Summer Report Back Season
It is that time of year again when church ministries kick-off; all of the holidays are over; the short-term mission teams have ended; and our church calendars are full of Sunday evenings and midweek meetings of summer work report backs. Lots of nervous young (and not so young) people are sharing with everyone their acts of service over the summer. Many people are delighted and encouraged to hear what others got up to. Those who supported and prayed faithfully are keen learn about the ways in which God used that support.
But despite the support and interest of our home churches, the reality is that it is very difficult to make a report back interesting, and encouraging (unless of course you fought a lion bare-handed and 4,000 people were converted). So here are five things that could help us make our report backs a little more interesting and encouraging:
- Tell us why you went with a particular agency
Virtually all summer work takes place through the medium of a particular agency. It might be a parachurch organisation; a denominational structure; or perhaps some kind of mission agency. For some reason though we chose one (or perhaps two or three) of these agencies to serve with as opposed to the other options. It would be beneficial for your church to know who you served with, and why you chose them.
For example, for the past number of summers I have served with Baptist Youth – a department of the Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland. The reason I serve with them is probably connected to the fact I am a Baptist. However, they also operate a profitable policy of only sending teams to work with established Baptist Churches or Baptist Mission’s work. The reason for this is so that all ministry undertaken in the summer by a visiting team can be followed up by the local congregation. This seems wise and sensible to me. So, tell your church why you served with a particular agency.
2. Don’t simply run through the schedule
There is little that is more tedious than listening to five report backs in a row which all follow the same pattern – rehearsing the schedule. “On Monday at 9 we had breakfast, at 10 we had Bible study, at 12 we handed out invitations…” and so on and so forth! Don’t get me wrong it is important to let people know what the components of your week was made up off. Some teams/camps do things a little differently than others and so it is beneficial to share the differences. However, no-one is going to enjoy your reading out your schedule for the week. Instead share a highlight, or something which was particularly difficult, or an unusual activity which peeked interest with the team members or children. It is important that we don’t simply run through the schedule.
3. Share what you learned, or ways in which you were challenged
If you’re not going to run through the schedule what should you share? Share what you learned, or some way in which you were challenged. By and large your church doesn’t want you to return from summer service exactly the same as before you left. The church desire and pray that through service we will be changed, transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ and develop in our discipleship. Offer them encouragement to continue those prayers by sharing how you have been changed.
I once led a team through a five-part study of the letter of Jude. One of Jude’s focuses is the judgement that will certainly be unleashed on false teachers and those who abandon the faith. I waxed eloquent about God’s justice and the comfort that God’s justice should be to Christians facing difficulties. While taking this on board, the team challenged me as they were deeply moved at thinking about unbelievers who faced this same punishment. I learned that there was a hardness to my heart which had prevented me from seeing things from that angle. I changed as I grew more compassionate when meditating on God’s justice. Let your church know that your service has changed you in some way.
4. Offer specific prayer points
One of the helpful things about short-term service over the summer is that it is often away from your usual circle of friends and acquaintances. This means that there is usually an anonymity for the people you are working with. While praying for all the children who heard the gospel, and all the leaders who helped out is a good thing – it is also vague. Pick an individual, an event, a story which will capture people’s attention and ask for specific prayer for the specific scenario.
5. Share Scripture
This final one is usually left out, and that’s a shame. God’s word feeds God’s people, so encourage and exhort those listening to your report back with Scripture. Tie what you were doing in the summer to what Scriptures teaches, prays, encourages or promises.
I have served in London over the past few summers, in an increasingly ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse area. Therefore, this year when I reported back I read Psalm 67 to those present. This Psalm presents the scandalous picture of the God of Israel enjoying a relationship with the nations (the Gentiles). It prays that God may be known among the nations (v. 3), that the peoples, all the peoples, would praise Him (v. 3, 5) and that the nations would be glad and sing for joy in God (v. 4). It ends with the somewhat certain hope that all the ends of the earth will fear God (v. 7).
Pick a passage of Scripture which is related to your area of service and share it with the congregation.
Sometimes the report back season can be tedious and tiresome – for both those tasked with reporting back and those listening. It should not be so. Those reporting back should be enthused by their opportunity to join the work of the kingdom, proclaiming Christ and praying for transformed lives. Those listening should have their hearts warmed by faithful servants, glorious reports of God at work and the realisation that the individual standing in front of them has been changed by God through their service.
Have a think through the things mentioned above and enjoy sharing your experiences with your loving home church!