Ted Offutt is no stranger to the difficult realities of life on the field. He and his wife, Kaylin, spent several years in cross-cultural ministry in Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and finally the United States.
Upon arriving back to the US from their time in Asia, Ted and Kaylin attended a debrief and renewal week for returning cross-cultural workers. Expecting most of the participants to be similar to them—middle-aged couples who had been on the field for years—the Offutts were surprised to find most were in their 20s and 30s. Few had been on the field for more than one year, but were already burned out, disillusioned, and ready to quit.
“There were so many tears and stories of intense struggle surrounding essentially preventable issues,” Ted relates. “We couldn’t help but think if these workers had been better equipped and cared for, they would still have effective, flourishing ministries on the field.”
The Offutts now head up Encompass’ Training Task Force, a team that works to develop and implement training strategies that prepare new workers to thrive on the field.
“We’re laying a foundation from which a thriving ministry can grow,” says Ted. “We start with the essential elements and then allow creative approaches to flourish from there.”
While “success” on the field isn’t always easily quantifiable, Ted views aggressive learning as a sign of health. Putting basic training principles into practice and approaching a new context with a posture to learn provides a good framework for effective ministry.
“We have to hold our plans with open hands, but we need to go into ministry with vision and mission,” Ted says. “Training gives workers the foundation for a life of walking with the Lord, finding their identity in him, and letting everything else flow from that.”
While Encompass’ training program is still relatively young, Ted and others are already seeing fruit. New workers recognize how training gives them tools to deal with the reality of challenges on the field, such as transitioning to a new culture.
Ultimately, training isn’t about doing the right things or mastering a series of steps or processes. Being a disciple is the central component, and living in closer relationship with Jesus will always be the goal.
Adapted from Within Reach magazine April/May 2016
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