AIM Team Formation
When AIM students arrive for registration on the first day of AIM every August, they come as individuals, knowing few if any of their soon-to-be classmates, and not knowing where they will be in a year's time. By the time they leave in April, they leave with a city in mind that will soon be their home as they embark on an adventure of daily mission work.
But another major change occurs for each student by April. They become a part of a team. While AIMers do occasionally go to a field as a "one-person team," the model which is followed is for students to go in teams. In fact, AIM even has a number that is considered ideal: 4 to a team. But what takes place between August and April? How do these teams form? And how do they know where they are going to work?
1. Field Presentations
Beginning around mid-September each year, missionaries from around the world come to Lubbock, or send a representative in their place, to share with the AIM class about their mission field and the work to be done there. In short, they come to recruit an AIM team. These missionaries are members of the churches of Christ who are working for the cause of Christ in various specific locations. Some are even ex-AIMers, while others may have only recently heard of AIM and have decided that it sounds like the kind of help they would like.
When the time comes for the field presentation, the missionary is given approximately 40 minutes to "present" his field to the class. This is usually done through a combination of speaking to the class and showing videos or slides. Normally, the missionary also allows some time to field some questions from the class about themselves, their field, and the work that AIMers would do there. Often, the missionary will also arrange a time later in the evening for as many AIM students as are interested to come have dinner with him and discuss things in further detail.
2. Deciding Preferences
Throughout the month and a half or so that field presentations are taking place, the students in the AIM class are evaluating the options, praying about them, and naturally forming an idea in their mind of which fields they might most like to work in. Around the end of October, the field presentations come to an end, and after taking a few days for continued thought and prayer, each student in the AIM class turns in a list declaring their preferences.
The first thing on this list is the top 5 or so fields that the student feels most excited about and drawn towards. Similarly, the student has the option of listing up to 5 fields that he or she does not want to go to. While sometimes referred to as the "nightmare fields," these are places that the student simply thinks that he or she would not do well in, for whatever reason.
Just as each student might consider himself more compatible with some fields than with others, so also are inevitable differences in compatibility with potential teammates (that is, everyone else in the class). So along with their field lists, each student is also given the option of listing 5 or so classmates that he would like to accompany to the field and work with, and up to 5 others about whom the student feels the opposite.
3. Team Formation
Having received this input from each AIMer, a certain group of AIM staff then begins the process of praying earnestly for the potential teams and for wisdom in their decisions of team formation. Over a period of several weeks this group evaluates the preferences expressed by the class and formulates team possibilities. This involves taking into account not only each student's stated preferences, but also each field's need and the nature of its work, among other things.
It should be noted that it is virtually impossible that every student should end up going to the place he or she listed as the number one preference, with exactly the group listed as his or her "dream team." In fact, it always possible that someone might be placed on a team that is headed to a field that they preferred not to go to. Interestingly, in such cases, the student often comes to love that field and would trade the experience for nothing. The same is possible with teammates.
4. Team Development
Sometime around the end of November or early December, the team formation committee announces the preliminary teams and their fields to the class. This, again, is an event that is saturated with prayer and praise to God. These teams are not "set in stone," however, and some teams may continue to change somewhat over the ensuing weeks.
The announcement of the teams is in no way the end of the team formation process. Over the course of the next several months, each team is individually guided by 2 or more AIM assistants in group dynamics exercises intended to help them to know each other better and function as a team to the glory of God. Each team also is assigned to do research on its field and to formulate that research into a "culturegram" that summarizes the field's culture, geography, spiritual condition and existing work.