Missionary care is more than sending Joe and Sally a devotional book or a $25 gift certificate to Chili’s. Much more. Missionary care is walking with your missionary friend through the season of life that God has called him to. My previous post focused on five ways to care for your missionary today in the short-term. That is a good start but your long-term approach to missionary care is a vital component for the effectiveness of your missionary’s ministry and her personal sense of fulfillment.
Sending Church Emphasis
If you do anything, do this: create a sending church environment in your church. Acts chapter 13 is the classic passage for being a sending church. I feel a future post coming on.
Be a church that integrates pastoral care with vision. Don’t entrust your missionaries to the agency and then forget about them. Take an interest in every phase of the missionary journey. Send well. Care during. Receive back faithfully.
Personal and Professional Development
Most of the missionaries I have known and encountered during the past 20 years had no idea how long they would be in missions, what might come next, or any sense of planning. God had called them and that settled it. It’s nice for the movies but in real life many missionaries struggle with the ideas surrounding ‘career’, ‘personal growth’, and ‘planning’.
Like anyone else, missionaries need direction in their professional and personal lives. If you are a church, spend time planning with your missionaries, listening to their desires, assessing their abilities, encouraging and exhorting them. Require their agency to do the same. If you are a friend or family member of a missionary, find some development resources to point them toward. These steps will cover a lot of woeful gaps that currently exist in the missionary community.
Personal planning and professional development is like setting the table for missionaries, preparing the way for the feast that is soon to come.
Missionary Partnership Team (MPT)
A MPT is a team the missionary develops to surround his ministry with people who provide practical helps and encouragement. My colleague, Ruthie Stevenson of the American Baptist Church (ABC) International Ministries is working on future guest posts around this topic. Check out the successful ABC Xtreme model.
Debrief Your Missionary
Yet another topic to delve into in the future, missionaries need multiple types of debriefs to help them process their experience. A field debrief should occur at the end of a term and be conducted by the field leader. An agency office debrief needs to be done by the agency within a month of returning from the assignment.
Another key debrief that a missionary needs is the sending church debrief. The purpose of this debrief is to see how the missionary is doing, what the needs are, how the plans for home assignment are shaping up, to show care for the missionary, and to add the next piece of the personal and professional development plan.
It goes without saying, doesn’t it, that communication is a key aspect to missionary life. Missionaries need to communicate regularly with friends, family, and support partners but they also need to hear back from the same people. Be proactive and gracious in communication. A church can set up a system for multiple touch points. Individuals can make communication with missionaries a priority. Be sure to ask the missionary what the best forms of communication are.
A long-term commitment to missionaries involves a long-term commitment to missionary care. What have you found to be effective with your missionary? Leave your comments below so we can learn from each other.