Starting Points

Starting Points

“I don’t know where to start!”

Have you ever said that?

If you are struggling to know how to begin or to develop a fresh missions vision in your church, here are some starting points for five different ministry crossroads:

  1. In new churches or churches with no missions program
  2. New to their leadership role
  3. Struggling with waning missions interest in their church
  4. Whose church has no clear missions strategy
  5. Who feel their missions program is good but not great

Always begin with prayer

The place to start, regardless of where you are in missions, is prayer. God is bigger and more powerful than anything standing in your way. He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or think (Eph. 3:20). He wants you to get started!

Recruit at least three or four other people to pray with you about how to move forward. Ask your pastor to pray with you about it. Dedicate time to fasting and prayer. Spend time listening for the voice of the Spirit, and asking for His discernment. God loves to answer prayers like that!

Here are three issues of Postings articles that will help clarify the big picture:

  1. Invite several leaders to help develop a biblical definition of missions for your church. If possible, begin by doing a Bible study together on the biblical foundations of missions. Paul Borthwick’s Missions—God’s Heart for the World or Jim and Carol Plueddemann’s Witnesses to All the World—God’s Heart for the Nations are excellent study guides.
  2. Identify your church’s DNA. Click here for some key DNA markers. After you have analyzed your DNA, pray and consider what type of ministries these point toward.
  3. Develop a realistic one-year plan that includes a few tangible action steps. You may have limited financial and time resources, but just get started. Here’s a starter list of possibilities. Remember, you don’t need to go it alone! Look for an experienced mission agency to help you. They can prevent you from being overwhelmed and help you avoid painful mistakes.
  4. Find out what refugees, immigrants, or international students are living in your area. What ministries are serving them? What is needed? Determine if there are ways your church can help. Begin with a one-time service event to introduce this type of ministry to your people. After they gain some experience, you can offer opportunities requiring an ongoing commitment.
  5. Adopt a missionary. One great possibility is to look for workers who focus on a people group represented by the nearby immigrant community mentioned in #4. Even though the missionary may work on the other side of the globe, if they focus on the same people, you have much in common. Challenge your people to start praying regularly for “their” missionary.

Here are three issues of Postings that will help clarify the big picture:

  1. Set up an appointment with your pastor to learn more about the passion and priorities of your church leaders. Click here for suggested questions to ask your pastor.
  2. Meet with the missions/outreach pastor of a church near you. Find out what they see as the most important aspects of mobilizing their congregation. Ask if you can observe one of their missions leadership team meetings.
  3. Schedule an in-person or Skype conversation with each missionary you support. Click here for some suggested topics to talk about. Ask each missionary and supported organizations to summarize their ministry priorities.
  4. Take the Perspectives or Kairos course to give you a better overall understanding of missions. Subscribe to Missions Catalyst and read Paul Borthwick’s Western Christians in Global Mission. Each December Catalyst’s Postings publication features our readers’ poll of best missions books—a great way to identify what your peers have selected as priority reading. Access past issues here.

Here are three issues of Postings that will help clarify the big picture:

  1. Invite several Millennials who attend your church to meet you at Starbucks for an honest discussion of how they see the world and want to get involved. Click here for some suggested topics. Just ask questions and listen. Invite them to implement at least one of their ideas.
  2. Introduce your congregation to a Christian leader from another part of the world—in person, if at all possible, or via Skype. Let them tell their story so that your people see the world from a fresh perspective. Consider how you could partner so that both sides benefit.
  3. Spend the next six months focusing your congregation’s attention on just one strategic ministry or area of the world. Use compelling videos (check out the short Prayercasts) and statistics about the people/region presented in easy-to-understand graphics (see the Operation World DVD or The Future of the Global Church digital resources). Use multiple communications methods. Can you employ at least a dozen different ways to share this story?
  4. Develop an exciting missions project and a related learning module for your children. Kids carry excitement home and get their parents involved. Get your children praying too!
  5. Agree as a missions leadership team to stop pouring time, energy, and funds into missions programming that isn’t drawing in new participation. Instead, brainstorm how to create opportunities for your most passionate and “infectious” missionary to interact with your people one-on-one or in already existing small groups.

Here are three issues of Postings that will help clarify the big picture:

  1. Sit down with your missions team to define what you believe is strategic for your church to target in global outreach. You can use this list from Catalyst’s Your FOCUS on the World and/or this Postings tool to launch your discussion. Identify your top two or three priorities.
  2. Ask each of your missionaries and supported organizations/projects to summarize their ministry priorities. You can customize this list to clarify what you are asking them to provide for you. Compare the answers to your strategic priorities you developed in #1.
  3. Use Catalyst’s Your FOCUS on the World to further match your church’s global profile with your best strategic opportunities. Consider engaging a facilitator to help guide you through this process. Contact Catalyst or your partner mission agency for assistance.
  4. Analyze your church’s greatest untapped potential. What gifts, passions, and expertise is unused but might be engaged for global impact?
  5. Set 3-5 year goals for implementing a clear strategy. Your plan should have vision-casting, sending, financing, education, and leadership elements.

Here are three issues of Postings that will help clarify the big picture:

  1. Ask each member of your missions team to read Well Sent by Steve Beirn.
  2. Work with your missions team to determine what you believe are the essential responsibilities of a sending church. Catalyst’s “Sending New Missionaries” resource package includes a booklet with a definition that may be helpful.
  3. Put together a D2 team as described in the Discernment and Development article mentioned above to walk alongside your missionary candidates and help you determine your sense of this person’s gifting and readiness.
  4. Work with your prospective missionaries in choosing a mission agency and a field team. Both you and your workers need to be comfortable with both.
  5. Once they are appointed, guide your new missionaries to put together an advocate team that will represent them to your church, and your church to them throughout their time of service. Guidelines are provided in the “Sending New Missionaries” package (see #2).

Here are three issues of Postings that will help clarify the big picture:

  1. Schedule a retreat with your missions leadership team. Spend some time renewing your understanding of God’s heart for the world (see resources in #1 of the first section above). Then evaluate together what you are doing that is most effective and what is not effective at all. How can you build on the best and stop wasting energy on what isn’t working?
  2. Ask your missionaries to evaluate you. Click here for some questions you can ask them to respond to. Click here for guidelines on different types of missionary care.
  3. Set some measurable goals to grow your global intercession. Click here for some resources and ideas.
  4. Evaluate your missionary-sending process. If you don’t have a clear pathway, prioritize developing one. Click here for some guidelines and samples. Click here for one church’s approach.
  5. Develop a “what’s next” mentoring system that follows up each individual when they return from a short-term trip.

Where can we find experienced help to solve some other church missions dilemma?

Catalyst offers personal input specific to your church’s situation. See the “Assistance” section here on our website.