As the leader of a short-term trip, you are responsible for planning, recruiting, training, and directing the team before the trip, during the trip, and after the trip. This is an amazing opportunity to grow as a leader and individual. The church planting team has implemented a process for becoming a team leader to ensure you are ready and understand the importance of the role and its responsibilities.

Go Short-termTeam Leader GuideTeam Leader Videos
  • Work through the section on how to share “His Story.”
  • Work through the section on how to share “Your Story.”
  • Be prepared to share “His Story” and “Your Story” at the first team meeting.

His Story

This section is designed to help you begin to think through and process how to share the gospel. If the gospel is truly of the utmost importance to us, then we should be ready to share it clearly and concisely!

Any 3: Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime

  • Get to the point.
    • Identify yourself as a believer.
    • “What religion do you follow?”
  • Get them to lostness.
    • Talk about sin.
    • “In your religion, how is sin forgiven?”
  • Get them to the gospel.
    • “I know my sins are forgiven. Can I share with you how I have this assurance?”

His Story: The Cross Tool

  1. Creation: In the beginning, there was only God. With his voice he created everything that exists—the earth, the sun, the moon and stars, and animals. God also created a very special creation, and that was man and woman. They had a perfect relationship with God.
  2. Fall: God gave the man and woman only one command to follow, which was to not eat of a particular tree, but they disobeyed God. This disobedience is called sin, and because man and woman sinned, their relationship with God is broken.
  3. The Lamb: God requires a sacrifice for our sins. Because God loves us, he sent his only Son, Jesus, to be the perfect sacrifice. Jesus was called the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
  4. The cross: Jesus died on a cross for our sins; he was a spotless sacrifice for us. He lived the perfect life we could not live, died in our place, and took the punishment that we deserved for our sins.
  5. The resurrection: They buried Jesus in a tomb and put a stone in front of it, but three days later he rose from the dead, proving that he is the Son of God. Jesus met with many of his followers and then returned to heaven. Through his death and resurrection, we can have forgiveness of sin and a right relationship with God.
  6. His return: Jesus said that one day he will come again to judge the world. At that time, those who have repented from their sins and believe in Jesus as Lord will spend eternity with God in heaven. Everyone who rejects this truth will spend eternity separated from God.


  • Have you ever heard this story before?
  • What did you like about the story?
  • Are you ready to repent of your sins and follow Jesus only?
    • “Yes”: Start meeting with them for discipleship.
    • “No”: Ask, “Would you be interested in hearing more about Jesus?” If “yes,” then share with them stories from Jesus’ life found in the book of Luke.

If you share the gospel and they are not yet ready to follow Jesus but are interested in knowing more, begin by sharing different stories about Jesus found in the gospels. Here are a few ideas we call stories of hope.

Stories of Hope:

  • The woman at the well: John 4
  • Jesus calms the storm: Matthew 8:23-27
  • The paralyzed man: Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26
  • The bleeding woman: Mark 5:24-34
  • Jesus feeds the 5,000: Matthew 14:13-21 and John 6:1-13
  • The prodigal son: Luke 15:1-2, 11-32


Any 3: Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime: Lead Muslims to Christ Now! by Mike Shipman


  • Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not converts.
  • The gospel is not just the diving board; it’s the pool.
  • Christians grow not by moving beyond the gospel but deeper into the gospel.

Discipleship: When Someone Believes

  • Teach them the Cross evangelism tool, and have them practice telling it.
  • Make a list of five people they know (circle of influence), believers and non-believers.
  • Tell them to go teach what they’ve learned to those five people, evangelizing and equipping from the very beginning. Our goal is to make disciples who make disciples.
  • Set up a time to meet with them again, and start short-term discipleship.

Take some time to write out the gospel as clearly and concisely as you can.

Your Story

Sharing a personal testimony may be the most powerful tool available to the willing witness. Stories have a way of breaking down barriers. People usually turn off their critical thinking skills and drop their guards to listen to a story. This is especially true in international contexts, as people want to know all about your culture.

Three Major Components of a Testimony

  1. Life before Christ (front)
  2. Coming to know/trust Christ (middle)
  3. Life after Christ (back)

Two Major Kinds of Testimonies

  1. Salvation: Focus on how you came to trust Christ.
  2. Situation (present impact): Focus on how Jesus is impacting your life in relation to typical human needs, problems, and issues.

Shaping Your Testimony

  1. Write what your life was like before you came to know Christ.
  2. Write how you came to know you were lost and how you came to see Jesus as the forgiver and leader of your life.
  3. Write out one or two of the major differences/changes Christ is making in your life.
  4. Write in understandable language, removing religious terms that might not be understood.
  5. Try to develop your testimony around one major theme, with supporting information.
  6. Prepare your testimony so that you can share it in about three minutes if there is no dialogue.
  7. Keep your testimony on point and without too many details that distract people from seeing Christ.

Testimony “Don’ts”

  1. Don’t embellish details or worry that your testimony is not exciting enough to share.
  2. Don’t use too much Scripture (one to three references are probably in order).
  3. Don’t feel that you have to share all your testimony at once if the situation warrants a delay.
  4. Don’t be negative about other religions or on any matter if possible.

Sharing “Dos”

  1. Ask people questions about themselves. This will usually lead to the lost person’s asking you about yourself.
  2. Share your testimony from any starting point: front, middle, or back.
  3. Focus on how your story connects with the lost person, not just on telling your story.
  4. Be natural and authentic.
  5. Practice sharing your testimony with Christian friends, get feedback, and make adjustments.
  6. Close in such a way as to lead the person to Christ, not away from him if that person does not receive Christ in that setting (ask the person to go on the “Taste and See” journey).
  7. Share in the confidence of Christ as you relive your experiences.

My Testimony

(Write out in each section what you will share.)

  1. Life before Christ
  2. Coming to know/trust Christ
  3. Life after Christ

The purpose of the first team meeting is to (1) introduce the team members and cast vision for the trip, (2) review logistical information, and (3) begin spiritual preparation as a team.

Things to Do Before We Meet
  • Read and check the “Getting Started” page.
  • Read and work through “Preparing to Share.”
  • Read through “How to Raise Support.”
    • Be familiar with the process, and know what points you need to emphasis for the team.

The Vision

  1. Why are we going to this particular place?
  2. Who will we be working with?
  3. What will we be doing?

Team Member Responsibilities

Deadlines and Tasks

Documents, Immunizations, and Insurance

  • It is never too early to begin the inevitable paperwork that precedes any organized journey overseas. In fact, we recommend that you start soon to complete the items and procedures our office requests from you to ensure a smooth trip logistically.
  • Background checks? Release forms?
  • Passport
    • All travel outside the U.S. requires a valid passport. If you do not have a passport, you should apply for one as soon as possible, as the process can take several weeks. You can apply for a passport at most post offices or online at
    • If you do have a passport, please check the expiration date to make sure it will be valid for at least six months after your return date. If your passport is scheduled to expire within six months following your return date, you will need to renew it prior to our trip.
    • In addition, make sure your passport is in good condition and has empty pages for passport stamps (two empty pages are needed for trips requiring visas).
    • We also recommend that you carry two photocopies of your passport with you on the trip.
  • Immunizations
    • Helpful general immunization information is available on the website for the Centers for Disease Control.
    • You can also contact Passport Health, or call (888)-499- PASS to schedule immunizations or locate a local agency that administers them. We recommend that you carry any available inoculation records with you during your trip.
  • Travel Insurance
    • As a part of your trip, we will purchase travel insurance for you.
Spiritual Preparation
  • We are going on a spiritual mission to do spiritual work. Spiritual work requires spiritual people operating in spiritual power. We need to be in the Word daily from now until after the trip.
  • This portion of training concentrates on developing a biblical perspective for the trip, maximizing impact through interaction with people on the field, and helping create a long-term impact in the lives of team members. It is not uncommon for some of the logistics for a trip and even for the original target people group or field team to change during the preparation process. In these situations, the spiritual preparedness of our team will allow us to see these changes as opportunities and to respond to them in a God-honoring manner. The biblical mandate and global realities should be communicated throughout this time of spiritual preparation, although it may not be covered in one particular session. Each team member is expected to be in the Word daily, especially prior to the trip. During training meetings, this lesson time can take the form of a devotional with a response time.
Read and Study Psalm 67

What is the theme of this passage?

What recurring words, ideas, or pictures are there?

How does God look at the nations?

What is God’s desire for the nations?

How should our prayers be shaped by this passage?


Gaining by Losing by J.D. Greear
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

  • In light of global lostness, excellence must be balanced by “good enough.”
  • God commanded us to make disciples, not converts.
  • The Great Commission is completed through multiplication, not addition.
  • The gospel of Jesus Christ is at the center of everything.
  • Belief unlocks the power for the mission of God.
His Story

Take some time to write out the gospel. Try to do it in one paragraph if possible. Then, find a partner and share the gospel with that person, and help each other.

Your Story

Write out your testimony. Your testimony is the basic story of how you began to follow Jesus. Try to do it in 100 words or less, and then share it with someone else on the team.

Prayer Points

Spend time in prayer together for one another and for the trip. Pray that God would make a great name for himself through the obedience of the team as they join his mission. What prayer requests does the team have? What prayer requests do the field partners have?

Preparation for the Next Meeting

The next team meeting will involve learning about the city and culture where your team will be going. Below is a list of questions about culture, and your team leader will assign you one or two questions to research and answer before the next meeting.

Cultural Research Project: Questions to Research About Your City or Country
  • How many years has your country been a country? How many people live in the city where you are going?
  • What are the main religions of the people in your country? What percentage of people adhere to these religions?
  • What are the main languages in the country where you are going? What about in the specific city where you will be serving? How do you say “hello” in the main language of your city?
  • What are the top five professions of the people in your city?
  • What are the main ethnicities represented in your country and city?
  • What type of racism is present in your city?
  • What are the top five recreational activities of people in your city?
  • What type of government runs your country and city?
  • What are the top five historical events that have shaped the landscape of your country?
  • What is education like in your country?
  • How do men and women interact with one another in your city?
  • What is appropriate dress in your city?
  • What types of actions are extremely offensive and should be avoided by visitors to your city?

Gospel by J.D. Greear
Radical by David Platt
Prayer by Tim Keller
Operation World
Joshua Project

  • The gospel of Jesus Christ is at the center of everything.

The purpose of the second team meeting is to (1) continue growing in team unity and spiritual preparation, (2) review logistical information, and (3) learn about the city and the culture where the team will go.

Things to Do Before We Meet
  • Make sure you have a passport and appropriate immunizations.
  • If you do have a passport, check the expiration date to be sure it will remain valid for at least six months after your return date.
  • Check to be sure your passport has at least two empty pages and that it is in good condition.
  • Check with your healthcare provider regarding recommended immunizations for the region to which you’re traveling. Obtain a copy of your inoculation record.
  • Research the latest baggage and packing regulations on airline websites and
  • Share “His Story” and “Your Story” with three people.
  • Research your country and city using the questions provided in meeting 1.
  • Develop your support raising plan, and put it into action.
  • Develop a prayer team.
  • Read relevant passages for this meeting.
The Vision: The City

As you seek to not only serve our field partners but also their cities, this strategic ministry falls into three main categories: engaging the lost, empowering the poor, and equipping the church. Any strategic short-term team will encompass at least one, if not all three, aspects.

  1. Engage the Lost
    • Engaging the lost centers on sharing the gospel of Christ through various means.
      • A relevant presentation of the gospel adapted to the context to which the team is going
      • Brief but clear personal testimony
  2. Empower the Poor
    • Empowering the poor centers on helping those who are impoverished. This ministry is done through humanitarian means but should always be done alongside the local church or as a platform for the gospel.
      • The local church is God’s primary vehicle for the gospel. Therefore, the Summit places importance on short-term teams to serve through and alongside the local church and field partners to minister to the needs of the poor.
  3. Equip the Church
    • Equipping the church supports the local body of believers as they reach out to their communities and to the ends of the earth. The goal is to equip leaders for ministry in their context.
Spiritual Preparation

We are going on a spiritual mission to do spiritual work. Robert Fortenberry states, “Spiritual work requires spiritual people operating in spiritual power.” We need to be in the Word and praying daily from now until after the trip.

Read and Study Luke 10:1-12

What is happening in this passage?

What commands does Jesus give?

Where does Jesus send the disciples?

How does he send them?

What attitude does Jesus tell them to have?

Prayer Requests
Logistics Review
  • Do we have passports in hand or in process?
  • Do we have up-to-date immunizations? If not, have we scheduled a doctor’s visit?
  • Support raising update
The Culture

Basic info:

“Different is not bad. It is just different.”

Cultures vary from country to country and people to people. This does not mean that the variance is for the worst. All cultures stem from the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) and have been affected by sin. Cultures should not be ranked as to which is better than others. It should be the desire of the short-term team to learn about a culture for the sake of communicating the gospel to the people who live in that particular culture.

Culture Shock

The team should prepare to encounter culture shock. Culture shock is due to sizeable changes in one’s surroundings (culture, environment, time) that affect behavior in a noticeable way. The common symptom is disorientation. It is important to prepare for the likelihood that this could occur by taking steps to prevent it. The more one learns about a culture and prepares oneself, the less shock one may experience.

  • What is culture shock?
    • Webster’s: a sense of confusion and uncertainty, sometimes with feelings of anxiety, that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation
    • Google: the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes
  • Symptoms
    • Disorientation
    • Fear
    • Weariness
    • Desire to stay back
  • 10 Keys to Overcoming Culture Shock
    1. Prayer
    2. Daily time in the Word of God
    3. Be an open learner.
    4. Be patient and gracious.
    5. Develop positive and realistic expectations beforehand.
    6. Smile and laugh (a lot!).
    7. Talk with your team leader and field hosts.
    8. Be curious, and ask good questions about the local culture.
    9. Expect and believe the best about others. Respect, love, and empathy can go a long way.
    10. Debrief. Processing is the key! Journal and talk with your team and leaders.
      • As believers, we are not exempt from culture shock, but we do have a strength to draw upon: the Holy Spirit. As you feel anxious or frustrated, stop and ask God to help you be Jesus to these people by filling you with love, joy, patience, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
The Country

Religion: Studying a country’s religion(s) provides insight into that country’s worldview and culture. Religion is also a common area of tension from within and with neighboring countries. It is important to understand as much as possible the religion(s) commonly practiced by the target people group.

Politics: In the world today, the political environment in any particular country can change in a matter of days. It is very useful to have a grasp of the current government and the political situation surrounding it.

History: It is also important to have a good understanding of significant events in a country’s history. These events shape cultures, and a good understanding of such events may allow you to cross cultural boundaries more easily.

Economic development: This factor can differ from one area of a country to another, but a general understanding on how advanced a society is economically can be beneficial when planning ministry activities.

The Specific Area

People groups: The concept of people groups is one that needs to be solidified throughout the training. It is valuable to know with whom you will be working. Cultures, primary religions, and ministry focus can differ greatly from one people group to another. Therefore, the more information collected about the group(s) the team will be working with, the better the team can prepare.

Security: The Bible teaches us to lay down our lives for the sake of the gospel, but it also teaches us to be “wise as serpents.” Security related to specific aspects or to all aspects of a trip depends on context ranging from cultural norms, religious customs and tolerances, and/or dangers that arise from crime. Security risks will not always affect the team as much as they may affect the field partners and/or the nationals. Country, people groups, cities, and even neighborhoods can differ greatly in terms of safety, and all concerns should be discussed with the field partners and church planting admin prior to the trip. Safety precautions should also be wisely talked about with the team. A good rule of thumb is the team always stays together (or in groups).

Cultural norms: The team should know how to conduct themselves, monitor their words/conversations, and even watch their attire. The answers to “What is acceptable?” and “What is not acceptable?” must be learned prior to departure. This could prove to be an issue of team safety depending on the context of the trip. When evaluating cultural sensitivities, both the country and the specific people group(s) should be taken into consideration.

Survival Language

The team leader should communicate with the field partners to provide a list of phrases in the local language. These phrases will allow the team to interact with people on a basic level. Frequently, an attempt to learn the local language is greatly appreciated by locals, and it creates a positive setting for conversations.


Cross-Cultural Connections by Duane Elmer
Ministering Cross-Culturally by Sherwood Lingenfelter
When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman
Follow Me by David Platt
Breaking the Islam Code by J.D. Greear
New Birth or Rebirth? by Ravi Zacharias
Prayer Cast
“Post-traumatic Stress” with Brad Hambrick

  • God’s strategy for completing the Great Commission is planting churches in strategic cities.
  • People are the mission.

The purpose of the third team meeting is to (1) communicate any last minute logistics and packing details, (2) continue spiritual preparation, and (3) grow as a team in unity and purpose (consider having a potluck for this third team meeting).

Things to Do Before We Meet
  • Look over “What and How to Pack” in the Logistics section.
  • Write out your expectations and desires for this trip.
  • Make sure all paperwork is complete (passport, immunizations, etc.).
  • Print itinerary, and put it in the folder for it in “Logistics” under “Travel Information.”

See “Travel Information” under the “Logistics” section, and fill in appropriate information.

Packing List

Must haves:

Gifts for team:

Spiritual Preparation

Remembering the “Why”

  • Why are we going?
  • What is our vision for going?
Team Goal

Read Mark 3:13-15: “And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons” (ESV).

  • The primary and ultimate reason that Christ called his original disciples to himself and the primary reason he has called you to himself is to be with Jesus. It is only out of this primary and ultimate reason that everything else we do flows.

We have three goals as a team:

  1. Learn to be with Jesus daily.
    • This means that each day of your trip is a success or failure, based only on whether or not you walk with Jesus.
  2. Learn to serve one another.
    • It means striving each day to set your teammates up to be more successful than yourself. Ask yourself each day how you can do that in every situation.
  3. Learn to serve the nations.
    • Through serving our field partners
    • Through serving their cities
Gospel and Testimony Practice

Break into pairs, and practice sharing “His Story” and “Your Story.”

Read and Study Revelation 7:9-17

What is happening in this passage?

What characters are found in this passage? Who are they? Where do they come from?

What are the characters doing in the passage?

What does this passage show/teach us?

How should this passage shape our heart and attitude as we go on mission?

Prayer Points
  • Take time to pray over each other and for the work you are going to be a part of, the field workers, and the people you will serve.
  • Possible passages:
    • Ephesians 1:17-23
    • Colossians 1:9-12
    • Psalm 2:8
    • Psalm 67
    • Ezekiel 36:24-29
    • Acts 19:18-19
    • Matthew 28:18-20
    • Psalm 27

Cross-Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer
Pray for Our World

  • Believe the best about others.

Our field partners are often members from our church that we have sent out. They have sacrificed a lot to go and be the constant fragrance of the gospel in their community. They may be facing culture shock and various trials, setbacks, or frustrations. As a part of the same body, we want to be a blessing to these workers who have given up home, family, and comfort for our Lord. We don’t want to pity them, but we want to bless them. Here we are including some ideas to truly bless and encourage our church planters and their families. This is not an exhaustive list, and it is a great idea to check directly with the team to see what needs they may have.

Before You Go
  1. Get your small group to write notes for each member of the family.
    • Even if you don’t know them personally, a note from their home church can mean the world. Knowing you took the time to write and pray over them may be just the encouragement they need.
  2. American food:
    • Check with the team and see what they miss (Oreos, flavored coffee creamers, etc.).
  3. Kids’ things:
    • Check and see if they need school books. If they are homeschooling, they may need supplies.
    • Is there a birthday coming up? Maybe an appropriate toy is ideal.
  4. Find out something they love or really care about, and surprise them with a gift.
    • Collegiate merchandise, sports equipment, books, etc. — nothing huge, but just something that says, “Hey, we know what you like, and we want you to know we love you.”
While on the Ground
  1. Be humble, and trust our field personnel.
  2. Offer to cook a meal for them or treat them to a meal.
  3. If they have children, offer to babysit one night so that they can go out on a date.
  4. Be intentional about serving them.
    • Do they need help cooking?
    • Are there dishes to do?
    • Can you clean the house?
  5. Love on their kids. Play with them. Speak life over them.
  6. Know the power of your words. Encourage them.
  7. Use appropriate Scripture.
    • Ask God to show you ways to speak encouragement and life into them.
After You Return
  1. “Friend” them on Facebook.
  2. Email them, and respond to their updates, even if it is only a few sentences.
  3. Be their advocate, help connect them to one, or connect with their advocate.

One of the greatest ways to remember your trip and to grow along the way is to journal. After sending out many teams and going ourselves, we have seen how powerful a journal can be. So we encourage you to record your memories, observations, prayers, thoughts, and reflections each day. We have provided several guided sections developed to encourage you, build you up, and prepare you each day. We also provide space for you to journal freely. As you will discover, the more you use your trip journal, the richer your journey will be. You will not regret it, and it may enrich your life in ways you were not expecting.

First-day Questions
  1. What did you feel?
  2. What did you see?
  3. What did you hear?
  4. What did you smell?
  5. What did you taste?
  6. If you had to describe your day in one word, what would it be?
  7. What are your thoughts, and what are you anxious, excited, or nervous about as you begin this adventure?
  8. Pray that God would enable you to see as he sees and to love as he loves. Ask him to fill you with the fruit of the Spirit and to embolden you to proclaim his gospel.
Daily Reflection Questions
  1. What did you see that was new today?
  2. What did you learn:
    • About the culture?
    • In their language?
    • About Jesus?
  3. How did you learn to serve today?
  4. How did you serve the field partners?
  5. What did you do today?
  1. How have you learned to be with Jesus?
  2. How have you learned to serve one another?
  3. How have you learned to serve the nations?
  4. How has your view of God and the world changed as a result of this trip?
  5. In what ways have you grown spiritually through this process?
  6. What do you believe is the greatest barrier to people coming to Christ in this culture?
  7. How would you bridge this barrier if you lived here long-term?
  8. Who do you know from home that you think should get involved in the ministry here?
  9. How are you burdened to pray specifically for the field partners and their ministry?
  10. Who is a national you met while here that you’ll continue to pray for once you are back home?
  11. What was the most humorous moment for you?
  12. Overall, what is the biggest thing you are taking home with you? How will this trip change your life at home?

As you are on your way home, take some time to look back over your journaling and in-country debrief. We hope and pray God has both used you and taught you a lot. Below we have provided some questions to help you bring home what you have seen and learned during your trip. These questions have been designed to help you share clearly what God did on your trip and what he is doing in you. God wants to leverage what he has done in you and through you during this trip to impact those closest to you at work, at home, and in your small group.

  1. What was the strategy of the field partner?
  2. What did you do as a part of this strategy?
  3. What moments do you never want to forget? What moments broke your heart? What moments made you smile?
  4. In what ways are you different today than when you began this journey?
  5. What is one story or interaction that shows: a) what you learned, b) what you did, and c) how people can pray and join in the work?
  6. Lastly, what was the funniest moment or story?

These questions will help you clarify what you did and what you are learning. As you process this, work on developing a one to three-minute “elevator speech” that you can use to share with anyone who asks about the trip. There will be some people who want to hear more, but most people will want the short version. If you can clearly share what you did, how it’s important, and how the listener can pray and partner with the work, you may profoundly impact your audience. One way to help people engage is to share your funny story. Allow them to laugh with you, and then clearly share your elevator speech. People will be more likely to connect and listen well.

Another way to make your sharing more impactful is to pick a handful of your favorite pictures and store them on your cell phone, especially ones that help communicate your “elevator speech.” Then, as you share, you can help people visually, emotionally, and auditorily engage with what God is doing.

Re-entry Stress

A. Definition

Re-entry stress is like culture stress (also called culture shock) in many ways—only in reverse. While culture stress is associated with a sense of disorientation brought on by a new and unfamiliar environment, re-entry stress is precipitated by returning to a setting you presume to be familiar but which in reality is no longer the same.

It is the unexpected and often subtle nature of such change that can cause stress for you as you return from cross-cultural service. What was once familiar and comfortable no longer appears the same. Something definitely has changed—sometimes it is the environment, but often times it is you who has changed.

Suddenly you find yourself out of phase with your own culture. Your reaction may come in the form of bewilderment, dismay, disillusionment, and perhaps even irritation or anger. Somehow, “Things are just not the way they used to be,” “Nobody seems to care,” and “Nobody really understands.”

There are several contributing factors to re-entry stress. One is that you are being caught by surprise; you do not anticipate change and consequently are unprepared to cope. Another factor is value conflict. Your values, once taken for granted and even highly cherished, now seem of lesser significance or of little importance. Your way of thinking, your manner, and your responses to many situations have been changing. Often these changes are not apparent until you are back in your home culture.

B. Common Symptoms and Effects of Re-entry Stress

  1. Disorientation: feeling out of place, not fitting in
  2. Feelings of loneliness, isolation, or being lost in the crowd
  3. Restlessness: a desire to “get away” from those who don’t seem to understand or care
  4. Feeling that nobody understands your experience or that nobody cares
  5. Feeling tired and listless
  6. Critical attitude toward home country, its waste, extravagance, wrong way of doing things, etc.
  7. Loss of identity: just “another cog in a big wheel”
  8. Inability to communicate new ideas and concepts freely
  9. Feeling of superiority: standing aloof from others because of your overseas experience
  10. Feeling of dissatisfaction
  11. Defensiveness in responses
  12. Retreat, withdrawal, lack of concern
  13. Unnatural, uncomfortable responses to “ordinary” situations
  14. Confusion over conflicting attitudes and responses
  15. Rejection of overseas experiences or a desire to forget and not talk about them
Re-entry Coping Styles

A. Isolate and be alienated. A person who responds this way to re-entry stress:

  1. Pulls away from being in a stressful situation by being alone or with like-minded people (e.g., former short-termers).
  2. Continues to identify with the home culture for the most part but has strong negative reactions to it.
  3. May express a strong judgmental attitude toward the values and lifestyle of the home culture (church, family, friends, politics).
  4. May feel deep guilt over home culture’s materialism and affluence.
  5. May tend to daydream a lot about the short-term experience, holding on to memories.
  6. May be unaware of other alternatives to impact the home culture (church or campus group).

This person needs someone who has been through re-entry stress to help in understanding the transition process and exploring options.

B. Imitate and be re-socialized. A person who responds this way to re-entry stress:

  1. “Goes native” in U.S. culture by reverting immediately back to conventional norms.
  2. Resumes life as if nothing happened.
  3. Is unable to translate the impact of short-term experience to the rest of life.
  4. May have a very high need for acceptance by the home culture.
  5. May be afraid of the repercussions of being different or standing on one’s convictions.

This person needs to be with compassionate, mission-minded people who can assist in sorting out the short-term experience.

C. Integrate and be proactive. A person who responds this way to re-entry stress:

  1. Accepts the reality of transitions between two cultures.
  2. Relates with the home culture in a way that does not compromise or negate new values or lessons learned from short-term experience.
  3. Recognizes that changes have occurred through the short-term experience.
  4. Continues to learn lifestyle, incorporating the old and new.

This person seeks support from like-minded people.

Tips for Dealing with Re-entry Stress

Prepare for re-entry stress before you leave home by expecting it! You will never be completely at home again after your time of service, because part of your heart will remain with the people you serve. This is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.

  1. Expect it, and realize that it is normal! Give yourself time to work through it. Be patient with yourself and others as you go through this process.
  2. Keep your sense of humor, and remember to laugh!
  3. Remind yourself to be thankful for the opportunity God gave you and the things you experienced and learned.
  4. Realize the difference between readjusting totally to “the way things were” and incorporating new values based on all that you experienced.
  5. Develop community with people who have been overseas and with whom you can discuss (and if they are Christians, pray for) the transition you are experiencing and the needs of the world. Encourage each other in thinking globally.
  6. Seek out friendships with people from the region where you served—international students, refugees, businessmen, etc. Make the nations part of your life at home!
  7. Be prepared for the people who ask, “How was your trip?” but really don’t want to hear more than a superficial “It was great!” response. Recognize that not everyone will be interested in all the details that you think they should care about. Pray through ways that you can share who God is and his heart for the nations, even in your short answers. And seek out the people who want to listen to more details, too.
  8. Take initiative to figure out how to serve your local church and community. Analyze their ministries and your gifts, and then seek out opportunities (or help create opportunities) that integrate what you have learned overseas with the priorities of your church.
  9. Recognize that your friends and family may be under a great deal of stress themselves. Be prepared to counsel, comfort, pray for, and bless them, as much as to receive their counsel and care.
  10. Remember that God is calling you to himself here, just as he did there. Seek him, and make the most of every opportunity you are given here, just as you sought to do there.

This material is reproduced by permission from International Missions Training Institute team leader Training Handbook, Module 11, from the International Mission Board, SBC. Coypyright 1997, 1999 by the Macedonian Project, a ministry of Campus Crusade and the Volunteers In Missions Department of the International Mission Board, SBC.

Upon returning home from a short-term mission trip, it is important to recognize that the culture and world we live in every day can make us forget the experience we had on our trip. One of the main outcomes desired from these experiences is to live every day in our normal lives in a way that consists of serving others, leading people to Christ, and discipling them to do the same. The 2 percent of each team member’s year spent on the field should impact the other 98 percent spent at home.

Social get-togethers are a terrific way to continue building relationships as well as encouraging and praying for each other. While there may not be a parade in your team’s honor, a certain amount of celebration and commemoration is in order. This meeting isn’t just a chance for some communal backslapping. It’s a time to debrief and cover some important information for “living sent” back home.

Things to Do Before We Meet
  • Work through the “Coming Home” section, and be prepared to share what God is teaching you and what you think he might be leading you to do.
  • Pray for one another.
  • Pray for the work you did and that continues to go on.
  • Who have you shared your story with?
  • Who have you shared the gospel with since returning home?
  • Plumbline: “Do what you do well.”
Read and Study

Coming Home: Exodus 32
By Bruce Venable

Moses had been on a mission. He was spending time with God and then reporting to the people as God instructed. From Exodus 24:18, we know that it was 40 days, and if you add the previous trips “up the mountain,” it was a little longer. During this period Moses received the 10 Commandments, various laws for governing the people, property rights, personal injury, and more. From the very lips of God, Moses received guidelines for living a life pleasing to God, a plan for developing a community committed to God, and a blueprint for the place to worship God. Obviously, this was big stuff! Moses had been in God’s presence.

Make a list of the emotions you think Moses may have experienced as he descended from the mountain.

For more than “40 days,” you have been on assignment with God. The time has come for you to descend the mountain and report to your people all you have seen, experienced, and heard.

Identify the emotions you have experienced upon your return.

Which of these emotions are the same ones you think Moses felt?

As is the case with many missionaries, Moses did not come home to what he had hoped and expected. Read Exodus 32:1-7.

In verse 1 we see that the people:

  • Lost sight of how God had used Moses.
  • Determined that whatever God was doing with him was not going to affect them.

You may have faced similar attitudes from close friends and family upon your return home. There may be a struggle to understand their lack of interest. Sometimes it is difficult to find people willing to just listen to your story. If this is the case, consider this:

  1. Your friends and family may not have become corrupted, but they have not been to the mountaintop with you.
    • While you have been out of your normal routines, they have continued in theirs. While you were stretched beyond imagination, they may have been plain bored. While you witnessed God at work, they may have just gone to work. While God has molded and changed you, they may be the same as they were when you left. Let’s face it: Coming back to the same environment as a different person can have some challenges.
    • Take a moment to summarize in a few sentences how you believe God has changed you while you’ve been serving. How would you describe the “different” you?
  2. They can never fully understand what you have experienced.
    • Have you ever seen a great movie and tried to describe it to someone? Something is usually lost in the interpretation. Really, unless they see it or experience it, they just don’t get it. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is just how it is. This was your journey with God, not theirs. Don’t get too frustrated by getting hung up on the fact that no one fully understands. Some people will understand more than others. But God knows full well. Celebrate your experiences with him as well as others.
    • Write some one-sentence descriptions of your experiences. You can probably write a notebook full, but think about them for a while and write some simple, concrete statements that highlight the trip.
  3. Some may not even be concerned.

So what do you do? How do you cope with these issues so that you can correctly process all that is inside of you? Here are four practical suggestions that come from Exodus that we can see from Moses’ experience.

  1. Moses intervened for those he cared about (Exodus 32:7-14). Moses didn’t develop a “Sick ’em God” attitude. He didn’t become spiritually aloof and think he was better for his experience. He simply pleaded with God to spare them. You see, coming down from the mountain didn’t change the ministry to which God had called him. The geographical location changed; he was no longer going to be on the mountain. But his call to lead the people to know God was the same. So it is with you.
  2. Moses reconnected with another leader that God had chosen (Exodus 32:19-22). Moses’ anger was certainly apparent. But his concern was to find out what had happened and then do what was necessary to make a difference. He went to Aaron to begin the process. You should reconnect with a spiritual leader. This may be your pastor, BCM director, church collegiate minister, or small group leader. Obviously they are not responsible for other people’s actions. But they are ones you can count on to help you find direction and understanding while on this part of your spiritual journey.
  3. Moses redefined relationships (Exodus 32:23-28). He calls for the followers of the Lord to gather with them. What happens next is incredibly drastic. But remember this: It was his responsibility to keep God’s people pure. In order to do so, 3,000 were slain. Now, don’t go purchase your sword. But ask yourself this question: “What do I need to do in order to walk through this portion of my life?” Simply put, there may be those with whom you have relationships that pull you down. You may need to back away from those people in order to continue on the new path God has led you on. You’ve changed. Perhaps new close relationships are in order so that you may acquire solid footing on your new path. Don’t withdraw from everyone. Find others of similar values and desires.
  4. Moses stayed connected to God. Don’t run from the One who has been faithful. Many times spiritual highs can lead to lows. Moses continued to be faithful to God and lead the people. Living a life of faithful obedience isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it. Remain faithful to God no matter what. We are reminded in I Corinthians 15:58, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”A story is told about a boy who lived in the mountains with his family. He heard that a circus was coming to town the coming weekend. He had always wanted to see a circus. He could only dream of what that would be like. So, he asked his father if he could attend. His father agreed that if he finished his chores early on Saturday, he could go.Saturday came, and he awoke extra early and did his chores with extreme diligence and speed! After he finished, his father gave him the money that he would need in order to pay the admission to attend. The boy began his journey into town, trying to imagine the sights and sounds he would experience.As he entered the town, he was awed! Coming down the street was the most incredible sight he could ever imagine. It defied words. It was more than he imagined. He pushed his way to the front of the crowd to get a view of the incredible sights. There were beautiful floats made of tissue with colorfully dressed people waving and throwing candy into the crowd. There were jugglers, animals of all kinds, and so many incredible people doing amazing things. And the clowns … some were so tall, others small, and all of them looked so happy.As one of the clowns made his way toward the little boy, he extended his hand. The boy thought that this must be the time that he was to pay his money for admission. So, he quickly dug into his pocket, grabbed the money his dad had given him and placed it into the clown’s hand.When the parade had passed and the crowd began to move away. The boy went and started home. His mind was full of the wonderful things he had experienced. It wasn’t until the next week while at school that he realized his mistake. He only attended a parade, the beginning of the circus, and had missed the main event. God forbid that you would walk away from a journey of memorable experiences and place your hopes and dreams into the “hand of a clown” and miss the main event. God is not finished with your journey. God is not finished with you. Perhaps it was only the parade, and the main event is still ahead. Jesus said, “I came to give you abundant life.” Move forward.Pray and ask God what needs to happen next in your life. Write a plan for the next week. What steps do you need to take?
“What’s Next”
  1. Join or start a small group.
  2. Attend Starting Point to pursue covenant membership at the Summit.
  3. Get involved with local ministries.
  4. Meet with the church planting team to discuss the possibility of another trip or a longer term of service.
  5. If you are interested in leading a trip, contact the missions team at