November 2018 | Volume 13 | Issue 11
Serving Our Missionaries:
Raising the bar on church assistance
Some churches feel good about their missionary relationships if they occasionally send a package and organize a luncheon when workers visit on home assignment. Missionaries deserve better! Could your church set the bar higher for yourselves in the following areas?
Consider these suggestions for strengthening your ministry partnership. Some of them may surprise you.
8 Ways to Improve Your Service
1. Deep Listening Leading to Powerful Prayer
Regularly call or Skype your missionaries. Grace Fellowship Church (GFC) of Timonium, MD, Skypes each of their sent workers every quarter. Three people are a part of the call: the missions administrator, the missionary-care provider, and the prayer coordinator.
The calls average 1½ hours, and each person asks questions specific to their area of focus. Sometimes they talk to the children too. The workers know they can schedule an extra call if there is a major concern or reason to update the church without waiting for the quarterly call. GFC emphasizes their preference of visual connection over just audio connection, when possible.
Critical in these calls is collecting specific prayer requests and answers to share with prayer partners. At the end of each call, you could record two minutes of video update for their community (see below) that encourages intercession. Join your workers in praying big prayers and trusting God for big answers!
2. A Personal Community
With the speed of life today, most people in your congregation can’t connect with multiple missionaries, so challenge them to join a virtual group focused on one worker. These are often called the missionary’s “community.” A dedicated community has the potential for far greater impact than a brief report to the whole congregation in your worship service.
Some churches ask a Sunday school class or small group to become that community, but it is often more effective to build an interest-based community. Identify different connection points for each worker that would relate to various interests among your people—this might be ministry type, location, the worker’s life stage, etc. Then invite your congregation to join the community of their choice. Send the community regular electronic updates including the short videos mentioned above, and meet once or twice a year.
Many churches are concerned about a lack of communication from some of their missionaries while totally ignoring their responsibility to communicate well to their workers.
3. Screened and Prepped Short-Term Teams Led by Experienced Leaders
You might not think of short-term ministry prep as a gift to your workers, but it is! Almost every missionary has horror stories of a team that included people who should have never been sent or a team that was not trained before they came.
Recently one church was embarrassed to discover that they had sent a person on a team who was a hindrance to ministry. They learned the hard way that their screening process was not rigorous enough. It is the church’s job to say “no” to applicants whose emotional or spiritual maturity is not up to the demands of the trip. Those who are accepted must be prepared well using resources such as CultureLink or Go Light! Go Local!
One benefit of repeatedly sending teams to the same location is the development of highly effective team leaders. These men and women have the experience to do excellent pre-field orientation and to provide quality on-the-ground leadership. Such leaders make your missionary’s hosting job much easier.
4. Clear, Up-to-Date Policies
“We really don’t know what they expect of us.” How many times have I heard a missionary say that about the churches that send and support them.
Do your missions policies clarify what you expect of your workers? Are these policies up to date so that you can (and do) apply them consistently? Your policies need to address issues such as the length of your support commitment (open ended or term by term), decisions you expect to be able to speak into (such as major ministry change, relocation, agency change), communication frequency, time at the church on home assignment, receiving of short-term teams, etc.
5. Informative Communication
Many churches are concerned about a lack of communication from some of their missionaries while totally ignoring their responsibility to communicate well to their workers. Your missionary family deserves to know what is happening at your church. Tell them not just about your activities but also how your church is changing—that includes leadership changes, but just as important are the shifts in general-ministry and missions priorities and strategies.
Are there key books that your missions team or your church staff are reading that are impacting your thinking and changes? Send your missionaries a copy (a Kindle version works for most) and invite their response. Many workers are eager to keep up to date with the thinking that is reshaping church ministry “back home.”
6. Deployable Skills
What expertise in your congregation could be tapped by your workers? Canvass your church to make a list of professional skills, avocational expertise, and ministry experience that could be used by your workers. For multiple reasons, sending one or two people to accomplish a specific task with/for your workers is usually better than sending a larger team. Here is a sample survey you can adapt.
7. Support-Raising Teamwork
Many global workers find support raising to be one of the most difficult aspects of missionary service. It’s hard to ask for money for yourself, and it is tough to keep asking when many answers are “no.”
Work with your missionaries to develop a team to share the task of raising their support. Sitting in your church are people with the needed expertise: sales/marketing specialists, writers, video editors, financial development officers, grant writers, etc. Their gifts are seldom engaged by the church, and the ask is easier for them.
8. Special Project Funds
Global workers are encouraged when churches enthusiastically contribute toward a major project. Trinity Church in Lansing, MI, invites their workers to apply for what they call Kingdom Advancement Grants. These monies do not fund day-to-day needs but focus on projects that reflect their church’s priorities: evangelism among the unreached, leadership training, Scripture availability, and strategic intervention for the poor or marginalized. At Trinity these grants are funded by designated contributions and sometimes a dinner and silent auction. A special committee chooses which applications to fund each year.
Sending Church Responsibilities
If you are a sending church, here are some additional key services your workers need from you
On-field care visits. It’s great to send people to work with your missionaries. But it is even more important to send a gifted care giver to focus on ministering to your workers.
Home-assignment planning. Proactively work with missionaries and their respective agencies to set priorities. Address how home-assignment time will be divided between personal renewal, reporting to churches and donors, family visits, support-raising, and ongoing education. How can you help your workers to meet agreed-on goals?
In-depth debriefing. After a term on the field, your workers deserve extended time to debrief with you near the beginning of their home assignment. Take time to listen carefully to their children too. In addition, ask your pastor to spend some one-on-one time with your workers to build relationships and provide face-to-face pastoral care.
Counseling. There are multiple levels of missionary care. Besides your own care, your workers may need some professional counseling to handle personal or family issues. If they anticipate a major vocational change, arrange for career counseling. Also, missionaries can greatly benefit from wise financial planning advice, seldom provided by agencies.
Ask them! Regularly remind your workers that you are part of their team and encourage them to be open with you about what kinds of help and resources they could use. If you can’t fill a particular request, ask another supporting church to join you in coming alongside with help. If you have been called to send these workers, trust God to enable you to resource them. Then celebrate together what God does through all of you!
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