One Challenge considers a learner’s heart key to global mission work. In fact, one of OC’s six guiding principles is to be lifelong learners. That means we seek to grow in competency as we serve the body of Christ in its context and intentionally mentor, coach, and disciple one another. There is a teaching element, but first there is an attitude of being a learner.
OC not only wants to be an organization made up of lifelong learners, but we are striving to create an organizational culture of learning. That is a lofty goal and one Russ Mitchell, newly appointed Director of Training, has bravely taken on. The position is focused on providing all field and United States Mobilization Center leaders with the training support necessary to ensure that every US-MC worker is healthy and effective.
This support falls into four categories:
- Assisting trainers to improve their adult learning understanding and skills
- Supervising established training delivery platforms
- Developing cutting edge techniques to enhance training
- Facilitating evaluation of training at all levels, including impact on the organization.
One Challenge recently interviewed Russ to hear how he envisions filling the big shoes of this new role.
OC: Russ, you joined OC in 1995 and deployed to Romania in 1997 where you served for 15 years. In 2012 you returned to the U.S. where you joined the virtual Global Research Team. How do you feel God has prepared you for this position at this time?
Russ: Looking back, I can see how God has been preparing me for this role throughout my entire life. He has placed within me the passion to equip God’s people for service. My experiences in education, cross cultural mission, leadership, and local church ministry have provided me with a broad perspective on the practical skills, mindset, and character qualities that healthy and effective cross-cultural workers need to develop over the span of their ministry careers. This may be my most “fitting” role to date.
OC: What part of the job excites you?
Russ: I am excited about the future opportunities for training mission workers, from the beginning to the end of their careers. OC’s leaders have asked me to keep my eyes open for new training methodologies and technologies that will allow OC to better support our workers. Developments in information technology provide new ways to connect people and provide training that were not possible 10 or even five years ago. Training from here out will look very different from the past.
OC: Why is it so important to promote a culture of learning in missions?
Russ: A guiding principle of OC is lifelong learning. There are at least three layers of how lifelong learning applies to missions.
First, I think that every follower of Christ should have this lifelong learning mindset. Our walk with God always draws us into a deeper understanding of God and his ways as we journey with him through the different seasons of life.
Second, most mission workers serve in cross cultural settings. It takes years to really master a foreign language to communicate effectively and to grasp the nuances of cultural differences. There is always more to learn about language and culture!
Third, our rapidly changing world means we must adapt our mission strategies to be relevant in our ministry contexts. Church today looks much different now than it did in the 20th Century. It has been pointed out that trends in mission strategy change significantly every 10 to 20 years. We are seeing that globalization and information technologies are further accelerating this rate of change, to where five or 10 years could be the half-life of a particular approach.
There are also other world events, like the aftermath of 9/11 or our present COVID-19 pandemic, that are game changers. For example, COVID-19 has further accelerated the application of information technology in mission. There is no going back. For these reasons – and many more – it is necessary for mission workers be lifelong learners in order to remain fruitful.
OC: What do you see as your biggest challenges?
Russ: OC has a very good pre-deployment training process for mission workers, which gets better each year. However, we envision the training process continuing for several years once a worker arrives in the host country. We want to empower the receiving teams to do an excellent job integrating new workers into the host culture and discovering their specialized ministry roles in the country. Also, based on the feedback we have received from our current workers, people desire timely assistance when they have a felt need – not months or years later.
Our formal learning programs are not nimble enough to address these needs. We believe that developing a coaching culture will be an important piece to address this felt need. Implementing coaching at all levels is a great challenge but will go a long way toward developing the learning/developmental culture that will enable OC workers to be on the cutting edge of what God is doing in our time.
OC: Thank you for your service and vision. May it effectively advance God’s kingdom work.