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Experts avoid these short term mission application questions

Updated: Dec 3, 2022

As leaders dream of mission we know we can’t do it alone. We need a great team around us. That means we need to find the great team-mates we want alongside and avoid the applicants who will hurt our mission. How do you know who is who? We should pay heed to the advice of great leaders who know what they absolutely must have on the short term mission application.

Why you need a GREAT short term mission application

I once met a team applicant who looked great on the surface. He worked in a church. Had his finances in order. He seemed like a real asset to the team. He was super enthusiastic about our mission, and had even volunteered to help out training a previous team. It was only when we looked deeper that the disturbing details began to arise.

This candidate had recently suffered a moderate emotional break-down and was being treated for depression. He refused to let anyone know and pretended it wasn’t happening. Now, being treated for depression would not have kept him from the team – but hiding it wasn’t helping us trust him.

We found out because we asked the people he worked with to describe him. Co-workers liked him, so at first they didn’t want to say anything negative. When we dug just below the surface they described concern. They told us of an instability that he would bring.

After reviewing the application, the team leader knew that he would not have the capacity to accommodate this person’s need. His application was denied.

Thats when it got ugly.

The applicant showed his true colours. He blasted everyone with an ugly tirade. He threatened the team leader. He tried to force his pastor to give him a position on the team.

It was resolved in the end, but the team leader was shaken by the experience. They were relieved that they had gone through the entire application process with everyone – no exceptions - even the candidate who looked ideal at first glance.

Do you know how to select people for your missions teams?

A short term mission application form is the first move for a potential team member. It winnows out tire-kickers and smoothly helps move people into a decision.

Your short term mission application questions should reveal a seriousness to committing to your team. They will help a participant to decide whether or not they are able to work with you.

Is there one magical question we should have on the short term mission application form to ensure we get the right people? Probably not, but experience has shown that a few principles will  make your life a lot easier.

1. don’t be afraid to go deep

Your questions should expect something from your potential team members.Dig a little. Use your questions to highlight the type of openness you want in a team member.

2. take your time

Your questions should take a little more time than a credit card application in a mall (but not much more). Someone who is not willing to take 15 minutes to reflect on why they want to go, may not be the best candidate to take on your team.

3. make sure EVERYONE participates

Don’t skip any applicant, no matter how well qualified.  Make sure that everyone goes through the same process.

Not only is it fair – but leaders with experience will tell you that people who feel above an application process are the same people who create the most problems.

Definitely Ask these questions on your short term mission application

An important purpose of an application is to let participants know that this process will involve commitment and openness.

Ask personal questions, and expect direct and complete answers.

1. Why do you want to go?

2. Describe the good and bad of your physical and mental health.

“Do you have any condition that will make it difficult for you to fully participate …?”

3. Do you have a criminal record?

“Will you be able to travel to and through the countries to our destination?”

4. Are you willing to submit to a police check?

If we do police checks for volunteers who work with kids at home, do we have the same standard of care for other people’s kids?

5. Tell us about your spirituality.

Does it affect our work if a team member promotes values different from our partners?

– Ask for someone they have to report to

– Ask for someone they find spiritually significant

– Ask for someone that relies on them

Ask the people who know the candidate best to tell you how they will react when there is tension, disagreement, stress, work to be done?

No application question is perfect. You will never find every vital piece of information you need. But the application should give you some threads for a follow up – great team leaders use this application as the basis for a personal interview.

Your short term mission application questions are much more than a way for you to find your next team member. Those questions will also reveal to potential team members the kind of transparent relationship you are expecting from them.

Be inquisitive and follow your gut. This might be where they decide that this isn’t for them … if they self-exclude now, you might have just dodged a bullet!

Don’t bother asking these questions on your short term mission application

There are some questions that seem good on the surface, but really don’t help your process. Ask yourself, “What will I do with the information I receive from this question”.

If the answer will not affect your decision – don’t ask the question!

Here are two common questions you might choose to skip.

What is your previous mission experience?

This question may be helpful at the interview, but will asking the question really help you select a candidate or not?

When date did you personally accept Christ?

The question about a faith perspective, “Are you a Christian?", or ‘Share your testimony’ are by no means a requirement for all mission-sending organizations.

Many churches and agencies are willing to accept participants who do not self-identify as a Christian, so long as they are willing to work within the priorities and requirements of the agency.

In fact, some churches feel it is important to bring ‘non-believers’ onto the field with the express opinion that if people are brought to where God is at work, then they may meet Him there.

A better question is ‘Describe your spirituality’

One final addition you must have on the Short Term Mission Application

At some point in our life we have all filled out forms with crazy questions. We wonder what must have happened in the past to get people to add ‘that’ question to their forms.

  1. “I promise not to bring fruits and vegetables along”

  2. “I won’t have a one-night stand on my mission trip”

  3. “I will pay for the full cost for our trip to Disneyland”

If you have ever seen an odd question on a form, chances are it was added after an odd person made an odd choice. Be cautious of adding questions to a application after someone does something crazy. This process will never end.  As long as there are new short term mission teams there will be new ways for people to mess up.

So what should you do instead?

You may wish to add something like this to the end of your application.

“We can’t write a rule for every circumstance we could ever face, so our ultimate rule is how can we remain in healthy relationship. Relationships get messy. If you are in doubt about our team expectations you should ask, if you are failing the team we will let you know. The rule of thumb for us all is to stay strongly connected.” 

What’s your non-negotiable for a short term mission team application?

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