As the people of God, we have a special calling to reach out to our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. One of the ways to fulfill this calling is to send missionaries. But how do you decide which missionaries are the best fit for your church?
While there are many missionaries from various organizations with worthwhile ministry your church can support, it is important that a missionary's vision matches your church’s vision for building God’s kingdom on earth and that your church can fully support him or her in their calling. Here are a few considerations to help you through the vetting process.
Does the mission align with your church's vision for building God's kingdom?
Each church values different aspects of mission that best align with the skills God gave those within the church.
A missionary candidate's ministry should dovetail with areas of ministry that have a special importance to your uniquely gifted congregation such as church planting, evangelism, discipleship, literacy, education, justice, leadership development, and community development.
In reading through the big stack of financial support requests, first and foremost discern if the ministry opportunity aligns with your church's vision and mission statement. Refer to your church’s own statement and history on what it wants to accomplish by God’s grace.
- Does the mission align with the church’s vision and mission statement?
- Are they a registered charitable organization? Avowedly Christian? The CRCNA has a list of accredited nondenominational agencies here.
- What is the focus of the mission?
- Carefully research the ministry or missionary's philosophy of mission—does it work alongside local churches and community leaders or do they "do" ministry "to" them?
- Are the assets of how God is already at work in their community recognized, or do they look only to what is lacking?
- Do the missionaries value the voice of the communities they are working in?
- Is someone directly supervising the ministry, conducting performance evaluations and ministry assessments?
- Do they provide annual field reports?
- Do they produce annual financial reports? Are they available to review?
Can you commit to an ongoing and deep relationship?
A major part of a good church-missionary relationship is strong communication. So it is important that the missionary’s intended methods of communication meet the expectations of the church. The church should be well informed about the ministry and understand their part in the mission. Encouragement and care given through active back and forth communication can be the difference of a missionary simply surviving or thriving.
- What do the missionaries expect in terms of communication with the church?
- How often and what kind of communication is necessary?
- Who will be in charge of communication at the church?
- What do the missionaries expect from your church? As a funding source or partner in ministry?
- What kind of support can you offer? (Hospitality, prayer, encouragement, spiritual care?)
- Is there a plan for dealing with emergencies in the field where they serve?
Are you ready to count the cost?
Of course, taking on a missionary is going to affect your church’s budget, so there are many facets of the mission to consider when balancing the impact with the cost. For budget projections, you should look at the mission budget as a chance to advance ministry rather than supporting a missionary. Aim for a 5% annual increase in financial giving as costs everywhere rise each year.
- Is there a budget already set aside?
- Will a percentage of offerings be used? How much?
- What is the capacity of the church to give?
- What will be included and what will be excluded from the mission’s budget?
- What other churches/organizations are financially involved with the ministry? Giving more enables the missionaries to require fewer churches to support their ministry, leading to fewer travel costs and deeper relationships.
- Is the church able to offer strong support to all its missionaries including this prospective one?
Establishing new ministry opportunities to join God’s mission is a wonderful opportunity, and it is imperative to ensure that your church is well equipped to support those missions. Missionaries and their senders (you!) are a wonderful tool from God that need a church’s support to expand his kingdom to those who might not witness it otherwise.
A lot of care is needed to ensure a good relationship between the church and its mission, so use questions like these to help with the vetting process when you are faced with a new possible opportunity for a new partner. Be sure to take the time to prayerfully consider what is best for your church and your community.