As people begin to think through who they will want on a Short Term Missions team, the issue of an application process often comes up. How do you select people for your missions team? What are the questions to ask? Red Flags? In pulling together many missions teams over the years, I have found that an application form, while a good start, is not enough information by which to pull a team together. Team selection should start with an application form, but should rely on a face-to-face interview.
What needs to be on the application form to give me the most meaningful information?
I think of an initial application as the first step for someone to express interest, there are no guarantees at this point that they will be part of the team. Many people say they are interested until it comes time for them to do something about it. An application helps move people to a decision.
Years ago I met a team applicant who looked great on the surfac (some details are changed to protect his identity), he worked in a church, had his finances in ord
Years ago I met a team applicant who looked great on the surface. He worked in a church. Had his finances in order. He seemed like a real asset to the team. In the past, he had even volunteered to help out with some of the previous teams preparation.
It was only when we began to look a little deeper that some disturbing details began to arise. This candidate had recently suffered a moderate emotional break-down and was being treated for depression. This would not have kept him from the team necessarily, but hiding it certainly did not help! Co-workers recognized the instability that he would have brought to a team, but because they liked him, at first they did not want to give the actual details of the situation to the team leader.
In the end, the leader knew he did not have the capacity to accommodate this person’s need and their application was denied.
Thats when it got ugly.
He showed his true colours. He blasted everyone with an ugly tirade. He threatened the team leader. He tried to force his pastor to give him a positions on the team. The team leader was shaken, but certainly happy that they had made the tough call earlier.
What to ask
Any application question will not give you enough info, but they can give you a thread to follow up on during an interview. Be inquisitive and follow your gut. Use questions that show to a potential team members that you will be expecting a transparent and open relationship if they choose to join your team.
The questions should take more time than a quick credit card application in a mall. Someone who is not willing to take 30 minutes to reflect on why they want to go, may not be the best candidate to take on your team!
The questions should reveal a seriousness to your task, enough for a participant to carefully consider whether or not they are able or willing to work within a team.
Ask Questions about:
- Physical and mental health. “Do you have any condition that will make it difficult for you to fully participate …?”
- A criminal record. “Will you be able to travel to and through the countries to our destination?”
- Willingness to submit to a police check. “If we do police checks for volunteers who work with kids in Canada, do we have the same standard of care for other people’s kids?”
- A faith background. “Does it affect our work if a person promotes values different from our partners?”
- References. “How do the people who know the candidate think they will react when there is tension, disagreement, stress, work to be done?”
Does Faith Matter?
The question about a faith perspective, (IE ‘Are you a Christian?’, or ‘Share your testimony’ are by no means a requirement for all mission-sending organizations. Many churches and agencies are willing to accept participants who do not self-identify as a Christian, so long as they are willing to work within the priorities and requirements of the agency. In fact, some churches feel it is important to bring ‘non-believers’ onto the field with the express opinion that if people are brought to where God is at work, then they may meet Him there.
References are limited by the fact that the person supplying them will often only select people that will give a glowing report. It is important that the team leader uses all resources available to get a clear picture of the possible candidate. Phone the pastor to find out how they know the person, or if they know them. Check to see how they work in community (or not). Many a team leader has only found out after the fact, that a possible team member would have received a number of red flags to watch out for it only the leader had contacted the most obvious sources.
In my mind, a primary purpose of an application is to let participants know that this process will involve commitment, and authentic openness. Ask personal questions, and expect direct and complete answers.
What is your non-negotiable for a volunteer team?