by Phil Porter
Some years ago, Jon Stevens, who helped us create what we now call the Outreach Teams Department (OTD) of our YWAM Thailand National Office, began asking how we could be more strategic with outreach teams. With the help of Paw Pan, a Thai staff, and Chris Lenty, an American, they formed a ministry team that would focus on facilitating the outreach teams nationwide. Today, YWAM Thailand regularly hosts more than 120 outreach teams per year. How were we able to create and sustain that momentum? And how does that impact the nation? Here are a few things we’ve discovered along the way.
Our OTD staff love outreach teams. Our goal is to facilitate a fruitful and smooth outreach from start to finish. Before leaving their home country, the team leader can find all the info needed on our http://www.ywamthai.org/outreach/ website, including a list of more than 100 local churches and ministries who would like to host a team, their vision, and a description of what an outreach with them would consist of. We ask all teams to come through our “front door” by contacting the OTD first, and then arrive at one of 3 locations where they can receive an orientation on language, culture, and YWAM Thailand. This gives each team member an opportunity to see the bigger picture, as well as where and how they might could serve if God calls them back to the nation after outreach. Transportation and a translator are provided, along with a mobile phone, if necessary, in order to follow up regularly.
Value the Local Church
Although we don’t tell teams where to go, our goal is to help each team find the host that best matches their needs, and vice versa. So we solicit ministry descriptions from each local church, matching expectations from both parties. Paw Pan also follows up regularly by phone with local pastors to minimize cultural misunderstandings and unmet expectations.
By forming a network circle of outreach team coordinators, we can share information to collate contacts, experiences and targets together. This allowed us to reach the goal of having sent one outreach team to every omega zone in Thailand. It also allows us to show inquiring teams a list of outreach opportunities based on need, ministry focus or geography. http://www.ywamthai.org/outreach/locations/
Information is powerful. By collecting data on each team, we now report annually to national church leaders how we are contributing to Thailand’s National Plan of Evangelism, which local churches received a team, etc. This is both encouraging to national pastors, but has given us much favor with the national church as well. We also report to the government how foreign volunteers are serving the needs of the country. And the data shows us which YWAM bases around the world regularly target Thailand, which then has enabled us to form strategic partnerships with those bases that go much deeper than outreach teams – including sending long-term staff, joint training, collaboration online, etc.
One of the most impacting, yet least visible results, of the OTD ministry has been the number of young Thais who have been trained in new skills by serving the outreach teams. By partnering with our local YWAM campus ministry, Thai students are employed part-time to serve as translators, drivers, receptionists, and hospitality staff at the center where teams are received. This gives them sought-after job skills and greater confidence, as well as fluency in English. But most of them also develop a desire to do a DTS and eventually become full-time YWAM staff. Several of our key Thai leaders started out as one of these young students.
One of the secrets to our success has been the combination of Thai and foreign leadership. Paw Pan speaks minimal English, but is able to relate best to the local pastors and his crew of part-time Thai students. His right-hand person, for most years, has been a foreigner who did speak some Thai, but related best to the foreign outreach teams. This combination provides optimum ability to communicate and facilitate.
Sharing What We’ve Learned
In the early years, there were various teams and YWAM bases who resisted the request to integrate with our system. They wanted to jump straight to their local contact, robbing the team members of the opportunity of seeing and participating in the bigger picture and long-term strategy of what God was doing in Thailand, and usually creating more headaches for themselves and calling us for help later. But as more teams experienced the hassle-free outreach we could provide, we began to get requests to train YWAM in other nations about how to facilitate outreach teams. We have since both facilitated training in Bangkok and gone to visit YWAM bases elsewhere to share what we’ve learned with more than 10 other nations.
Short-term outreaches are an integral part of the YWAM culture. But they are often seen as an end in themselves, with little long-term strategic effect. I would suggest that, with some strategic planning and intentionality, the ministry of outreach teams can have a national impact on multiple levels, including pre-DTS discipling, job-training, the local church, national church leadership, and the government – all simultaneously! Don’t underestimate the potential of these waves of young people, which can extend far beyond their few weeks on outreach.
If you would like to learn more and make a greater impact in your nation with outreach teams, feel free to contact us at [email protected].