General CBF

Re-thinking short-term missions

By Caitlyn Furr

This afternoon, I attended the Leadership and Congregational Renewal through Short-Term Missions workshop at the 2016 Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly led by CBF field personnel, Matt and Michelle Norman. Matt and Michelle minister near Barcelona in Spain and recognized an opportunity within CBF church short-term missions. After church groups traveled to Spain for a mission trip with the Normans, they would say “We can’t wait to go back to Barcelona to do missions again.” Matt and Michelle saw a great desire for missions in CBF churches, and wanted to provide a way for them to engage in missions throughout the year in their own communities, not just when they travel abroad.

The Normans worked with Ryan Clark and other CBF staff to develop a curriculum called “Pivot,” in which CBF field personnel guide small church groups in a new missions experience. During the session, Matt and Michelle described the new curriculum and its benefits to CBF churches.

Pivot is a three-step process with a leadership development aim. First, a small church group of no more than about eight people select a CBF Global Missions site and coordinate a trip with the corresponding field personnel. Step one is called Preparation, and requires three months of in-depth study within the group to prepare for their mission experience. During Preparation, the group reads the book When Helping Hurts, which may challenge the way they view missions. This phase encourages the group to have deep discussions and develop a solid missiology. The group will also Skype with the CBF field personnel, who will help them through the phase.

The second step of the Pivot process is the On-Site phase, in which the group visits CBF field personnel and engages in training and the day-to-day ministry. During the on-site time, the field personnel teach the group valuable skills, such as asset-mapping and how to read a community. The group may worship with the local people, and engage in service activities with members of the community, but the main focus of the trip is learning.

The third and final stage is entitled Pivoting Home. When the group returns to their home church, they implement the skills they learned on-site to missions in their own community. With their newfound skills, the group is able to understand the needs in their community and aim to form new missions programming accordingly.

Matt and Michelle stressed that the goal of Pivot is for churches to think critically about how and what missions they are doing. After the Pivot process, churches may decide to tweak their missions endeavors to improve effectiveness.

Overall, Pivot is about missions discernment, and is especially beneficial for churches that want to go deeper in missions. Numerous CBF field personnel have already been trained in leading groups through the Pivot process, and the relationships the missions groups form with field personnel can be very meaningful and fruitful.

The audience for this session was engaged and interested in the new Pivot resource. Each participant left with a complimentary copy of the Pivot book. I thought Matt and Michelle were very knowledgeable about missiology, and did a wonderful job of leading the session. Pivot offers the opportunity for churches to re-evaluate their missions, and strengthen their outreach to the community, as well as revitalize passion within their church. I look forward to hearing how CBF churches use this resource in the future and the innovative missions that result!

To learn more about this resource, visit

Caitlyn Furr is a 2016 Vestal Scholar and student at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and Rollins School of Public Health pursuing a dual degree in divinity and public health. 

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