Something exciting is happening at your church – you have members who want to serve God overseas! Having missionaries to send from your church is something to be thankful for, but it can also come with a lot of questions. What if your church body is new to sending, or hasn’t sent in a long time? What does your church need to do? Where should you step in? Where should you step back? What if your members aren’t experts on country-to-country moves?
The prospect of sending missionaries can be intimidating – but it doesn’t have to be! There are lots of things your church can do, regardless of size, to help send well supported and prepared missionaries. Here are five practical steps you can take to be a great sending church:
1. Confirm their call.
Being obedient to God’s call to serve overseas takes boldness! Your soon-to-be missionary needs encouragement, support, and confirmation of their calling. Be willing to prayerfully discern with them God’s call on their life and their readiness to go.
2. Cast a vision together.
Help your missionary to cast a solid vision for their work overseas: what they sense the Lord is asking them to do, how they plan to do it, what they will need, how long it will take them to prepare, etc. Walk with them through this process of prayerful decision-making, and then help them communicate that vision with the church.
3. Form an advocate team.
One of the best ways to support your missionary is by forming a team that focuses on getting them sent. The team should serve two distinct needs:
- Care – The team is concerned with the missionary’s needs, including planning, resourcing, counsel, spiritual training, etc. Even if your team doesn’t have all the answers, they should be dedicated to finding them together. If your missionary is being sent through an agency such as TEAM, the missionary, church, and agency will work closely together to accomplish these tasks.
- Representation – Team members should be willing to be a representative of the missionary to the church body, and advocate for them, especially after they have left for the field.
4. Hold a commissioning service.
Everyone loves a celebration, and a commissioning service is a great milestone for your church and missionary alike! When it is time for your missionary to set out, a commissioning service is a time and place to publically confirm, as a church, the missionary’s call. It also serves as a time for the church to commit to support and pray for the missionary, and for the missionary to commit to going and to serve as an extension of the church.
5. Keep a good line of contact.
Once your missionary is overseas, be sure to keep in touch! Choose at least one person (it can be someone from your advocate team) who will be dedicated to communicating with your missionary. A feeling of isolation is common whenever moving to a new place. Reminding your missionary that you and the church are onboard with what they are doing can be a great comfort, plus it helps the team continue to serve them and keep the congregation informed!
Some missionaries are gone for years at a time and it is encouraging for them to hear about the life of their home church. It is even more essential that the church is informed of the missionary’s triumphs and struggles as they serve!
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