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3 Ways to Use EM's Cross Cultural Training Sessions

MAY 2020

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by D.J. Morgan D.J. helps connect people to opportunities to love and serve others like Jesus as a member of the creative and marketing team at Experience Mission.

We all want to do good, help others, and make a difference in the world. But if we’re not aware, we can end up doing more harm than good while trying to serve others. We can come into a situation with our own agenda or implicit biases that inevitably hurt more than we help. Even though we have a desire to make a positive impact in the lives of others, there’s a good chance we’ll step on someone else’s toes or worse—make the very people we’re seeking help feel small, insignificant, and unloved. This is often because we have made assumptions about people that are incorrect. We’ve stepped into a cross-cultural experience with no training or guidance on how to think, behave, and act.

Almost every situation where those with much seek to give and help with our time, talents, or resources could be considered a cross-cultural experience. Sure, we may only be going down the street or across town, but the world we inhabit may be light-years from the daily struggles, history, or experience of the people we meet. That’s why “cross-cultural training” can be so beneficial. Not only does it provide a safe space to explore ideas that will shape the way we serve others, but it opens our eyes to the reality of worlds outside of our own—and how we might not be perceiving our own place in this world through the right lens.

For these reasons and more, Experience Mission has spent countless hours developing cross-cultural training sessions for our mission trip volunteers. To date, we’ve created five 90-minute sessions tackling topics that come up over and over again in the context of missions and service other — Hope, Dignity, Brokenness, Advantage, and “Other”-ness. For years, we’ve sent training materials to EM mission trip teams to go through ahead of their trip, but in this “summer of no mission trips”, we want as many people as possible to experience the growth and change these stories, activities, and discussions can bring about. For free. (Really! Access and download all 5 sessions here.)

With that said, we think there are 3 great ways to use these training sessions this summer:

1. With a Group (In-Person)

These training sessions were initially designed for groups to go through in-person together. Obviously, in-person gatherings have been hard to come by recently, but we’re optimistic that your youth group, mission trip team (who’s missing their trip this summer), or church small group will be able to get together soon.

At an in-person training session, participants are able to take full advantage of the thoughts and wisdom of their peers, seamlessly bouncing from watching videos in a large group to smaller group discussions or activities. Gathered together, we’re able to be more vulnerable and less distracted, really digging into the content and wrestling with the questions presented in a safe space. It can also be a great bonding experience for a group of people hoping to serve together in the future. Whether it’s your mission trip team looking ahead to 2021 or a church small group who’s been wanting to engage your own community in a new way, EM’s training sessions will bring your group together and push you to grow together.

2. With a Group (Over Video Call)

I think we can all agree there’s no substitute for gathering together in person. We miss it dearly. But we’re also more aware of the potential and ease of meeting over a video call than ever before. It allows us to gather a group from a larger geographical distance and requires no effort to “set up the room” or reserve space on the church calendar. It’s also something everyone can do right now.

To make EM’s training sessions work over a video call, take on the role of the group facilitator by hosting the slides and videos over screen share and setting up “breakout rooms” for smaller group discussions. Handouts can easily be emailed as PDFs and most group activities can be done over video call with a little creativity. (For example, if a group activity requires raising your hand if you agree with a specific statement, have everyone turn their video feed off and only turn it on to “raise their hand”. It makes for some great Brady Bunch-like on-screen fun!)

We all know large group meetings online are not ideal, but hosting a cross-cultural service training session for your group provides a reason to get together, share ideas, and dream about when we can get back out there and love and serve others like Jesus in tangible and meaningful ways. That’s a little better your average Zoom call!

3. On Your Own

If you’ve been reading this wondering if this sort of training is available for more than just groups, you’re in luck! While these sessions were originally created to help train groups before their week-long mission trips, the topics and content are universal to anyone anywhere desiring to serve others—hopefully, that means you!

That doesn’t mean that going through a session on your own won’t have its limitations. There are many great things you can glean from the wisdom and experience of others that are hard to replicate on your own. That’s why, in lieu of having a group of people to round out the thoughts added to the discussion, we would encourage you to ask God to open your mind to ideas that might be new to you. Approach these videos, stories, scripture, and questions with a desire to learn and grow, and we believe you will.

We also recommend grabbing a journal to allow your thoughts and questions to take shape throughout the session. Write down anything that stands out. If a question goes unanswered, jot it down to ask people you trust later. It’s been proven that we can focus and remember things better when we write them down. Open up that blank page, pick one of EM’s 5 training sessions, and see what God has for you.

We’re all sad that COVID-19 has made it harder to love and serve others in the ways we’re used to and bring us so much life. Connecting with people in a cross-cultural setting—learning from each other, sharing life together, serving in tangible ways—there’s almost nothing better. But in this “summer of different”, we encourage you to take the time to learn and grow. That way, when the world opens back up, you’ll be ready to boldly serve others in a way that values, empathizes with, dignifies, and loves people just like the One who created us all.

Start planning your 2021 mission trip by filling out an interest form today!

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