How does your host define success?

February 2024

By Tory Ruark, Director, MissionExcellence

Have you paused to consider what matters to your hosts? There are some organizations that invite groups to expose them to the work being done.

While these groups may provide help during their time on the ground, for the hosts, success may be less about what is accomplished during the trip and more about the relationships that continue afterwards.

For example, organizations working in orphan and vulnerable children may be hesitant to invite volunteers into the lives of the children to whom they are ministering. However, in order to generate advocacy and funding, hosting teams has proven a successful strategy.

A local church in an impoverished community may identify and share with a church in the US the need for medical care. Although the local pastor would love to see some of his congregants trained to be community health workers to address the needs of his community, he might settle for a team of US physicians coming to provide direct care as part of a three-day pop-up clinic. 

When asked if the trip was successful, the pastor smiles and nods, citing the $800 worth of medications handed out and 300 people seen by doctors. However, back home, he wonders with his wife: “how can we convince them next year to only bring three nurses who can spend the week training our church members on basic nutrition, infant care and checking blood pressure?”

A missionary family working among an unreached people group knows that their home church is eager to see people reached with the gospel. They agree to host a young couple who is exploring a possible call to missions. Soon, what was a group of 2 has become 14. The missionaries, scared of saying no to the church members who have been faithfully funding their work, begin to stress out about how they’ll feed, house and transport the team for a week.

In addition to the week spent with their visitors, the missionaries have to put their Bible translation work on pause for the preceding two weeks just to make preparations. After the trip, the missionaries agreed that the trip was a success because no one got sick and the Vacation Bible School attracted several dozen children. However, instead of being re-energized by sharing their work with a possible successor, the whole event proved exhausting.  

Instead of asking your hosts if a particular type of trip would be helpful, consider starting with these more general questions:

  • How is your church/ministry at work in the community?
  • Where do you see God at work in your church/ministry?
  • What hopes and desires do you have for your church/ministry?
  • What resources does your church/ministry need to accomplish God’s calling for them?
  • What kind of encouragement could you use in your ministry?

A team won’t always be the solution, but when it is, it is critical that we plan trips that benefit all participants—especially those whom we are serving.