General CBF

Turning the Corner in Short-term missions

By Ryan Clark 

Linda Jones, Missions Coordinator for CBF of North Carolina cornered me at a meeting last year, “Have you seen this “Missions Learning Lab” that the Norman’s have created?” I hadn’t. “It was terrific,” she said. She had an extra copy in her car. She’d give me one.  And she did.

Pivot book final cover thumbnailAbout a week later, I emailed Matt and Michelle asking to video chat with them about the resource.  It was pretty great and it was very close to the kind of mission resource churches had been asking me for over the past several months, which was something for church leaders that was critical, yet positive and affirming of the short-term mission experience. “Mission Learning Lab” was this and while it was specific to Spain and the Normans, but it didn’t necessarily have to be. One thing led to another and Pivot: Turning Teams Toward God’s Mission Near and Far was born. We’ll be hosting a workshop at this year’s CBF General Assembly (spoiler alert: you’ll get a free copy if you attend).

Matt Norman is what we call a “missiologist.” It’s an actual discipline. And he rightly wanted to see people grow in their understanding of how God is working in the world and have a deeper understanding of why we’re all going on mission trips around the world. He also saw a direct connection between the kinds of changes that can occur to us when we are on mission and how it can impact the way we practice mission at home.

Matt puts it like this: “Field personnel, along with the Pivot workbook, help individuals and churches dive deeper in their discipleship as Christians by thinking critically about their mission practice, the theological foundation of this practice, and how it relates to their own church and community.”

Pivot helps churches identify the boundaries that need to be crossed internationally and in the local community. As most of us experience it, local boundaries are the hardest to cross.

Pivot represents one specific approach to short-term missions; not the only approach (have you seen PilgriMission yet?). It lives within the missional situation of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Mission Distinctives. You can learn more about these distinctives through the Bible study as well as other mission resources at http://www.cbf.net/missions.

Pivot is a workbook/journaling resource that follows three stages.

  • Stage 1: Preparation where teams form together to study the question “Why Practice Mission?” alongside reading the book, When Helping Hurts. Here, groups learn about culture, missiology, leadership and experience spiritual formation.
  • Stage 2: On-site Engagement is a mission experience with CBF field personnel. This is not a traditional “mission trip.” Here participants learn, listen, practice and reflect on the realities of mission ministry.
  • Stage 3: Pivoting Home is learning how their learning and experiences so far will impact their everyday lives and ministries at home.

Here are a few ways in which Pivot may be different from other resources and trip you have experienced. Consider this table comparing short-term mission paradigms from a Western church perspective:

Traditional STM Paradigm Missional STM Paradigm
They need us.

We’ll bring God to them.

We’ve come to teach.

Those people are poor.

We want to see their community transformed.

We need each other.

We’ll look for God there.

We’ve come to learn.

We all are in need.

God wants to transform all communities.

Because of this paradigm shift from control to accompaniment, the focus of our time during a Pivot mission endeavor is not service. While our experience may include service, the focus of our time is creating space for metanoia to occur through the work of the Holy Spirit. We seek to pivot from our usual way of doing things toward a changed way; hopefully, a more faithful attempt toward God’s way: God’s Mission.

Ryan Clark is the CBF Global Missions Church Engagement Manager. 

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