Recognizing your type tendencies can have a significant impact on your next mission.
Every missionary (well, every Christian, for that matter) exhibits certain traits during a mission. As Ken and I have served, led, and overseen mission trips and projects over the years, we’ve experienced quite the range of these traits. We’ve witnessed the quiet power of a meek, yet overflowing, servant’s heart, as well as the destruction of a culturally insensitive, yet good intentioned, “fixer.” We’ve both walked through (well, are honestly still walking through) our challenges with tendencies to “fix,” “feel-good” and have “fun” during a mission.
So, we decided to take a crack at identifying and grouping the major traits that seem to have the most impact on missions - both healthy and unhealthy. We hope that identifying the broken pieces in all of us can help move us toward healing in these areas before we head out on our next mission.
The “Fixer” is the hard-working, passionate missionary who believes their primary purpose is to “solve a problem.” They tend to be so task-oriented that the job takes priority over building relationships with those they are serving or are serving along-side. The Fixer might be heard saying, “If we’re going to go help someone, it should be worth the time and money spent.” As a result, Fixers frequently find themselves feeling isolated and frustrated while those they are “helping” can end up feeling demeaned and/or disregarded.
Common “Fixer” Traits
A perceived sense of superiority
The “Fun-Lover” is interested in going on an adventure, meeting new people and enjoying every moment along the way. They tend to be the happiest people at the beginning of a trip, but discouragement usually creeps in at some point - often when things get serious and/or uncomfortable. The Fun-Lover might be heard saying, “When we’re done helping, we get to go do [xyz fun activity], right?” As a result, Fun-Lovers tend to find themselves focusing on, well, themselves more than those they are there to serve. This leads to cultural insensitivity, discontentment, and/or unmet expectations.
Common “Fun lover” Traits
The “Feel-Gooder” has a deep, almost primal, desire to love their neighbor. Usually stemming from a “need to be needed,” they are the first to call the church when they discover a community in need. Their impulsive nature leads to well-intentioned, yet short-term, premature, and/or reactive decisions. The Feel-Gooder might be heard saying, “They need us! We must act right now!” As a result, Feel-Gooders often end up burnt out or feel “used” because they unconsciously hope to receive recognition, love or approval for their mission work.
Common Feel-Gooder Traits
The “Overflower” approaches mission with a servant’s heart. They invest heavily in relationships - with God, their team, and those they are serving. The Overflower is a calming influence on the mission team. Their primary goal is to see God glorified and lives transformed, even if it costs them personally. Overflowers are seen more than heard. They let their actions and heart do the talking as the presence of God, and His love overflows out of them.
Common Overflower Traits
* Did you notice that there are no negative traits in an overflower? This is because this is the type of missionary we strive to be. It is only through the presence of the Holy Spirit that we are refined into the overflower.
The Struggle is REAL.......
All of us possess traits from each of these types. As I said, Ken and I tend to be “task-oriented” Fixers. Our introverted, hard-working natures can lead us away from being God-centered, and relationship focused. As a result, we have been known to drive a team to the brink of exhaustion. Thankfully, we live in a grace-filled community that reminds us who we are and guides us back to worship and the heart of God. It is in this place where we are filled to overflowing so that our actions bring glory to God.
So, before you serve again, take some time to do this assessment, recognize your missionary type tendency and push heavily into your relationship with the Lord.
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