USA (MNN) — In times of crisis, the first response is often, “What can my church do?” Currently, mission teams are gearing up to provide relief for the West Indies and parts of the USA in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. But what should those who want to serve know before they pack their bags?
Brian Veen, Director of Mission Mobilization for Kids Alive International, offers sound advice on the hard questions to ask before saying “yes” to serving.
“A lot of churches just kind of show up in a country on their own, and don’t really know what they’re doing.” He says partnering with a well-established organization is essential.
But how do you know if the organization you are working with is trustworthy? Veen says to start by doing research.
“There are a few ways to tell what kind of organization you’re working with and how to pick an organization. One would be to look on Charity Navigator, look on their website as they rank charities to see how they use their finances and what their scores are there. I’d also look at the length of the program, and make sure they’ve been there for a while, they know the community, they’re seeing changed lives. A lot of organizations kind of pop up around recent crises, and they don’t always have a good track record there or know the community or that country.”
Veen also says churches should find organizations that are running long-term programs in the countries they serve.
“A lot of agencies will send a team in, but they aren’t actually running a program, they aren’t caring for kids, they’re just facilitating a team. By using an organization that has a long-term ministry, you know what you’re doing is going to have a long-term affect even after you leave. It’s not just a vacation Bible school in a community. It’s part of a program where an organization is running a ministry in that community providing a lasting impact.”
Veen says trustworthy organizations can provide cultural guidance and solid training. And he says there’s opportunity for deeper investment in the country served.
With Kids Alive International, for example, Veen shares, “You can become a child sponsor, you can become an intern, or you can even become a missionary in the future as part of that same organization and working with those same kids.”
Many trustworthy organizations also help with mission trip administration, helping the church to focus on serving by managing many tasks like finances, background checks, liability releases, and insurance.
Most importantly, working with an organization that has a long-term focus frees a church mission team to focus rightly on the needs at hand.
Veen explains, “When logistics on the field are handled by a partner organization, it allows the team to focus on ministry and relationships. Knowing there are translators, meals, drivers, and workers already in place frees up the time and attention of the team to invest in relationships, both on the team and with those to whom they are ministering.”
Kids Alive currently sends service teams to seven different countries around the world: Lebanon, Zambia, Kenya, Dominican Republic, Peru, Haiti, and Guatemala. Visit their website for more information about opportunities to serve.