John Frye offers four pieces of advice:
I tried never to shape their behavior by pulling out “your-dad’s-the-pastor-of-the-church” card. What salesman-dad
pulls rank on his kids with his vocation? Or engineer, or school
teacher, or baseball player? “Your dad is the pastor” is a
dangerous and phony standard to use on children. Why? Because
being a pastor does not equal being a good dad. Children can
learn to hate everything about the faith under the pressure of
living up to an artificial standard especially when their dad is an
Julie and I risked erring on the side of grace rather than
on strict, regulated family laws. We, of course, had standards
and guidelines, but we would rather be known as gracious than
as strict disciplinarians. Love and grace are risky realities in
raising children, but in the long run they are worth it. This can be
tough, though, because you don’t get a hand-book with each
child. Every parent wants a “paint by numbers” guide to raising
the perfect kid. And if they can’t get one from the Christian radio
guru, they will make one up. I have seen children in the church,
after being raised under and pressed down by strict “Christian”
and moral laws, flee into apostasy when they got out on their
own. Parents had an image that they wanted their children to
match and never got to know the image of God that God had in
mind in creating the child. So much parenting today is fear-
driven, not grace- and love-driven.
Julie and I believe that being faithful to each other is the
most valuable legacy we can give our girls. Julie and I are
very different persons (that probably goes without saying in view
of the old saw “opposites attract”). We have had some turbulent
times in our marriage and family life, but we both made a
commitment before we had children that “divorce” would not be
in our vocabulary. I recall an argument Julie and I had. I left the
house angry and one of the girls came with me. I was driving and
fuming inside. My little daughter looked at me and in a fearful
voice asked, “Are you and Mom going to get a divorce?” My spirit broke. Our marital anger created insecurity in her heart. When Julie and I would "kiss and make up," as they say, our girls would swarm around our legs and hug us. A seminary mentor repeatedly said, "The best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother."
4. I did use our family’s life periodically in sermons (and,yes,
I did err sometimes in not getting permission first. But I
learned). Here’s what one daughter thought of that (as a pro):
“I loved being the PK at Bella Vista [Church]. I loved that I might
hear my name or at least a story about me in your sermon
illustrations. I guess that was my inner actress getting a little
fame. It made me feel special and it made me feel like what we
were going through, what we’d accomplished or what we’d said
was important. I loved it!” I wanted people to identify me and
Julie and the girls as a family like their families with fun stories
and deep sorrows. Thankfully, the church overall accepted that.
HT: Scot McKnight
Editor’s Note: This is a continuation on yesterdays post look at the
impact of passing out your personal contact information on short-term mission trips. Jeff Athersone is a missionary of Training Leaders International and serves as Chancellor of African Renewal University.
This past month I know two Ugandans who sent out some heart wrenching emails to
Americans who had recently served on a short-term team. One email was a prayer
request for a young girl who was raped on her way home from church. The other email
was from a young man who desperately needed surgery. Both emails tugged at the
reader’s hearts so they forwarded the emails on to me asking how they could help or
I have had this happen a number of times before so I am used to following these types
of situations up. I have learned not to lead in with what I heard but instead just to ask
how the person is doing. In each case both of the people I called were surprised that I
was calling them and seemed surprised that I would think anything was wrong.
The reason being both were working on an email scam and didn’t know that I had seen
their emails. Here is how it works.
1) The short-term visitor and national exchange contact info (email, facebook,
2) A few messages are sent to establish contact and to thank the visitor for
coming to Uganda.
3) The national reports a crisis that they are indirectly involved in to gauge the
4) Final step, they report a crisis directly involving themselves.
5) Now the American is deeply involved and 99 times out of 100 the American
asks "How can I help?" and the exchange of money begins. Notice that in steps.
1-4 there is absolutely no request for money.
At this point you might be wondering, “Is this really a scam?”
Even though there is no request for money I do believe it is a scam. When the national
doesn’t report the situation to a national ministry or missionary on the ground you have
to wonder “why are they not seeking help locally?” In a poor country like Uganda where
corruption is the norm most of the people sending these emails are looking for a quick
buck and that is why they are passing by the local ministries that can use their
understanding of the culture and person to make an informed decision.
As a short term visitor one of the greatest things you can do is to empower the local
church and local ministries by referring these requests back to them and asking them to
discern what is the best way to help. The majority of the time money is not the answer
but instead there is need for counseling and discipleship which isn’t a quick fix but it
sure has better results. If the local ministry does agree that the problem is money the
best thing to do is to give through the local ministry so that there is accountability and
the person receiving help isn’t tempted to create more problems in the future to collect
When in doubt I always encourage people to turn the tables. If a Ugandan was visiting
the US and they got to meet the people in your church would you believe that the
people in your church could receive the best counsel, support and encouragement
through emailing the Ugandan once they returned home? Or do you think that the staff
of your church in the US is better equipped to handle the challenges facing the people
in your church?
Editor’s Note: Over the next two days we will look at the impact of passing out your
personal contact information on short-term mission trips. Jeff Atherstone is a missionary
of Training Leaders International and serves as Chancellor of Africa Renewal University.
Over the past 7+ years I have had the opportunity to host over 300 short-term visitors in
Uganda at Africa Renewal University. We have been blessed to have teaching teams,
construction teams, community outreach teams and curriculum development teams.
I always encourage the teams to exchange their emails with the management staff at
ARU. The national ARU staff have excellent training in theology and development
issues so they can help the visitors as they learn about cross-cultural ministry. By
exchanging emails the relationships that were established during the trip can continue
and a “peer relationship” between the two cultures can begin to form.
When the staff communicates with the visitors through email the discussion usually
revolves around projects that we are working in partnership on with the visitors,
curriculum that we are developing together and the sharing of resources on the web that
we can both learn from. This type of “peer relationship” has been a very empowering
exercise for my staff helping them to put aside the “colonial mindset” that many were raised in which taught them that they were inferior to Western visitors.
Although I encourage visitors to exchange emails with the people that they are
“ministering alongside” I do not encourage them to exchange emails with the people
that they are “ministering to.”
There are a number of hazards that come with this type of email exchange. One hazard
is that this can lead to scams and frauds, which are common through email and I will
address this in another post. The primary hazard that I wish to address today is that by
exchanging emails you can actually have a negative impact on the local ministry.
We have experienced this a number of times where a visitor begins emailing a student
of ours and the effects can be damaging to the development of the student. The visitor
will often offer the student gifts or money that other students do not receive which can
cause the students to become jealous of each other and can even bring competition
between the students for the visitor’s attention.
The other problem with the visitors offering our students gifts and money is that our
university training is helping to give students the skills they need to lift themselves and
their communities out of poverty. By offering the students these benefits the visitors are
moving them back to the “begging culture” that we are trying to lift the students out of.
Aside from the offer of gifts and money the visitor’s emails are robbing the students of
the discipleship relationships that are right in front of them. Email is a great tool but it
can never replace direct human interaction for discipleship but too often nationals are
more interested in emailing a rich visitor from the West rather than connecting with their
national pastor or ministry leaders. The discipleship that I have seen effectively done
through emails begins with a long-term relationship not just 2-weeks together on a
The exchange of gifts and discipleship might not be the key issues for other ministries
but one thing remains constant – the nationals and missionaries on the ground will
always have a greater understanding of how to minister to the people where they serve.
That is why God has called and placed them there! The role of the short term visitor is a
supportive role and should be to come alongside local ministries joining the Gospel-
movement that is taking place on the ground.
Just because someone has spent two weeks in Uganda or even been on ten trips to
Uganda that does not make them an expert on the issues facing Uganda. Be careful
who you hand your email out to and make sure that your ongoing communication is a
blessing to the ministry and people you came to minister alongside of.
George Houssney, the President of Horizons, has written a helpful article on the
strengths and weaknesses of short-term missions. Below are what he sees as
negatives and positives. You can read the entire article here.
1. A good percentage of short-termers end up going long-term. Some statistics
claim 50%. Many would never go to the mission field were it not for these short-
2. Many gain a heart for missions, and they return often and/or become
supporters, prayer partners, and mobilizers.
3. Short-Term mission trips are eye openers for many. It is one thing to read
missions newsletters and reports, it is another to actually be on the mission field
and see the poverty, the hardships, and the spiritual depravity of people of other
4. Some who have never witnessed back home become bold in witnessing when
they are with a like minded team witnessing in a cross cultural context. This can
even help them begin to witness when they return home.
5. Those who are hesitant because they are not sure about their calling use
short-term trips to test the waters and see if career missions might be what God
is calling them to?
6. Some cannot be career missionaries because of job and family considerations.
However, they do want to make a difference, so they use their vacation time or a
break from school to do something for the Lord, rather than spending it on
7. Many who go on mission trips come from affluent families. They are not used
to doing dirty work. Manual labor gives them an opportunity to serve others and
to experience hard work like they never have before.
After looking at some of the pros and cons of short-term missions, let us see
what the Bible says about this.
Missions is a word that came out of the Greek Apostolos, a messenger who is
sent to accomplish a certain mission. To better understand the meaning of
Apostolos, we must look at the life of Jesus and the apostles, and what they did
Negatives and Drawbacks
1. Many who go on mission trips have no cross cultural experience and due to
the shortness of the trip, they are sent with little or no preparation or training. As
a result they are likely to behave in ways that are not culturally appropriate or
sensitive. I have seen young men dress in shorts and women in tank tops in
conservative countries where men and women cover the majority of their bodies.
Young people also tend to behave immaturely, with coarse joking, flirting, and
inappropriately touching others of the opposite sex. On the other hand, some
come with their expensive clothes, expensive gadgets, computers, phones,
ipods, Cd players, BlackBerries, and flash money around while people in the
target culture cannot afford such luxuries. This results in either disgust or
adoration of the missionaries. In either case, it is not healthy.
2. Many go on short-term mission trips in response to short-term guilt trips laid on
them by preachers or missions speakers, who rightly challenge them to do
something about the unreached people. For many, going on a short-term mission
relieves them of their guilty feeling. Rather than consider a longer term commitment, they settle for a trip or two here and there. Some feel that they now have missions checked off on their "To-do in my lifetime" list.
3. Due to the excitement associated with going to a foreign country, some fall in
love with the new culture and do not see beyond the facade of its external
expressions. Rather, they become enamored by the culture’s music, folklore,
dress, and lifestyle. In fact, some expect to see a much darker side of other
cultures than they discover. As a result, they fail to see the lostness and spiritual
depravity of people from the target cultures.
4. Recruiters who are anxious to sign up people for these trips tend to
exaggerate how great these trips are. They raise the expectations too high. The
result of unrealistic expectations is usually disappointment. Some expect to love
the people in those counties but find out they are not as kind or attractive as they
were promised. Some expect to see many people saved. They end up painting
walls and laying bricks and hardly seeing any natives. Some return from a short-
term mission disappointed because they did not lead anyone to Christ and they
feel that they have failed and that they are not made for missions.
5. A percentage of those who have a positive experience on short-term mission
trips end up returning for a longer term. They often discover that living in that
country long-term is not as exciting or intense, so they get disappointed. They
reason that if they had so much fun for two weeks, living there would be even
better. By some estimates, half of those who go on long-term trips return home
disillusioned. Long-Termers cannot maintain that level of intensity and excitement
over a long period of time. It is like going on a honeymoon or vacation; you do
not have to go to work, and you enjoy every moment. Then reality hits and you
are back to real life, where there is work, tiredness, shopping, cooking, cleaning,
and countless other things that keep you busy. Many missionaries expect that
when they return full time and for a long time, they would have the same
experience as they did when they went short-term. They end up disillusioned and
frustrated. Some missionaries do not realize that just figuring out how to live in a
foreign country takes up a huge chunk of their day. I know missionaries who have
taken a year or more to settle down, spending time looking for a house to live in,
furnishing the house, dealing with shopping, transportation and doing many more
6. Short-term trips are expensive. Once I was on a prayer walk trip in Morocco.
Four hundred came from many parts of the world for the five day journey. I
estimated that no less than one million dollars were spent on travel alone (400 X
$2500). Some have argued that it would be better that we send this money to the
mission field where it can make a much greater impact.
7. The impact on the national church is not always positive. Some churches are
inundated by short-term teams that demand a lot of attention. This takes national
pastors away from their regular routine and disrupts the ministry
Here is an interesting report frin 2013 on America's Worst Charities
was just released by the Tampa Bay Times. It ranks charities based on how much they spent on fundraising vs. what actually went toward fulfilling their mission. Below are the rankings.