How not to do missions in Africa

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Missions in Africa is complex and full of pitfalls. There are several areas in which we need to take heed from those who have gone before us and made the mistakes. Here are some of the areas to watch out for. Please add more, if you have your own learning experiences. Other Africa files are listed here.

Examine your motivation

Being motivated out of a type of compassion, which is based in a humanistic worldview will be flawed from the beginning, as it elevates humans above the call of God. See God's Government for details on a biblical perspective.

Don't measure success in a linear way

Christian missions can be complex. Measuring success and ministry development in a linear way (i.e. number of converts, size of congregation) is not necessarily an indicator of success.

Don't use jargon

Christian terms, such as discipleship have no meaning for those outside of the mission world. See entry on African Terminology for more information.

Don't talk too much

Wisdom from the Bible says that we should listen more than speak.. James 1:19 teaches us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Yet, in our eagerness to preach the gospel to the nations, we don't take time to listen. We should spend more time listening and asking open-ended questions that we instruct and explain from our own experiences and knowledge of God. ===Overly structured meetings can stifle good relationships=== Basing all relationships and work on a structured time plan and meetings without spending time getting to know the community members and leaders can damage long-term relations. If the leaders don't see integrity in our relationships outside of structured environment (i.e. a willingness to share meals together, an openness to be vulnerable), our ability to fulfill the projects we are trying to achieve may be limited.

Beware of transactional leadership

Within the context of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, transactional leadership works at the basic levels of need satisfaction, where transactional leaders focus on the lower levels of the hierarchy. Transactional leaders use an exchange model, with rewards being given for good work or positive outcomes. Conversely, people with this leadership style also can punish poor work or negative outcomes, until the problem is corrected. Transactional leaders are effective in getting specific tasks completed by managing each portion individually. However, YWAM prefers a model of Transformational Leadership. Transformational leaders are leaders who engage with followers, focus on higher order intrinsic needs, and raise consciousness about the significance of specific outcomes and new ways in which those outcomes might be achieved.

Beware of idealizing or demonizing African traditional culture

We stand on a biblical worldview, with some specific foundational values. However, by idealizing or demonizing African traditional culture, we can easily get distracted from our original call. Therefore, we need to recognise the African traditional culture that we encounter and not raise it up or lower it down arbitrarily. Rather, hold it against good sound doctrine and biblical understanding and allow the culture we are engaging with to do the same.