

  • Praise God that the language school is planning to host its largest group of interns ever this summer! Ask God to work through each of them to help build bridges for long-term ministry.
  • Pray for ongoing wisdom for Marcy and her teammates as they build into the lives of the many short-term workers they host as a team.
  • Ask God to use short-term experiences to raise up many new long-term workers to serve in least-reached communities.

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