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The Misconception of Mission Training


by Laurie Drum, TMS Global Director of Training and Formation

As I wrapped up a question-and-answer chat with a church group, one of the men approached me, shook his head and said, “I had no idea. I thought a great foundation in scripture was all you really needed to go out and serve in mission. But after this talk, I see that it’s so much more.”

Common Need for Training

I train workers to go out and serve cross-culturally in a multicultural world. Workers may be training to go to Europe or Africa, or Asia, or even Alabama. Some are going to serve as teachers, while others are working with refugees or in hospitals or in community development projects. Some are business owners in urban settings, while others are living in farming villages in tropical jungles. In every situation, it will take more than a great foundation in scripture to keep those workers healthy and help them cross cultural barriers and navigate global issues. A well-planned training program can be the difference between success or heartbreak.

Beyond Theology: The Essentials of Cross-Cultural Success

Building strong relationships with local people in another culture takes more than sound theology. Learning about personalities, worldview, culture, communication, and conflict will all be important to long-term success. A strong basis in spiritual formation will be crucial, as will a fuller understanding of cross-cultural partnerships, practical skills in language learning, and how to avoid the pitfalls of a dependency model in social action and outreach.

Holistic Training: Addressing the Whole Worker

Holistic training and formation is an approach to learning which focuses on the whole of a worker’s needs. A healthy holistic curriculum addresses all aspects of an individual, rather than just their academic development or theoretical knowledge base. A holistic approach to training and development helps prepare global workers for the realities they will face in various situations by preparing them for cross-cultural communication, discipleship, caring for their children in a new culture, self-awareness, conflict management, and more. Global workers need and deserve training that meets the needs of their whole being: spiritually, relationally, emotionally, and physically. Aligning essential learning modules in an intentional scope and sequence that will best meet the needs of the learner at critical points in their training is vital to a successful program.

Community: The Heart of Training

A strong sense of community is a key factor in a comprehensive training program. While we are training individuals to go out and serve, we are also training people to live in community, to go out and be relational beings, as God created us, and to love their neighbors well. As we consider a strong training program, we also want to consider building a strong community of people who feel grounded and nurtured and supported, and who have the attitude of humble learners ready to learn from the community around them. One of our recent training graduates shared, “Our pre-field training experience was excellent. It was an incredible time of learning and connection and building deep relationships. It was so helpful and encouraging to be in a place where we formed community and a deeper understanding of God’s heart for us and for the nations.”

The Proven Impact of Holistic Training

Mission training and formation that addresses all of these issues and more in a holistic training approach can be a major component for success.  Research confirms a high correlation between pre-field training and retention. Pre-field training that is well-rounded in scope and sequence and that integrates topics such as character, interpersonal skills, theology, missiology, and cross-cultural understanding is one of the most effective ways to set up global workers for long-term success and healthy lifestyles. At TMS Global our goal is to provide a well-designed holistic training program that is aligned to the ever-changing needs of our workers and the world they live in, and to equip our cross-cultural workers for success.

Laurie Drum
Director of Training and Formation

Laurie served in Latin America and Europe before becoming our director of training and formation. She is passionate about learning and teaching others how to grow, develop, and be effective as they serve around the globe. When she isn’t teaching, you can find Laurie hiking in the Spanish countryside or hanging out at the stables with horses.