Start Learning Here

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July 2020 | Volume 15 | Issue 7 | by Ellen Livingood

Start Learning Here

A missions 101 resource list for churches’ global outreach leaders

Why attempt to curate a list of best, entry-level missions resources? After all, one person’s list represents a very limited perspective of the rapidly proliferating choices. In addition, Postings annually features a list of reader-selected best new missions books. Isn’t that sufficient?

Consider the following four reasons why we believe that a start-learning-here list has value. Then browse through our topically arranged recommendations, and finally, implement some of the concluding suggestions on how to continue learning.

  1. There are so many resources yet so little time. The explosion of new books and online media is overwhelming, especially for those new to church missions leadership. Reading/Watching a best-in-class introductory resource can clarify what else you want to study on the topic and prepare you to better assimilate subsequent content.
  2. Learning together requires careful selections. Your missions leadership team will greatly benefit from reading one book or listening to one podcast together and then discussing it as a group. Because your meeting time is limited, it is crucial to make wise selections. A start-learning-here list can help.
  3. New leaders need targeted learning assignments. Newcomers to a missions team should be required to gain some background in order to be equipped to contribute well. It’s not sufficient for the leader just to say, “There are lots of great missions books in our church library.” Instead, point them to one from the basics list (see below) and then another from the topical list that addresses an area your missions team will grapple with in the next several months.
  4. Ruts are limiting. You may be a “books person” or a “podcasts person” and miss the wealth of learning available on other platforms. Our list attempts to provide suggestions from both electronic and print media. While there are multiple resources in every category from which to choose, we  opted for those that are shorter, don’t require a membership to access, and are easier to consume by those new to missions.


book-iconGet the Big Picture: Western Christians in Global Mission: What’s the role of the North American Church? / Borthwick. This book always ranks as my #1 recommendation for church missions leaders today. Borthwick presents a compelling picture of our 21st century global context that challenges assumptions and builds vision for the future.

Watch a Vision-Building Video Series: MomentumYes. These 6 sessions of free, downloadable videos, workbooks, and leaders’ materials develop the rationale and lay the groundwork for missions and our involvement. Produced by a local church, this package features Millennials and includes ethnically diverse presenters. It speaks to younger adults but also helps older leaders understand how to communicate with contemporary audiences.

Develop Your Missions Team: Missions: How the local church goes global / Johnson. This concise volume is a great initial orientation to the responsibilities of a church’s missions leadership team. It overviews both the biblical foundation and key local-church responsibilities.


Church Missiology

No one book can begin to do justice to this broad topic. We narrowed the options to just two which address theological questions about churches’ missions roles. When Everything Is Missions / Spitters and Ellison. This relatively short book challenges the assertion that “every Christian is a missionary” and focuses on the mandate to disciple all peoples. What Is the Mission of the Church / DeYoung and Gilbert. This is literally a weightier tome that separates the missions role of the church from simply carrying out social justice or living out kingdom values. It’s particularly helpful for those who wrestle with the issue of whether mercy and justice alone are sufficient missions goals.

Global Frontier Missions has a series of short explainer videos on topics such as “What is a UPG?”

Missionary Sending

Pipeline / D & L Wilson, eds. This well-organized, comprehensive manual, comprised of short chapters written by various authors, provides a wealth of practical sending information.

To send and support younger adults well, Jolene Erlacher of Leading Tomorrow shares practical insights into how to work with Millennials (Millennials in Ministry) and now is expanding her attention to address Gen Z as well.

Among the many helpful webinar’s on Sixteen:Fifteen’s site is “The Sending Triangle” that explains how church, agency, and missionary work together in the sending process.

Sending Marketplace Workers

A growing number of books address the need for marketplace workers in global missions, but The Marketspace by McCrary does the best job of outlining the role of the local church in sending them.

Global Intent provides online resources to prepare marketplace workers including the necessity of being sent by a local church.

Mentoring Prospective Missionaries

Mission Smart / Frazier. This practical guide is designed for groups or one-on-one mentoring relationships.

The Traveling Team’s resource page provides motivational information as well as “going” resources. gives prospective workers the chance to do just that—ask questions and read previously shared answers.

The Upstream Collective’s “Calling and Career: Choosing a Pathway to Missions” podcast is just one of the valuable missionary-sending resources to be found on their site.

Sending Short-Term Teams

Help! We’re Going on a Short-Term Trip! / Ragan (CultureLink). With manuals for both team members and team leaders, this material is laid out in easy-to-implement meeting outlines and worksheets.

Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Missions. These seven SOE standards should be the code of best practice for every missions trip. Other resources are available here too.

Missionary/TCK Care

Serving as Senders / Pirolo. This classic book has been updated and continues to be a great entry-level guide.

“Caring For Your Missionary During This Crisis” / Sloan. While this webinar was specifically targeted to missionary care during COVID-19, Sloan’s categories of proactive and reactive care will help you structure your long-term missionary care efforts.

One of the many valuable offerings from Global Missions Podcasts addresses “Caring for Missionary Kids When They Go to College.”

Barnabas International has many helpful resources online.

Stimulating More Prayer

Some newer books are more prescriptive, but Red Moon Rising / Greig & Roberts tells the powerful story of the launching of the 24-7 prayer movement. Reading this will motivate you to dig into how-to guides such as Praying for Your Missionary / Byun. provides prayer resources such as the annual “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” and a guide on prayer walking.

Children’s Missions

Window on the World / Operation World. This beautiful book with lots of pictures uses stories, facts, and prayer highlights to teach children about unreached people groups around the world.

Worldviews / Pioneers. This two-level curriculum (ages 4-9 and 10-14) includes a book, videos, and other resources to help parents introduce their children to the five major religious blocs and God’s heart for every people.

Weave offers downloadable children’s lessons for multiple age levels.

Diaspora/International Students

Seeking Refuge / Bauman, Soerens, Smeir. Real-life stories of churches that have gotten involved in refugee ministry makes this book encouraging and practical. It addresses many of the controversial issues that can derail a church’s ministry to refugees. offers a growing list of online training courses and other resources from this new coalition of international student ministries.

Global Events and Resource Lists

These are two different topics but two online resources serve both.
Missions Catalyst. This free, weekly e-newsletter rotates its focus among global happenings, new mobilization resources, and a mobilization blog.

Justin D. Long’s weekly Roundup is a valuable list of articles on global events (organized by geographic region) as well as technology trends.

Global Partnerships

Making Your Partnership Work / Rickett. This small paperback is packed with practical advice and useful tools that are supported by other resources on Rickett’s website.

In the hundreds of networks listed on the Linking Global Voices website, you are sure to find several that serve the particular ministry focus or geographic area you want to impact.

Online community: visionSynergy’s Synergy Commons primarily serves networks, but since networks facilitate partnerships, your partnering skills will benefit from their webinars, resources, and connection opportunities.

Missionary Biography

Here are one excellent “old” and one powerful “new” print biography.
Old: Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret / Taylor. This classic not only introduces readers to one of the most famous missionary pioneers, it challenges them to deeper discipleship through the story of his spiritual journey.

New: The Insanity of God / Ripken. This perspective-shifting book follows Ripken’s painful missionary journey and then describes his meetings with persecuted believers around the globe.

“The Gladys Aylward Story” is one of YWAM’s series of DVDs for children. Sorry, no download option.


  1. Summer learning. Light fiction may be your usual beach reading or staycation relaxation, but why not include at least one missions book and a podcast or two this year?
  2. Dig Deeper. Almost every resource named above includes a bibliography of additional titles to help you continue learning. If you have already tapped most of these 101 level resources, why not choose one topic and go deep by committing to study three or four additional works. Ask a more experienced leader what they would recommend.
  3. Take a course or attend a virtual conference. Perspectives is available as an online program. Moody Bible Institute, Columbia International University, BIOLA/Talbot, and many other schools have online courses in intercultural studies. Because of the pandemic, a host of missions-related conferences have gone virtual with greatly reduced costs and the option to watch presentations and workshops later online.
  4. Invite an author to a virtual meeting of your missions team. Most people who write missions books or record podcasts aren’t out-of-reach experts. Chances are they would love to interact with your team after you have read their book or listened to their presentation.
  5. Learn about a people group or religious bloc from different perspectives. Reading non-Western writers’ portrayal of their country/people in fiction or nonfiction provides insights that improve our understanding of our missions context. Ask one of your church’s missionaries to recommend the book they think will best help you begin to understand the environment in which they minister.

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