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Using Your Skills in Missions

What part should skills, passions, and experiences play in finding a mission trip?

By Marti Wade

Surfers and skaters springboard from shared interests to launch cross-cultural friendships. Medical or business professionals offer expertise to those who can’t otherwise find or afford it. All over the world, Christians are seeing God use their abilities in world missions.

You could be great with kids, have a special place in your heart for those with special needs, or be called to minister to missionary families. You may be a teacher, coach, counselor, or bookkeeper. But what part do the skills, passions, and experiences God has given you play in finding a mission trip (or even a place to serve long-term)? They could be the key to finding a fit.

1. Honor God’s design.

Sometimes people ask, “What kind of person do I need to become for God to use me in missions?” But the Lord distributes gifts throughout the global Church and calls people to serve together in a vast myriad of ways. You may need more training and experience. There’s always more to learn. Keep on growing and stretching. Yet God is not asking you to stop being who you are and become someone different.

Though our Maker has a way of working in and through our weak points as well as our strong ones, most global servants find that over time the Lord steers them to steward and serve in those areas of strength. He will develop and direct you through your areas of gifting. When looking for your next step in service, it is wise to assess how God has used you in the past. Especially seek out experiences that will hone your ministry skills and sharpen your spiritual effectiveness.

2. Search smart.

The ShortTermMissions.com search engine doesn’t list every possible type of service, but it classifies opportunities (currently more than 2000) into about 40 useful categories. Use the search box to pull up ministry opportunities in those areas or to refine a search you’ve already conducted. It only takes seconds to see what might be listed that would be a good fit for you. Perhaps you never imagined that these opportunities actually existed. Pay attention to the organizations that seem to specialize in areas that interests you. Use the website to submit requests for more information.

You might also contact specialized ministries directly. Love music and the arts? Check out a network called Artists in Christian Testimony or browse through their arts-oriented mission opportunities, such as those through World Music Mission. Have professional skills in engineering? Engineering Ministries International goes far beyond the kind of construction projects that involve swinging hammers and painting walls; they send teams to serve ministries that need project assessments, blueprints, and more.

Even organizations and service opportunities not focused on the thing you love to do may have a special place for you on the team. A large, diverse organization may even have more opportunities in your area of interest than the specialized ones do. Don’t hesitate to let leaders know about your skills and ask how they might like to put those things to work.

3. Keep servanthood central.

Just be sure to hold your offering with open hands. Don’t let the chance to do your thing in missions take priority over loving and serving your team and submitting to the guidance of your team leadership and local hosts.

If you’re a photographer, maybe you aren’t just there to take pictures and log video footage. Put down your equipment long enough to take your turn making breakfast for the team, helping in the clinic, pounding nails, or whatever else is needed. Are you a pastor, invited along to teach and preach? The Lord may use you just even more when you’re away from the podium than when you’re standing behind it.

No matter your role or area of expertise, be a servant before you’re a specialist. The Lord may also call you to lay down your abilities altogether and do something you’ve never done before. Whether you’re using your gifts or not, depend on the Lord for strength and guidance.

4. Remember mission service is a two-way street.

Opportunities to lead or teach are abundant in the mission world, but don’t let that stop you from being a learner, first. Those you go to serve may have as much to teach you as you have to teach them (maybe more). Be humble enough to accept the service of others and learn from them. Let them introduce you to their context and values before you offer any assessments or solutions. Do things their way, even if you don’t understand it yet; affirm their gifts and wisdom. In so doing, you will come home richer than before you left.

May God bless you and make you a blessing as you go.

Marti Wade has been a mission mobilizer since 1995 and has trained dozens of short-term teams for relationship-based research among the world’s least-reached peoples.

This article first appeared in the ShortTermMissions.com Newsletter.