Friday, October 21, 2011

Changing antiquated local church mission strategies

Mission agencies are moving toward a model of missions that fits the globalized and color world in which we live. These include major shifts in how they approach missions work both to meet the needs of a new day as well as to leverage their people and monetary investment. With a world rapidly approaching seven billion souls, how we approach the great commission is more important than ever before.


Many congregations are also reassessing their missions strategy – a good thing. However, many congregations are still locked into strategies that were forged in the pre-globalized, black and white world setting. This includes supporting a list of missionaries without much strategic involvement in what they do, supporting personnel that they would not consider qualified to work in their own church, and spending mission dollars in isolation from the ministry priorities of the rest of the budget. Congregations ought to approach their missions investment with the same care and analysis as they do the rest of their budget so that like healthy mission agencies, they are leveraging their investment for the greatest global impact. Given that the typical missions budget of a church ranges from ten to twenty five percent, the aggregate of those funds across evangelical churches is huge indeed. Yet many of our strategies creak along as they have for the past fifty years oblivious to the change that has taken place around us.In prior blogs I have addressed some of these issues:


When money hurts mission efforts

Western vs. indigenous missionaries

Determining what missionaries to support

Do it alone or do it together

Missions today is about....

When thinking about a missions paradigm for your church I believe there are some key questions that need to be answered.

One: Do we have a grocery list approach to missions or do we have a well defined strategic approach that makes sense? Just as one focuses ministry in other areas of church life, focused missions is far more effective than a shotgun approach. You cannot do everything but you can do some things very well. Are you focused or unfocused?

Two: Do you truly screen those you choose to support or is it more a relational thing where you support missionaries based on their relationships with someone in the church? Your support dollars are like salary dollars. You choose carefully who you will pay a salary to and one should likewise choose carefully who one supports so that your investment is a wise one. See the blog above for further comments. Not all missionaries are equally qualified.

Three: Is your missions strategy one where it is possible for your church to participate hands on either in short term trips and projects or in a way which galvanizes your entire congregation? When mission is just about sending money, people today disengage. When they can participate, they engage significantly and pray.

Four: Is your missions strategy one that leverages your mission dollars for significant results? I am not talking about how many conversions your missionaries see as that depends on the soil they are working with. But do they and the organization they work for have a definable, workable and intentional plan to see the gospel penetrate the area in which they are working? Not all strategies are equally strategic.

Five: Is your missions strategy balanced? I suggest that churches think about mission in for categories: One; supporting a church planting effort that will reach an entire city or region. Two; engaging in biblical compassion that shares the gospel and raises the dignity of people. Three; coming alongside an indigenous movement leader and helping him/her expand their church planting and holistic ministry efforts and four; making sure that the unique DNA that God has put in your church is integrated into all these efforts so that your church increases its unique influence.

Don't allow your mission budget and strategy to live in a world all on its own. Integrate it into the overall ministry strategy of your church and work to be as strategic in missions as you are in other areas of ministry.

4 comments:

RJ said...

Well written and I couldn't agree more with your assertions. The only question I have is: are mission organization truly changing with our globalized world as you state? I just don't see much evidence of that overall (although I do know some that have changed).

Jonathan said...

TJ, What do you think about a church that has a focused missions strategy, for example, to a particular country or people group, but a long-time member of the church feels called to missions in an area that is outside of that focus.

Assuming the potential missionary is well qualified, shouldn't the personal connection with the church take precedence over the strategic focus group?

I suppose what I'm getting at, is that it is fine for a church to try to direct its resources toward a certain focus, but if someone is called to work in a different area, then that "home church" should be totally behind them.

In churches (large or small), this would inevitably lead toward something that might not look super focused (i.e. multiple countries, multiple types of mission work). But the priority would be to support what God is doing in the lives of the individuals in the church, verses a certain ministry focus that a mission board, or a few enthusiastic members tried to direct the whole church behind.

T.J. Addington said...

Jonathan. I don't think that a long term focus in an area precludes supporting someone going to another area, nor paying attention to that ministry especially given that they come from the church. However, I don't know why one would have to change a God given focus simply because a church member works in a different area. I don't think the two are mutually exclusive and I don't think that simply because they are from your church that you must change your focus because they go. That does not make for long term stability in your missions strategy.

Greg Carter said...

I think that the strongest buy-in from a congregation for the direction of the church's missions strategy will come when they see it aligned with the church's overall mission and vision. If the church has a high priority of church planting, and its missions efforts are similar, it then makes sense to the person in the pew. A church that is involved locally in justice issues would likewise seek these types of ministries globally. The more it does so, then it is likely that the candidates the church produces will sense a calling to do work that is aligned with the churches DNA.