“See how two mission mobilizers answer this question and several others.”
The GOer Group videos are a free seven-lesson series addressing the major questions and barriers many encounter as they pursue cross-cultural ministry. Each video features insights and advice from experienced people who have either spent time on the mission field or have helped many people to get there. Though speaking to college students, many issues come up for those of all ages.In this video, mobilizers John and Jessica address several questions:
1. Where do you start when looking for a mission agency?
2. What are key questions to ask an agency?
3. What types of training do agencies require?
4. What are the differences between various types of sending groups?
5. What are the ultimate deciding factors in choosing an agency?
“Look for a fit.”
How you choose an agency depends on a variety of factors, including the following:
- Where you desire to serve;
- What you desire to do;
- What your “essential” doctrinal positions are;
- How much input you want to have in your assignments;
- What your home church thinks of the agency;
- How much support you’re required to raise, and what percentage goes to the home office;
- The agency’s view of the family — for example, how your children will be educated, how much time a married couple are away from each other, what happens in case of family difficulties;
- Where, how, and for how long you would receive foreign language training.
If possible, speak to a missionary in an organization you’re thinking of joining and in the area you’re considering. They can give the most accurate perspective of the positives and negatives of the organization.
Answer from John, who has served in Japan for five years.
“Get perspective and ask questions.”
When considering a mission agency, it’s important to remember that at least four parties have roles in this decision – you, God, the agency, and the church.
First, you can learn what God is doing in the world by taking a mission course such as Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. It will be difficult for you to do your part in making a decision on an agency without embracing the big picture of what God is doing in the world and without being equipped with his promises in the Word. Before we can know his will, we must be committed to doing it and to discovering his total plan for the world. This plan goes beyond the particular country or agency where you wish to go.
Next, the agency must select you as well. You will be under their authority in the place where you serve, and you are under their authority in the selection process. The agency must consider how you will fit on one of their teams; therefore, not being accepted usually is not a poor reflection on you.
Last, your home church has a great role in sending you. Do they feel you’re ready? Have you met with your pastor to pray about this? Do you wish to be a co-missionary of your church and the agency? What does the church think of the agency you’ve chosen?
Methodologies of mission organizations have great consequences, which requires your careful consideration. Do they treat the poor as you would treat Christ? Will you be working with unreached peoples? Does the agency address people’s physical, spiritual, and emotional needs?
Does the agency make disciples or just evangelize? Are they committed to planting an indigenous church where there is no church? How does the agency care for their missionaries? How do they resolve conflicts?
Answer from Steve Scheller, Director of Mobilization for Mission: Moving Mountains.
“Be thorough, and ask questions.”
Here’s my advice for one going through the process of joining a missions organization:
1. Review the agency’s theological orientation.
2. What is their passion? Do they have a unifying focus to their work? If so, what is it?
3. How does the agency work with the local church in sending and caring for missionaries?
4. Who makes the decisions? Are the leaders open to new ideas?
5. What’s the organization’s vision for the next five years?
6. How are missionaries supervised? Do missionaries have to submit reports? Are reports read?
7. How does the mission avoid paternalism?
– How do they maintain their vision while listening to and developing national leaders?
– Does the mission have plans to move nationals into positions of authority?
– Is the mission developing institutions and entities that will be able to be supported nationally?
– Are national leaders expected to just carry on the pattern that the missionaries have established, or are they expected to lead with their own vision and are they empowered to do so?
8. How does the agency work with other denominations, ministries, and mission organizations?
9. What are their philosophies on and approaches to member care and crisis management?
10. What provision is made for missionaries’ children? How and where are they to be educated?
11. What kind of orientation is given to missionaries before they go to their place of service? what counsel and support are given when they return to their home country?
12. What provision is made for the missionaries’ continuing education? Are study leaves encouraged?
13. How much language preparation does the agency allow the missionary candidate to have?
14. What does the organization say its weaknesses are? (This gives insight into openness to change and healthy self-awareness in a need for growth.)
Don’t forget the local church. All along the way, seek leadership and counsel from your local church and pastor. Set up times to regularly meet, pray, and discuss the process with your church’s leadership.
Answer from Jack Voelkel, missionary-in-residence with the Urbana Student Mission Convention; originally published on the Urbana website. Previously, Jack served thirty years with Latin America Mission in Peru and Colombia. Find other answers and articles from Jack and others on the Urbana blog.