The pursuit of becoming a missionary is ambiguous. It starts as a dream, and the process of taking it from a dream to reality includes a lot of little “next steps” that aren’t super clear.
In my role as a missions coach, that is exactly what I like to help people do. I help people take their best next step as they discern how God wants to use them in cross-cultural ministry. So, here is a simple overview of the main steps toward becoming a missionary.
Talk with Your Church
It’s easy to feel like cross-cultural mission work is an individual calling. But in the Bible, we see that this is actually a calling placed on the Church. Christ’s command to go into all the world was spoken to a body believers who wanted to advance God’s mission. So, as the Church continues to live out that mission, they will be the primary sender of missionaries.
For this reason, I always ask hopeful missionaries to talk with their church before applying to become a missionary. This allows the church to be involved on the front end. It brings them into your story, gives them permission to speak in and have the space to support you in every part of the process.
Many churches also have their own sending process for those pursuing mission work. So communicate expectations early for the smoothest and healthiest process.
It’s important to have open conversations with your church early in your journey. These conversations should also include group prayer.
Find Your Fit
Missionary life is often romanticized. I’ll hear people say “I just want to go to another country and help people.” While I appreciate the sentiment, I think it’s important to remember the quote “Wherever you go, there you are.” The principal here being that you bring yourself wherever you go.
This is where casting vision comes in. Asking the questions: ‘What am I good at? What do I like to do? What country/people group/culture do I sense God calling me to?’ are so valuable as you take next steps in missions. And they’re great questions to have your church, missions coach or friends speak into!
You may not have all the answers, but you’ll begin to narrow down your focus. That, in turn, helps settle ambiguity and gives more confidence moving forward.
Check out TEAM’s opportunities board to find mission roles that fit your skills and passions. The perfect role for you may be one you’ve never considered!
Select a Missions Agency
As someone who works for a missions agency, I can confidently say that our role in the process is distinct. We are not your church, but we can offer resources in partnership with your local church to send you out well. Things like: health insurance, help with support raising, cross-cultural adaptation training, helping your kids transition, finding schools and apartments in-country, etc.
Need help coming up with questions? Check out this guide from TEAM — or Pioneer’s great list of questions. I also recommend getting to know multiple agencies during your search. This will be a long-term relationship, and you want to make sure that it’s mutually beneficial.
Get Proper Training for Your Role
Getting the right training may seem like a burden now. But once you are on the field, this training will give you a head start in ministry.
At this point in the process, you may just feel like celebrating. And you should! There’s been a lot of discernment and personal growth in this season.
But now that you’ve answered the questions of where you’re going, what you’re doing and who you’re going to do it with, it’s time for more specific training. At TEAM, we hold two week-long orientations for new missionaries. These orientations introduce missionaries to departments within TEAM. They also help you set a budget, discuss support raising, talk about safety and more. This is the time to really press in!
Your organization will most likely have trainings for you to attend. However, it may even be worth looking at outside sources, as well. Consider volunteering with a ministry that’s similar to what you’ll be doing abroad. Or take training on how to minister to certain religious groups, such as Muslims. These additional resources will serve you well as you prepare for the next season.
Missionaries most often have to raise their own support, or salary. This process can be daunting. However, there is a lot of biblical support for the value of support raising. And some of the most humbling and inspiring stories come out of people’s fundraising process.
Fundraising may be one of the most intimidating aspects of becoming a missionary. Make to seek out quality resources for success!
While it is an intimidating task, your organization should have support in place to help you. And it’s good to understand that money is one tangible way people can show their care and love for you. If mission work is a calling placed on the church, that means some people will go and some people will support!
One of those means of support is financial contributions. Giving financial support lets people take part in your work on the field. Plus, it gives them the chance to show their care for you.
Your next steps to becoming a missionary should be clear and fill you with peace instead of anxiety. Know that it’s OK to take these one at a time and go at your own pace. Also know that this calling is bigger than you, and God is faithful to see it through! The world is a better place because people, like you, are saying “yes” to God and letting faith lead them further.
You don’t have to walk through these five steps alone. Talk with a missions coach for help exploring your passions and finding your perfect role on the mission field. If we aren’t the right fit for you, we’ll help you find an organization that is. Wherever you are, wherever you may go, God is calling you to spread the Gospel. We want to help you do it.