Basics of Effective Field Visits
Who gets to go on the Field Visit?
Leader – someone who represents or is deputized to represent the interests of the church and speak with some authority on behalf of the church
Listener – someone who recognizes the field visit as an opportunity to really get to know the missionary, their ministry, and their whole situation better. That takes someone who is more focused on asking questions and listening than in talking/teaching and being the focus of attention.
Learner – willing to see, taste, hear, smell, feel their situation, culture, and what life is like for them.
Confronter – Someone skilled and willing to say the hard things, if necessary, to help keep the missionary's mind and attitudes on track.
Counselor – someone willing to apply biblical truth and sound doctrine to the issues confronting them
Communicator – Someone willing and able to communicate what they’ve learned through the privilege of the field visit to those back home.
Here’s a couple of key ideas to keep in mind:
You’re there to minister to your missionaries; don’t pressure to put too much into making your visit comfortable for you. Learning the challenges (and discomforts) of their life is part of the lessons you need to learn.
Is it better to "hang out" and observe their life, ministry, relationships, etc. than for you and whatever you have to offer to be the focus of your time there? If you get to lead a Bible study or encourage other missionaries or nationals in some setting, great! But don’t make that the reason or center of why you’re there.
Be mentally prepared for jet lag. It’s real; it can hammer you. Some people handle it better than others; be one of the handle-it-better people. Sleep (or at least try or pretend to sleep) when you’re supposed to sleep; and, stay awake when you’re supposed to stay awake. Drink plenty of water and take aspirin (not Tylenol or Advil or their equivalents) to help with brain fog.
Sharpen your observation skills and question-asking skills. You’re there to learn and to absorb as much as possible in a limited amount of time on behalf of everyone in your congregation.
Don’t try to go through the whole checklist of inquiry areas in one sitting! It might even take more than one field visit to fill in all the blanks! But you can use transit time and "relaxation time" to chip away at the list.
Here’s a key list of areas guiding my visits.
Obviously, the concerns are pastoral in nature and may vary depending on the tenure of the missionary/ies you’re visiting, their type of ministry, the depth and scope of your or your church’s relationship to them.
Spiritual vitality and consistency: including devotional life, fellowship with other Christians, areas of sinful temptation or weakness, relationship with local bodies of believers
Physical/mental/emotional health: including typical local diseases or susceptibilities, check-up schedules, individual needs
Marital relationship health, growth, problems, needs. Or, if single, relationship with the opposite sex, or issues of singleness. Whatever the man says, ask the women separately or even privately to confirm.
Family relationships with children: stresses, concerns, practices, discipline, spiritual leadership’
Schooling & ongoing education: for everyone in the family: concerns? resources? needs?
Language & culture proficiency: diligence in growth, resources, a plan, continuing growth for the whole family
Team relationships: learn who they work with, who they report to, how they relate to them; are there regular meetings? annual field conference? regional meetings? What spiritual input, pastoral care, on-site visits, do they receive from their team/organization?
Relationships with nationals: neighbors, friends, hospitality, ministry partnership/s, participation in community, acceptance, etc.
Housing & utilities: adequacy, appropriateness to the cul