Learning about your outreach country

Most likely your team consists of people with varying levels of cross-cultural experience. They are likely to adapt to the host country in different ways.

You are the leader, so expect others to follow your example. The attitude you carry will be adopted by your team members. Therefore, it’s important to set a positive example and encourage sensitivity and perseverance in adjusting to the new culture. You want the team to go in with a positive and flexible “learner’s” attitude. Cross-cultural understanding will be addressed during your team’s training weekend.

The more you understand about the host country’s culture, the more effective you will be. Thanks to the vast amount of information available today, you can gain a great deal of understanding about the place you will visit and begin adjusting yourself personally to enter the culture. 

As you research and study the following areas, look for ways to creatively impact your host culture with the message of Jesus Christ. Utilize nationals from the host culture, the internet, and resources such as Operation World, travel brochures, and periodicals. Specific areas to research are listed below.

Learning activities
We encourage you to help your team learn about the location you are going to by doing the following:
  • Visit the local library as a team to research the culture.
  • Search the internet (try sites such as Lonely Planet, Frommers, Operation World).
  • Invite an experienced missionary who served in the region to spend an evening with your team (EMM might be a resource to help you find someone).
  • Have a theme night (make an ethnic meal, watch a video that relates to your location).
  • Learn some basic phrases in the language used where you are going.
  • Divide your team into small groups, assign them one of the areas listed below, and have a reporting night. Encourage them to present the information creatively:
    • Dress as a person from the country
    • Bring in a map
    • Make up questions about the country, or its customs, geography, etc., and have the group play “Jeopardy” to answer them
    • Do a short skit or drama
Cultural research
  • Religious background: Study the religious beliefs of the people. How do these beliefs differ from Christianity? How devout are the people? What are creative ways to communicate the message of Jesus Christ?
  • Political background: What is the primary political system of the culture? How long has the country operated under this system? What would be the major differences in thinking politically from your home culture?
  • Social background: How is the social structure set up? Family structure? Male roles? Female roles? How do men and women interact? How should your team adjust to honor the social structure?
  • Geographical background: What is the basic geography and climate of the country? How does the climate affect the culture? For example, a hot culture often shuts down during the afternoon and has events late into the night. What can your team expect to experience as a result of the geography, and what adjustments will you need to make?
  • Historical background: Understand the historical overview. Has the country been war-torn? Stable? Held strong influence in the world? How does the history affect the way the nationals view themselves? Recent changes?
  • Economical background: What drives the culture’s economy? Industry? Agriculture? Tourism? What is the standard of living? Average income? What can your team expect of the culture’s living conditions?
  • Cultural background: Investigate the country’s cultural celebrations. Holidays? Arts, drama, music? Is their culture tied to their religious beliefs? How do they celebrate?
  • Church growth or impact: What has been the church’s impact in the country? Church growth statistics? Prayer needs for the church? (Operation World is a good source of information for this area of research.)
  • Statistics and other facts – Population? Crowded living conditions? Racial mix?