I am frequently asked by local churches for a more strategic paradigm for supporting missions than they currently have. The old model was a long list of missionaries supported at modest levels. In that model the focus is supporting many missionaries but there is not a strategic focus on what the church is trying to accomplish in missions beyond that.
It is a problematic model for two reasons. First, there is not a clear focus for the congregation to grab on to and second, it is almost impossible to maintain any kind of true relationship with a long list of missionaries. And the younger generations want connection with those who are supported and the work they are doing.
My suggestion is that mission committees or leaders in the local church focus the bulk of their dollars in four areas of missions which will help them both focus and be holistic in their approach.
One: Get involved in an Acts 19 location where the goal is to see the gospel penetrate an entire city or region rather than simply a neighborhood. Simply put, this is an effort to see significant gospel penetration, often with multiple partners and across denominational or mission lines to see the gospel penetrate a significant area. There is great leverage in seeing the gospel come to a larger area than a "one off" church.
This effort, holistic in its approach must be tied to the planting and multiplication of the local church. Doing evangelism without leaving behind a healthy church to disciple believers is usually a poor investment. The church is the Bride of Christ through which He wants to impact our world.
Two: Be involved in Biblical Compassion. I call this Biblical compassion to differentiate it from the western tendency to give a lot of money and create unhealthy dependencies. Biblical compassion is not primarily about handouts but about creating dignity, giving people a means of making a living and providing the training that will help people get out of the cycle of poverty and hopelessness they are in. An important book on this subject is When Helping Hurts.
Jesus had a great heart for the poor, disadvantaged, marginalized and sick and so should we. But, this concern should never be divorced from the proclamation of the gospel as He is ultimately the only eternal hope we have. Tying Biblical compassion to church movements allows one to be the hands of Jesus as well as become the family of Jesus. The best compassion is tied to local church movements.
Three: Come alongside an indigenous movement leader. There are amazing leaders of church movements across our globe who need encouragement, training, mentoring or help in their strategic vision. I personally mentor such a leader who has planted some 5000 churches of various sizes in the past decade. I also mentor a movement leader of a much smaller movement that has great potential.
My investment in these leaders and the movements they lead is a two way street. I am deeply blessed to be a part of what God is doing in their ministries and I can contribute something of value to them allowing me to ripple on all of their efforts. There is great kingdom leverage when we ripple on an entire movement because we come alongside a movement leader.
Four: export the DNA of your church in all of your missions efforts. Every church has a unique fingerprint with areas where they shine. Take those strengths, whatever they are, and apply them to all of your missions efforts. It might be prayer, teaching, hearts of compassion, generosity or something else but weave it into all that you do in missions so that you multiply your unique influence.
It is often said that "less is more" and that certainly applies in missions. The more focused you are the more involvement you will have from your congregation. Their ability to be personally involved will change their world view and give them God's heart for the world. Using your missions dollars for maximum return on mission (and investment) also allows you to leverage the opportunities you have for the gospel.
Key blogs on missions
TED talk on the nine critical shifts that must take place in missions today
Changing antiquated local church missions strategies
Missions in the 21st Century: Two circles, one goal
From leader to partner in global missions
What kind of churches should we be planting around the world?
Western vs. indigenous missionaries
Determining what missionaries to support
Missions today is about...