Participants at the October 2005 Fellowship of
Short-Term Mission Leaders Conference.
Imagine a place where a leader can participate in the development of his or her ministry skills while equally focusing on the refreshment of his or her soul. Imagine a place where networking occurs, ideas are born and excellence in mission is promoted. For the past twenty-five years the Fellowship of Short-Term Mission Leaders (FSTML) conference has been a strategic oasis where these values are modeled. FSTML is an annual October conference that exists to bring God’s glory to the nations by training, networking and empowering key leadership from all disciplines of Christian short-term mission.
One of the primary purposes of FSTML is to facilitate soul care among its participants. Ministry leaders would rarely, if ever, argue that the development of ministry skills is an important aspect in achieving maximum effectiveness for individuals and organizations. Undoubtedly, these same leaders would champion the necessity of refreshing the soul. And yet it is so countercultural for us to take the time in worship, genuine fellowship and prayer that is necessary to reinvigorate our passion for God. Maximum effectiveness in our lives cannot come without this soul refreshing. At FSTML, intentional planning assures that participants have the opportunity to feed their soul spiritual nourishment. Specific time is set aside for personal prayer and prayer for the nations. Worship and encouraging interaction are part of the daily schedule.
Advanced Level Leadership Training
Not only does FSTML focus on spiritual rejuvenation, it also provides advanced level leadership training. Training is a central focus for the conference as FSTML aims to empower leaders in the short-term mission arena. Plenary sessions and multiple workshops provide avenues of learning for participants. Generally, participants are drawn to the conference in search of greater depth of training. The themes challenge professional leaders from churches, agencies, schools and other sending entities to grapple with mission issues and incorporate their conclusions into daily practice. Recent conferences have dealt with issues such as crisis management, justice, standards of excellence and effective follow-through.
Oftentimes training in the short-term mission arena focuses on training team leaders for specific mission outreaches. This leaves key mission leaders little to wrestle with in their ministry once they receive initial team-leader training. FSTML seeks to offer ministry leaders training depth that will facilitate excellent short-term mission in their lives and organizations. For instance, participants in 2005 encountered workshops focused on marketing their organization’s opportunities, risk assessment and creative access strategies. By moving beyond basic training principles, FSTML engages leaders on a level appropriate to their ministry position.
Networking was an important part of the FSTML Conference
Network, Strategize, Dream, Relax
Time after time participants convey that one of the most valuable components of the conference is the free time that is provided. Yes, free time. Building on the first focus of soul care, FSTML intentionally schedules free time into the daily agenda. Although the concept of free time is not new, actually obtaining such time is rare. But in these moments that are afforded to participants, great kingdom advances have been made. Advances have been made in the hearts of individuals as they relax and play. But God has also chosen to advance his kingdom on a larger scale when participants network, strategize and dream. The worldwide impact of FSTML began in the early years of the fellowship as participants conceived the idea of creating the book Stepping Out. The impact of the networking and dreaming at FSTML continues into recent years as participants have been instrumental in developing, among other initiatives, the U.S. Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission.
God’s Mission of Justice
As one begins to search the scriptures, it becomes clear that justice and love for the oppressed are reflections of the heart of God. Micah 6:8 reminds us that the Lord God requires us to act justly. During the October 2005 conference FSTML dealt with the issue of justice in short-term mission. Gary Haugen and Larry Martin of International Justice Mission challenged leaders to consider the role short-term missions could fulfill in dealing with issues of justice around the globe.
Larry Martin challenged FSTML leaders
As conference participants were exposed to biblical references to God’s heart for justice and modern day issues of injustice around the world, they began to grapple with ways their short-term missions could make an impact among the oppressed peoples of the world. In both large and small group settings, leaders had the opportunity to advance the cause of justice as ideas were put into motion that would equip short-term mission participants. For instance, ideas on how short-term participants could recognize and report problems of injustice were shared. Overall, the theme of justice and the values that annually pervade the FSTML conference gave attendees strategic tools to promote the advancement of God’s kingdom.
Equipping Leaders for Twenty-Five Years
As FSTML celebrates twenty-five years of equipping leaders in the short-term mission realm, it looks ahead to 11-15 October 2006 when the conference meets in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, to continue promoting God’s glory through short-term mission. The 2006 plenary speakers are Duane and Muriel Elmer, who will equip participants to facilitate within their short-term missionaries a culturally relevant gospel. Duane Elmer is author of Cross-Cultural Connections: Stepping Out and Fitting in Around the World and Cross-Cultural Conflict: Building Relationships for Effective Ministry. Additionally, participants will have the opportunity to attend a variety of workshops concentrating on topics for leaders at various stages in their personal development.
Individuals who are interested in registering for the 2006 FSTML conference may due so at http://www.fstml.org/. Information about the 2006 conference speakers, schedule, workshops and fees are now available.