Q. One of our church members is sensing a call to serve God in mission. What are some next steps we as a mission committee can suggest?
A. That depends a lot on the age, experience and education that the person has. For a high school student a one week mission trip can be a great way to begin the journey toward mission service. Youth Unlimited has many such opportunities. Adults, including college students, could look into volunteer opportunities serving with the agencies and arranged through ServiceLink, the CRC Volunteer program. These range from a one or two week overseas visit with Prayer Missions International to a full summer of service or more. The question of calling is complex and should be considered in the context of a variety of factors, including the wise counsel of mature Christians who have seen something of the person’s gifting and service. A little booklet called “Affirming the Will of God” from www.ivpress.com could be very helpful. A more personalized answer can be provided by CRWM’s Placement Coordinator, Nalini Suganandam, by emailing [email protected].
Q. What sort of education is needed to become a missionary?
A. Missionaries come in all varieties, from traditional church planters to those doing business as missions. Those considering a career in missions would do well to take advantage of volunteer opportunities such as those mentioned above. In addition, they could pursue courses locally, like Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, or study at a Christian college or seminary. Those aiming to be relief and development workers could pursue a degree in international development. Those who are interested in evangelism or church planting would likely need a seminary degree, or college degree with a focus on Bible or missions.
Q. Is it important to serve under an agency?
A. There are many benefits to serving under an agency, even though sometimes Christians feel so strongly about their sense of calling and are so eager to “get on the field” that they find working through a sending agency frustrating. However, there are many issues that arise in mission service which a person without mission experience may not be aware of. Benefitting from decades of experience and the caring infrastructure of an existing agency can prevent many problems that the “lone ranger” missionary is likely to experience. There is no shortage of stories about independent missionaries who harmed themselves or others by making very preventable mistakes. For these reasons it is wise to work through an agency.
Q. I’m a business person with no international experience but a desire to serve. Can you use me?
A. In addition to opportunities with denominational agencies, a closely related group, Partners WorldWide, uses the skills of business people who want to make a contribution for the sake of the Kingdom, usually on a part-time basis. A group of North American businesspeople connect with Christian businesses in the Majority World in order to grow their ability to provide for their families and communities, all in the name of Christ.
Q. Can our denominational agencies use people of various skills?
A. Yes, and if we don’t have a spot for a particular person, we have a network of connections with various agencies that can make use of many skill and interest sets. ServiceLink can help point you in the right direction. In addition, these denominational agencies connect with other partners like Wycliffe Bible Translators who work in countries and need skills beyond the direct reach of our ministry. Part of our function is to connect CRC people who want to serve in missions with a Christian agency that can harness their passion and use their skills.
Q. One of our members is talking about serving with a mission agency that is not Christian Reformed. Do you have any advice for him/her?
A. Many CRC members serve for shorter or longer periods with a variety of para-church agencies. Many of them are well-run, theologically sound, do great work and serve in places and do types of ministry that our denominational agencies don’t. In fact, all of the CRC agencies place a priority on partnering with other organizations. We heartily endorse serving with a number of agencies and even have partnership agreements with some such that CRC people serving with them can be partner missionaries with Christian Reformed World Missions with certain benefits.
Here are a few things to look for:
- Does the agency belong to a broader network of mission agencies like The Mission Exchange (which CRWM is part of) or CrossGlobal Link?
- Does it belong to the Evangelical Center for Financial Accountability (ECFA), the Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC) or have other means of ensuring that its accounting is handled carefully?
- What is the Statement of Faith? Most are quite generic but some include theological positions, or behavioral boundaries that a Reformed person may feel uncomfortable with.
- What support services do they offer to their missionaries?
- What is their missiological perspective (e.g. missions "to" or missions "with")? The maturity of Christian churches around the world means that North American missionaries must engage with others in partnership to do God’s work.
There is also a list of denominationally approved agencies in the back of the Yearbook, along with our own partner organizations, but there are other excellent organizations which are not on that list.
If you have more questions about this area contact someone from our WORLD MISSIONS MISSIONS EDUCATION AND ENGAGEMENT TEAM:
Steve Van Zanen, [email protected]
Bill Thornburg, [email protected] in the US
Trish De Jong, [email protected] in Canada