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Sending Forth

Litanies for Commissioning a Mission Team

Use these two short worship litanies to build a bridge connecting your congregation to youth or adults who go out to serve on mission trips. Both litanies can be easily inserted into your church’s regular worship service. The first is designed to commission the group before it leaves on its trip. The second is designed to welcome them back. Read through these litanies carefully and adapt them as necessary to reflect the focus and tasks of your particular mission trip.

Commissioning Litany

Coordinator: There are different gifts, but the same Spirit that gives them. There are different ways of serving God, but the same Lord is served. Each one of us is given gifts by the Spirit to use for the common good. Together we are the body of Christ, and individually we are members of that body.

[Briefly describe the mission project; then call participants and leaders forward by name to stand before the congregation.]

[To congregation] Family and friends, I present to you those who will represent our congregation in this mission project.

[To participants/leaders] Mission team, I present to you the people who will support you as you go out. They believe your mission is important.

Pastor: In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells us to go and make disciples (28:19). In the gospel of Mark, Jesus calls us to go and tell the good news to everyone, everywhere (16:15). In the gospel of Luke, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to be with us (24:49). And in the gospel of John, Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (20:21).

What is a mission? It is sending forth people somewhere to serve. God sends people on a mission.

What is a commission? It is granting authority, allowing us to act on behalf of another. God commissions people to go for him.

[To participants/leaders] Do you recognize your mission of being sent forth by God to a specific service?

Mission trip participants/leaders: We do.
Pastor: Do you accept your assignment as a commission from God to go and act on his behalf? And do you accept the responsibility of representing this congregation in doing the work of our Lord in [location]?
Participants/leaders: We do.
Pastor: Will you work to demonstrate Christ’s teachings by loving one another and by translating Christ’s message with excitement and care, turning strangers into friends and friends into brothers and sisters?
Participants/leaders: We will.
Pastor: Do you commit yourselves to serving faithfully on this trip in ways that bring honor and glory to God? Will you serve with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love, treasuring your experiences as opportunities to learn and to grow?
Participants/leaders: We will.

[Have a participant read aloud Isaiah 6:8.]

Pastor: God, your people are hungry.
Participants/leaders: God, send me.
Pastor: God, your people need help.
Participants/leaders: God, send me.
Pastor: God, we know you need someone to go.
Participants/leaders: God, send me.
Pastor: God, we know you need someone to be a light in a dark world.
Participants/leaders: God, send me.
Pastor: [To sponsors/prayer partners] It is written, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” Do you recognize God’s commission on the lives of these participants?
Sponsors/prayer partners: We do.
Pastor: Do you commit them to the Lord, and will you pray earnestly for their mission?
Sponsors/prayer partners: We will.
Pastor: [To the congregation] Do you accept these people as missionaries chosen to extend our Christian love and concern to others?
Congregation: We do.
Pastor: Will you continue to support them with your prayers during their venture and with your interest upon their return, recognizing their special contribution to the work of God’s kingdom and their mission as your own?
Congregation: We will.

[A mission trip participant reads aloud Matthew 28:18-20.]

Participants/leaders: We wholeheartedly accept this mission from God.
Congregation: Go into the world.
Participants/leaders: We’ll take the love and support of our church.
Congregation: Go into the world.
Participants/leaders: We’ll take off the blinders that shield our eyes from real-world struggles.
Congregation: Go into the world.
Participants/leaders: We’ll do what Jesus has called us to do.
Congregation: Go into the world.
Participants/leaders: We’re servants of God.
Congregation: Go into the world.
Participants/leaders: We’ll need your prayers.
Congregation: Go into the world.

[During the offering, pass baskets with cards that have the names of your mission participants written or printed on them.]

Pastor: Each card in these baskets has the name of one mission trip participant on it. Please take one card from the basket and take time each day during the mission trip to pray for that person. Pray for strength, peace, patience, and kindness. Above all, pray that God will use that person to show God’s love. Please join with me now in a commissioning prayer and the laying on of hands.

[Participants move throughout the congregation.]

Pastor and Congregation: Guiding and loving God, empower these people to be your hands and feet. Help them to glorify you by serving others. Send them into the world to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and warm those who are cold. By their actions and words, make them witnesses of your great love and your passion for rescuing your people. Protect them, teach them, and support them as they take this next step in their own journey to becoming the people you want them to be. Fill them with the Holy Spirit and enable them to do their tasks faithfully and joyfully. Bring them safely home and then let their experience further enrich us, so that we too will glorify you by serving our community in the love of Christ.
Participants/leaders: Heavenly Father, give us strength, wisdom, and love to work for you as we serve in [place]. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Pastor: Go and do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God.

When the Mission Team Returns

Use this litany at the first worship service after the mission team returns from the trip.
Pastor: We are excited to welcome home the participants in the mission trip to [insert location]. Join them as they lead us in prayer.
Participant/leaders: God, you’ve brought us home. You’ve taken us beyond where we thought we could go and safely carried us back. Thank you for your guiding hand all along the way. Thank you for lighting the path so that we could carry out the mission you gave us to do.

[Have a participant read aloud Matthew 25:23.]

Participant/leaders: We have returned.
Congregation: Well done, good and faithful servants!
Participants/leaders: We fixed, painted, scrubbed, built, proclaimed, and lifted spirits.
Congregation: Well done, good and faithful servants!
Participants/leaders: We’ve learned, prayed, cried, sung, laughed, and prayed some more.
Congregation: Well done, good and faithful servants!
Participants/leaders: We’ve grown closer to each other and to you, our God.
Congregation: Well done, good and faithful servants!
Participants/leaders: We’re not the same people you sent out.
Congregation: Well done, good and faithful servants!
Participants/leaders: We’ve grown.
Congregation: Well done, good and faithful servants!
Participants/leaders: We’re your servants, God.
Congregation: Well done, good and faithful servants!

[Invite those who have prepared testimonies to do so; follow with a slide show or PowerPoint presentation if possible.]

[Have a participant read aloud Psalm 136 as a responsive reading. After the first half of each verse, instruct the congregation to respond with the second half: “His love endures forever.”]

Pastor: Let’s pray together. Receiving and welcoming God, these are your servants. We thank you for what you’ve done in and through them. They have carried the love of your Son, Jesus Christ, into the world by their actions, attitudes, and words. We welcome them home, and thank you for the work you gave them to do. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Excerpt

Each year many congregations commission youth or adults for mission trips, to carry out special ministries, or to serve as Sunday school teachers or other ministry leaders. If you have planned a special commissioning service, send it to us and we’ll consider it for publication in a future issue of RW. And while we’re at it, let’s not forget to pray for and honor those who serve quietly and tirelessly every week through church programs and elsewhere.
—JB

Excerpt

Before the Service

Ask a few of the mission trip participants to prepare a short testimony of the trip’s impact on their life. If possible, prepare a short slide show or PowerPoint presentation that chronicles the trip and show it after the testimonies as indicated in the litany.