Missions Works! God chose to give us the Great Commission. He chose to use weak vessels to carry out the greatest task on earth and because He initiated the plan, it will be accomplished. The purpose of this blog is find ways in which we may be more efficient in this task. We would like to generate healthy conversation that will result in more results for our resources. While no article written here will perfect our missions methods, we pray that we can network together to more efficiently use our resources for the spread of the gospel. While there are many topics explored in this site, the top trends to raise our efficiency are listed both above and below to the right as links that can take you to an article explaining the why and how. Please, feel free to comment on articles and share this site within your network of Pastors/missionaries/friends.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Guest Post: 10 Ways to Intentionally Partner with Missionaries

I met Sean Miller at a missions conference and he has continued to be a good friend serving around the world. Check out this post on partnering!

This is not a new topic to the mission’s discussion, and one that is easily agreed upon. I can make the case like many others have for creative ideas to bless missionaries, grow your church’s relationship with them, etc… but more often than not, various writings about this topic do not lead to action. Just as a heads-up, these 10 ideas are primarily geared toward a home church partnership. Missionaries simply aren’t that special for every partnering church to feel compelled to do all of these things! Missionaries are everyday people just like you, simply seeking the Kingdom’s growth in a different context and it is also their “job”. 

However, cross-cultural missions has its own unique challenges that a home church and partnering churches need to seek to help the missionary family overcome. There was a story once told about William Carey: “After hearing an account of the spiritual needs of India, the secretary of the meeting remarked: "There is a gold mine in India, but it seems almost as deep as the center of the earth. Who will venture to explore it?" "I will venture to go down," said Carey, "but remember that you must hold the ropes."

The local church must “hold the rope” for their missionaries as they serve cross-culturally. If you are reading this and are not a missionary’s “home church”, still look to apply some of these ideas to your other supported missionaries, perhaps albeit in a reduced fashion. If you are a home church to a missionary or missionaries, don’t feel pressure to apply all of these immediately! Start somewhere, and seek the Holy Spirit to reveal other ways to “hold the rope”.

*NOTE*…. none of the below has anything to do with regular support giving. 

10. You show grace
Missionaries are sinners, are not perfect and they should not be put on a pedestal. The missionary that says, “praise the Lord, brother/sister/pastor everything is great”, is more than likely being superficial in conversation. Go deeper. They will thank you for it, even if it is painful to talk about whatever current issue is going on. Except, in going deeper, show grace. There is spiritual, cultural, language, financial, personal, family, marital, health, material and everyday pressures that you in America do not understand unless you have lived as a cross-cultural missionary yourself. It may be easy for you to do different things you are supposed to do or follow advice given, but it is much harder for them. Show grace, it will go a long way. Don’t assume because a missionary is struggling in a particular area that it means they shouldn’t be on the field. The Lord may be refining them through the above pressures to equip them for further long-term ministry. 

9. You do crazy stuff for them
I know of a church missions team member that heard a missionary loved Starburst jelly beans, so they bought a case of 40 bags! 
Another missionary friend of mine knew there were no street names where he lived, so they made a legitimate road sign with his name on it! One of our churches knows we like Milo’s Sweet Tea, so they made sure they would have a couple gallons of it when we visited them on furlough.. Seemingly a trivial idea given to them lets the missionary know you are listening, even to the small comments.

8. You randomly call them
The missionary has time to call people. Any missionary that has no time to talk to people back home is too busy and doesn’t plan his/her schedule in a “non-burn out” healthy way. You make time for what is important to you, and you as an effective church partner need to make time for them if they are truly important to you. One of my missionary friends faithfully talks to his senior pastor every single week, talking and praying together. No agenda, no “trying to fix him/them”, just to pray with him and provide a safe place to talk about whatever is on his mind or heart with no fear of being criticized. This can happen easily and free in today’s modern era with VOIP home phone options, Skype, Facetime, etc… 

7. You plan a team of people to intentionally love on them
Effectively showing this kind of love doesn’t happen because you “want to” or “feel like it”. This takes careful, deliberate action by a member care team at your church. They can be a sub-committee of the local church missions committee or it can be a separate team by themselves. There needs to be people assigned to this, with not a lot of other things on their plate. They need the ability (and the resources allotted to them) to make it happen.

6. You seek to understand them
Try to understand your missionaries. If they send a newsletter (print or email), read it and make notes to bring up in your next phone call/email with them.  Intentionally follow them on Facebook or other social media. This means once a week or before a phone call, read what they have posted and make mention of it. Learn their likes and dislikes; find their hobbies and what makes them “tick”. Find out about their culture, struggles with the local people, and what is “not” in the newsletter about daily life. For example, questions like: “What is the grocery store like?” “Are there family things to do where you live?” “What are fun things that happen?” “What is the ministry like?” “What do you do on a daily basis?”

5. You visit them
Put it in the mission’s budget to have a member of your church visit them and spend a couple days with them. Some missionaries live in business and vacation “high traffic” areas. Make sure if people in your congregation goes to that country or near that country the missions team asks them to stop by and visit a nearby missionary. In this visit they could bring needed items or even just simply have a quick meal with them. Have a staff member or pastor or missions committee visit them at least once a term. This one-on-one visit should be separate from any short-term ministry team visits.

4. You personally give to them above and beyond regular support
Unless a missionary comes from a wealthy family, they are most likely broke. Only recently have missionary organizations been providing financial stewardship education, and it is usually limited. Pay for them to go through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University or pay for them to go through the Crown Financial Ministries MoneyLife program. If they make comments on social media or in a newsletter about a personal need, pay attention to it. They more than likely have thought through it, prayed about it and debated whether or not to even share about it. After evaluation of how best to help, intentionally try to meet the need. Most missionaries have minimal salaries, often times have high costs of living, and some may have debt they are trying to eliminate. As a general rule, if they come to share at your church, they are spending money (personal, ministry finances or both) to get there. It is very helpful to give them personal money/cash specifically for them. They probably have private needs they aren’t sharing.

3. You care about and love on their kids
Third culture kids have much adjustment in their lives. Make sure when they are on furlough they can do fun things, not just get dragged from ministry meeting to missions conference. If their kids just want time with their parents, make it happen. If the kids want to go to Chuck-E-Cheese, take them. While they are on the field, ask what the kids like and cannot get where they are. A few young girls at AWANA from my church growing up sent our 4-year-old daughter some Disney princess magnets, in a package just for her! Our daughter was very excited by the gift and it meant a huge amount to us as her parents! MK’s love to get mail just for them, even if it is just a few stickers thrown in with their parents’ mail.

2. You care about their marriage
A missionary’s marriage is one of the highest places the enemy attacks but it is also one of the most “assumed all is well” things a local church partner thinks. Just because a missionary is cleared for service and the ministry is growing does not mean all is well at home. Are pastor’s sometimes jerks to their wives? Guess what? A missionary does the same thing. Do pastors and pastor’s wives have to intentionally work on their marriage? Missionaries have to as well. Except as stated above, they also have other cross-cultural pressures of being on the field, in addition to normal life’s struggles and stresses. Send them marriage books, have older couples lovingly mentor them and provide a “safe” place for counsel, send them a personal gift to go on a nice date, and ask them if they are having regular date nights. Have the church give them an overnight get-away on the field or back in the USA when they are on furlough. On a practical level, make sure when they are staying with people on furlough that the couple has “alone” time, if you know what I mean. That probably is being sacrificed if they are going from place to place, living out of suitcases and the family is staying in one bedroom. Ask how your church can help build up and lift up their marriage.

1. You faithfully pray for them and tell them that you are faithfully praying for them
Most importantly, pray for them. Pray faithfully and often for them. Keep current prayer requests on bulletin boards and prayer sheets. Make sure that if your bulletin has “Our Missionaries” on it, ensure their names are included! Tell them that you are praying for them. Send them a quick email when you have them as the “missionary of the week”. Write them and have others write them a note simply saying “I prayed for you today”. Prayer truly moves mountains in the ministry, and knowing that there is a truly partnering prayer team behind them does wonders for the missionary spiritually. There is nothing worse than hearing a church say “yeah we are praying for you!” when in reality it is just to sound spiritual. Never think you have told the missionary enough that you are praying for them. They are easily forgetful with all that happens in a day, week or month. They need faithful prayer.

Sean Miller currently serves as a missionary with Child Evangelism Fellowship in St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean with his wife Mandi and daughter Maddy. If you want to find out more about their life and ministry, visit www.amomentwiththemillers.com

Monday, September 23, 2013


A great buzz word for the missionary church relationship is “partnership.” I love that churches are looking at it that way, because that is what the relationship is! How does this pan out in churches? If you want to be partners, you want to get to know who that partner is, but how does that functionally play out? Here are a few cases of what some churches are doing. Feel free to input what your church does.

FCBC is a smaller church (150 or so) with a big heart for missions. Last year they gave around 41,000 dollars to missions and their commitments after this year’s conference jumped to 48,000. In this year’s Wednesday through Sunday missions conference they had four missionary families represented; three of whom were already supported by the church and one other they are now taking on. The Pastor is looking to raise the current missionary’s support given by the church from 50 to 100 dollars a month. According to him, with the amount of missionaries that leave the field (unfortunately); this is a possibility. Yet, they still are looking to gain new missionaries as well! The Pastor also is praying for someone to be sent out of their church. 

This new missionary they took on will be working with a couple the church already supports. It is great to see the church invest with multiple families into a specific field they really want to see reached.  

I appreciate this Pastor’s heart for missions. He works an extra job and his wife works. Many pastors in that situation would probably put more emphasis on being paid as the full time Pastor, but this Pastor’s heart for missions is so big that he places the emphasis on the church giving more to faith promise. 

Calvary Baptist Church used to have a longer missions conference, but like so many churches, they have shortened it up due to the busy schedules of its members. However, in order to get to know their missionaries better they will have a cookout on a Saturday night with informal questions to the missionaries. They want it more laid back so people are more apt to really get to know the missionaries. The missionaries will teach different Sunday schools and then have a few minutes in the main service to show their presentation. At night there will be a banquet as a time to get to know the missionaries even more. 

Heritage and Cornerstone both do missions months. Each Sunday they have a different missionary in to present their work. This seems to be popular amongst churches today. 

Many other churches have missionaries in for an evening service and decide to take them on either by church vote, missions committee vote, or the Pastor deciding. 

I think it would be neat to go to a church on a Wednesday, take a couple days for final organization of a Saturday soccer tournament outreach (or some other outreach) in which I helped organize and speak at... and then speak at the church on Sunday. Doing ministry together is always a blast and a good way to get to know people.

One missionary did an internship with a church with an agreement that they would support them for a larger chunk of their support. Love. Love. Love. In case you did not catch that. I loved that idea. Why? Because the church can really get to know a missionary better when he is there for 2-6 months. The missionary does not have to constantly be on the road (and potentially raise his support in a year, or year and a half, while still being in a stable environment for that time). Then the church will really feel the heartbeat of the missionary and both will be better able to serve one another (sounds like a Biblical principle). What if home churches supported for 25-50 percent, then the missionaries did two other internships where the church supported them for 10 percent each. (Then the rest could be made up by individuals). The missionary could have 3-4 supporting churches (wouldn’t be so burdensome during furlough) and they could really get to know those 3-4 churches which would then provide much more powerful prayer support.

This writing has caused other internship ideas to float around my head, so be looking for another post on it! For now, how does partnering work in your church? Do you have any ideas for it?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Independence Day

The last couple days have been independence days for countries in Central America. Mexico's was yesterday. On Sunday I went to a Spanish Church celebration. Iglesia Bautista de Chattanooga now meets at Maranatha Baptist Church in the afternoons at 2 o'clock. They are sharing the building and on Sunday they fellowshipped together. Each nation represented had a table (tables) of food. (I was invited to take Brazilian food and Sarah cooked me up some beans and rice and farofa).

The service went well and then we ate afterwards. The Americans from the church there thought it was great! They tried food from all different nations and were thrilled to see what was available. They were able to get a perspective on the various cultures represented with which they are sharing their church. Often we do not see that side of the foreign families who enter this diverse country.

Have you gotten to known any foreign families in your community? Have you tried?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Inward Focus versus Outward Focus

We were having a dinner time conversation the other day about church’s inward focus today. What is the functional purpose of the church today? Where do they put their money, time and effort? The day we had that conversation, I had actually been looking at church budgets trying to figure out how much money usually goes to missions in churches. One average amount that I came upon said that 7% of the budget is spent on outward ministries. 

In our conversation we talked about elaborate buildings, gyms, and perks that come with churches. It seems that having the right facilities is of utmost importance for churches. Of course, seeker friendly churches were made popular about a decade ago, to which many responded; “we will continue preaching the Bible, the truth, and not soften our message,” yet it has effected our practice in striving to have the best facilities and programs. And these are not bad things! We want to attract people to church and not have run down facilities; but do we go overboard? I have heard (or seen on a plaque), “this building was built under Pastor so and so,” as if his success was shown by a building being built. “He led us through this capital campaign.” So is that was success in ministry boils down to, a building campaign? I understand that a building is often the result of more members, but when we look back to show where success stories come from, shouldn’t they be from making disciples. “I was taught about true discipleship by Pastor so and so.” “Three of our elders were saved and discipled under that Pastor.”

Now back to the percentage of outward ministry. I think about the first church. Their building maintenance costs were, hmm, I don’t think they had buildings. Does that mean buildings are bad? No. But it does make you think. How did the Pastors in the first church know they were successful? Did they get a promotion to a bigger, higher-paying church and then say they were called of God to go there? I guess the Bible did not put that part in. The Bible does say Pastors are worthy of honor though and I don’t negate treating Pastors well. But I read somewhere, and this may not be true, that the average Pastor was making 83-113,000 a year. Is that right? I read of another Pastor whose housing allowance was 2100 a month (maybe they lived in New York City). Pastors deserve a lot, they put up with a lot and I don’t want to take away from them; I just want to think about where our focus is. 

When you update your church furnishings and your buildings, think about your motives. What does the decision boil down to? 
We need to do this to reach more people. Awesome. 
If we build now, I will be able to invite more lost people. Great.
We will be so much more comfortable if we have this. Really?

I do not think I need to argue about the riches that come from having an outward focus. We all claim to have one, but how does that functionally work out when it comes to your money, time and efforts? 

One young man wrote a blog on having a goal of a 50% missions budget and most churches said that is impossible for them. Only with some bigger churches or unusual circumstances did that seem even feasible. But what do you think it should be? What is possible for your church?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Less for More with graph

Some people argue that churches should provide full support for their missionaries. That would be cool. But I know it is not realistic for most churches. Plus, many churches are not sending churches to any missionaries and they need to support missionaries. I think that a huge percentage for any missionary receiving support from one church would be 50%. Our church has done up to 25% and that has been wonderful. 

There is no doubt in my mind that moving to a less for more strategy in churches will save money; maybe not as apparent on the church’s end, but on the missionary cost, which ultimately saves the church’s money. The big saver has to do with time spent on pre-field ministry. With less churches to visit, the missionary would save thousands each month he is on the field and not at home. He would also save hundreds on gasoline and car costs. In addition, the mailings it takes to gather speaking opportunities is tremendous and would save much time and money. The church would save budgeted money when they are not paying out honorariums, travel and boarding costs for 6-10 visiting missionaries each year. 

With this system, I believe the missionary attrition rate would be lowered, thus saving the churches money as well. Having 4-5 strong partnership churches (with an emphasis on a very strong supporting church), the missionary can better receive counsel through the hard times that almost always happen in fitting into a different culture. It costs over a hundred thousand dollars to send a missionary to the field for a couple years, so obviously, any missionary attrition avoided saves much money. 

So how should we support missionaries? I suggest shooting for a long term goal (maybe 15-20 years down the road) of having under 10 missionaries, hopefully 4-5. It really depends on your church size and capability of supporting missionaries. I have made a little graph of different support amounts where you can see the differences in numbers and budgets and give you an idea of where you can maximize your partnerships. The side by side columns go together as a sending church partnership plus a non-sending partnership. Probably no church will fit exactly into any one of these exact amounts and partnerships, but it does give you an idea of around how many partnerships you could have and at what level of commitment. 

Yearly Missions budget of
Monthly amount of support


3000 month

Yearly amount














I also doubt that any church can go immediately into this amount of a partnership (unless you are a brand new church), but they can be goals to shoot for over much time. Missionary support in churches constantly changes as missionaries leave the field for various reasons and as hopefully the budget goes up (as you as a church are missionaries reaching your communities). Use this money to work towards your goals.  

What do you think? Is this an attainable goal? Is your church already working towards something similar? What does it look like? What are your doubts about moving to a system like this?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Storytelling in a Biblically illiterate world

I often take for granted knowing the basic stories of the Bible because they were all I ever knew growing up. What missionaries are finding, and even US pastors these days, is that many people do not have a general knowledge of the Bible. What used to work for evangelism in the 70’s with proclaiming Jesus as Savior of sins now receives puzzled looks and slammed doors. Understanding salvation happens by the Holy Spirit, but it also happens by explanation of the Scriptures. We can no longer recommend a read through John and expect people to understand the content.

Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship introduced me to these concepts, but when I was on the field, I really saw the need to teach the stories of the Bible. God’s Word is a meta-narrative (one big story) of His love for us and how He is redeeming a people for His name. When one understands this, one can see God’s plan through Jesus’ death on the cross to pay for our sins. 

One of my first assignments in the Amazon was helping to teach at a Bible institute for Ticuna indians. The Ticunas have had the gospel for 50 years or so and have had plans for reaching other villages. We were teaching them basic theology classes, but they were not quite getting it. After stepping back and receiving advice from other missionaries, we decided on a Bible storytelling approach in which we just told Bible stories. Classes doubled in size and frequency in attendance greatly improved. 

We learned that in oral cultures, storytelling is very important. Actually, most of the world prefers storytelling. Think about when you are in church tuning the sermon out, thinking about your tasks for the week. When do you re-enter the sermon? Something clicks when the preacher starts telling a story. Think of all the stories Jesus told! 

So what we have found is that chronological Bible storytelling is a great tool for both evangelism and discipleship. Start with creation, the fall, flood and babel and move on through the OT as you see God work through Abraham and the Patriarchs and Moses in Egypt and onto the Promised Land. See the different leaders, promises, prophets and the hope of a Satan conqueror/Messiah/Deliverer that would reign forever! 

ABWE has developed great tools for adults and children alike in their Good Soil program. Check it out! There are also other resources all over that are using this popular old method of declaring the gospel.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Missionary Iron Man- Battling for the support at Missions Conferences

Fall is missionary conference time. We have been in some great conferences in the past and are looking forward to several conferences this fall that will be a big blessing. One difficulty though for us on pre-field was the competition that comes with Missions Conferences. I know that it should not feel that way, but with most conferences comes the unspoken reality that the missionaries the church likes the most will be supported. The other ones will be kicked off the island. 

In order to receive support the missionary must put on the best show possible. But the truth is, one should not feel as though he has to elevate the importance of his ministry above that of the other missionaries. That is just wrong. We are all on the same team with the same goal of making disciples to the glory of God.

There are ways to prevent this competition thought from even entering the missionaries’ head. Churches, take note! Do your homework first. Decide beforehand if you as a church would like to support a missionary before inviting him to a conference. Then let the missionary know that they have made the cut.  

Tell the missionary that he can relax and have a good time. Check with him on the comfortability of the kids and make a comment about not needing to have perfectly behaved children. Most missionaries know this, yet reality tells them that they could lose support if their two year old throws a fit because they are tired from long nights at conferences. 

As a missionary visiting new churches, it is hard not to feel like you must perform, but churches can take creative steps to prevent this feeling. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Guest Post: Money, Missions and Fear

A guest post! I am very excited that someone was willing to post here; may this be the first of many. If you are interested, please let me know. This post is written by a friend in missions whose name can't be mentioned. 

I've recently started working with an international missions organization as their student missions director. It has been an absolute blast seeing how God is working in young people and raising them up to be missionaries. Interacting with students and hearing their passions, experiences, and ideas has been exhilarating but along with the job comes hearing about the fears and worries students bring with them to the world of missions. 

Missions comes with so many potentially terrifying components: new country, new culture, new language, new people, new home, and on and on and on. But the one I most frequently hear about is the issue of money and missions. As a student studying missions, I know this topic was the one that most scared/frustrated me. I would hear how much it costs to go to the field and could not fathom where those funds would come from. Sure, missions agencies would explain how they raised funds and that, though it took time, it was possible. But it frustrated me hearing how it could take years to find churches and people that would help. 

So I did what any creative, independent, mistrusting young person would do: I started planning how I could get that money myself. I didn't think I could rely on the church to help me get to the field and then found a million ways to rationalize the flaws of the church support method so that I could go to the field without the church's apparent poverty holding me back. I thought of saving up money in the states and maybe finding a secular job I could do as tent-making on the field (you know like Paul did!…on a few occasions…).* I did an international internship and even saw first hand that I could not rely on the church as much as the missionaries had suggested I should. I had to foot around 50% of the bill that summer and the other 50% was mostly family members. Unfortunately I am not an isolated incident, these plans and ideas are popping up more and more as I talk to students and prospective missionaries.

I say all of this to show that there is a huge disconnect between the church and missions and a large part of that disconnect is just paper with presidents' faces on it. That disconnect has resulted in a new generation of willing missionaries having little to no faith nor trust in the local church to step up and send them. The fact that new volunteers' plan A is to work outside of the local church clearly shows that many new missionaries start their path toward the field with the assumption that the local church is a fan of missions but rarely a participant.

I mentioned earlier, rather satirically, that the church has an "apparent poverty." This is obviously not true since churches tend to be some of the nicest, most ornate, and well kept pieces of property in the USA. So the American church as a whole is by no means broke except for the areas it has driven itself into debt through building projects and other huge in-house projects. Because of this apparent wealth, new missionaries have developed a mistrust of the local church because though there appears to be funds for every kind of in-house program and amenity, very rarely are finances not "too tight" to be able to help the missionary. 

This is my request of the local church (and it's members): if you have money and resources, give when needs are presented with a balance of discernment and generosity. In Acts the Christians "gave as they saw need" and some sold what they had to give so that there was no needy people among them. So why is it that the church then, which was not even considerably close to being as wealthy as the American church is today, was able to fund ministry so freely and generously when today we can't hardly imagine parting with $25, $50, $100 a month to send workers into the unreached places of the planet in accordance with Christ's final command before He ascended. 
So, church, if members of Christ's body are willing to go, help them. Put their ministry needs before your personal desires for a nice this or bigger that. 
"Seek first the Kingdom" 

*I am not condemning tent-making ministries, I am however worried that the motives behind pursuing them are based out of fear/mistrust of the church's ability/willingness to help them. I think there is a lot of merit in combining some platform ministry with the support of local churches.*