When we do missions how do we measure the results? By the number of participants? Did we have fun? Did we learn something? Did we make a friend? These aren’t bad questions, but are there better questions? I would like to suggest that asking better questions will make us do missions better. My boss at Envision Atlanta sent me these questions so I can’t take credit for them but here they are:
1: Is it part of a master plan? – Showing up somewhere and working on a project and then leaving isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it might be a waste of your time. I heard a story of a man who showed up in an village and noticed the soil was fertile but the locals did zero farming. He was saddened because they were missing a great opportunity to feed themselves well. He started teaching them to farm and planted a large garden. He continued the work despite the lack of participation from the locals. He soon realized why they didn’t farm there. As the crops started to grow and produce fruit the hippos came out of the river and ate or trampled everything. He thought he had seen an opportunity but never took they time to ask why they didn’t farm. He never asked how his vision fit into what was happening in their world.
2: Is there local ownership? – Reread the story above if this one doesn’t feel obvious. If there isn’t local ownership the project will fail as soon as the people completing it step away.
3: Does it create dependency? – Some friends of mine work with an organization that does international teaching on prayer. They send people to do the initial teaching, but the goal is that the local population will grab the vision and begin teaching the information themselves. This allows resources and people to be sent to more places and allows for growth and independence.
4: What is the long term impact? – Bible translators have to deal with this a lot in countries that have common languages, trade languages, and local languages. What language of languages do you pick to translate they Bible into? You would pick the language that reached the most people right? Well what if that language was readable but implied a lesser value to the people? What if you were able to provide a document that preserved a dying language? Or took a language that was only oral and for the first time created a written alphabet for it?
5: What is the felt need of the people you are serving? – Reaching the felt need is the fastest way to someones heart and the fastest way to earn their trust. When Envision went into Burkina Faso they asked what the felt need was and it was water. The Envision team started raising money for wells and brought water to over 200,000 people. “They came for water to drink and walked away with living water” says Pete Brokopp who was in charge of the project. Without drilling the wells the teams ability to impact the people would have been much more limited.
6: Is everyone else doing it? – Are you late to the game and creating something that is already being done over and over? Maybe it’s time to look for a new strategy for reaching out and come up with something that no one else is doing. This is a business principle. If you want to reach more people with your program or project try something new and be the first at the table and not be the last.
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