Missionary Support Relationships
“But how can we deepen our missionary support relationships?
We only see our missionaries every two or three years.”
“At our church there is a lot of pressure to limit missionary participation to 2 or 3 minutes on Sunday morning, however, the short term missions trip gets lots of attention.”
“Our church is so busy with other activities and programs
that when the missionaries leave it’s “out of sight, out of mind.”
Perhaps you have heard statements like those above. These kinds of scenarios are becoming increasingly common in congregations across North America. Churches are excited about ministries that offer the potential of direct engagement, but have far less enthusiasm about their global missionaries. How can excitement be nurtured for the vital work being done by long-term missionaries who know the language and culture of the people with whom they work, and can really advance God’s Kingdom around the world?
Going to Where They Are
A great next step in deepening the relationship may be sending a small team to visit the missionary family in their country of service. While not all types of ministry lend themselves to this kind of engagement, many do. A small team, especially if it includes the pastor, can greatly deepen the connection between the missionary and the church.
A group from East Strathroy CRC in Ontario (including their pastor) will be traveling to Haiti this winter to experience and participate in ministry with their missionary. They chose Haiti over other locations for a short term missions trip because of a desire to get to know their missionary and ministry better. Their congregation has invested much into their missionary partnership (through prayer, care, finances and welcoming their missionary on home service), and they wanted to dig deeper by seeing what their missionary does first hand. They also wanted to participate in the ministry and experience a bit of life and culture in Haiti.
Visiting your missionary develops new advocates for missions in your congregation. Because they’ve visited the mission field, they can visualize the places and people mentioned in prayer letters and blogs. They care about those they’ve met and have a vested interest in seeing the church’s partnership grow stronger. When missionaries come back on home service, they are people who are eager to help plan their visit and arrange hospitality.
This exposure to missions may also open a new avenue of ministry for those who go. Those who become career missionaries have shorter term experiences first – opportunities to experience life and ministry in another culture. It is through these experiences that most hear God’s call to full-time missions ministry.
Making the Trip
In preparing to visit your missionary, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t bring a big agenda. The deepened relationship and understanding should be the biggest goal. Your team may or may not be able to make a significant contribution to the ministry, but being there and knowing what your missionaries are facing day to day can be huge.
- Keep it small. A small team, especially on the first visit, can greatly decrease the logistical challenges your missionary will have to deal with and may increase personal interactions with your hosts.
- Follow the missionary’s lead. Well-meaning visitors can unknowingly damage or undermine the ministry when people assume what works in their home culture also works in a foreign setting. Ask what activities are appropriate for guests in that environment.
- Be a blessing. Ask the missionary if there is anything the team could bring along for them – items that are difficult to find in their country of ministry.
- Be careful of making promises. An offhand comment from a North American visitor about money may be taken very seriously by others.
Visiting your missionary sends a significant message about your missions partnership. Just like when old friends make the trip to visit you, going to your missionary says a lot about how they are appreciated and valued. Your congregation is so interested in your joint ministry that people from within the church family are taking time away to journey to see them. It’s not just the missionary always visiting the church, but the church coming to them too.
Missionaries have gifts in different areas. Some are gifted in public speaking, others not so much. Some shine more brightly in a field context than presenting in front of a church crowd. Experience you missionary and missions partnership in a new light by seeing them in action.
Visit your missionary, and not only grow deeper in relationship with them, but also in God’s global mission.