See the first three Seven Key Components of Effective International Mission Programs, part I.
4 | An effective mission program requires a focused team or committee to implement the clear, shared vision of the leaders.
While the pastor and elders discern the church’s calling and set the vision, it is important to have a mission team that will own and apply that vision in tangible ways. Primarily, this means leaders empower the mission team to identify and engage people in global mission to fulfill the vision.
Trust between the leadership team and the mission committee is essential and takes time to build and maintain. Without it, committees feel stuck and can’t move ahead with implementation, and the leadership team will feel frustrated that specific initiatives don’t seem to match the gifts and calling of the church.
A few best practices help the relationship run smoothly and effectively:
An effective mission committee is often led by the senior pastor. Alternately, a person who shares the vision discerned by the leadership may be appointed to effectively mobilize people around that vision.
Ideally, some committee members should be pursuing mission themselves or have served as missionaries. However, former missionaries need to submit their ministry passions to the needs and vision of the church. It’s all too easy for former missionaries to misshape committee mission work to suit their own ministry projects and passions.
The mission committee should find effective ways to engage people in global mission by praying, giving, encouraging, going, etc. Evaluating what is effective will require the committee or team to watch for results of their work, to listen to people’s feedback and track the lasting impact of the committee’s work. Part of the evaluation might include asking some bigger questions:
Is the gospel at the center of all mission strategy and work?
Is there unity of vision for the work being done?
Does the mission work produce results that are appropriate for the church?
Are we seeing some results from our support on the field?
(Evaluating field progress needs to keep in mind the needs, difficulties, and culture on the field. Progress in Guatemala will look different than progress in Austria.)
An effective program looks for ways to display the tie between local and global mission. For example, a local ESL program might be joined with a short-term team doing ESL as a part of a global mission team’s outreach.
Good partnerships are a key part of seeing local and international outreach benefit each other. Partnering well with others and having an inclusive, open approach can help your congregation stay engaged in global mission.
5 | An effective mission program mobilizes and releases both money and people for increased mission work.
The leadership team of a church and a mission committee demonstrate the value they place on the work of world mission by regularly finding and releasing money and people needed to push the vision forward. God will provide what each church needs in gifts, people, and resources for the part of world mission to which he calls them. But like everything else in the church, these come by faith and sacrificial giving, not merely out of an easily recognized surplus.
This isn’t easy. Investing in mission can feel difficult as local and global needs vie for attention, workers, and finances. Often, the pastor or leadership team needs to take the initiative in framing the issues associated with investing in mission to produce healthy results. For instance, many mission committees slip into the default mode of asking, “How big is our slice of the financial pie?” Instead, leaders need to consistently teach people to ask, “How can we grow our financial stewardship and recruit more people for all mission work?” In other words, how can we help make the pie bigger rather than fight over the size of the pieces with other church ministries?
As a church seeks to mobilize more resources for mission work, “making the pie bigger” often involves things like:
Integrate local outreach and global mission. Seeing local and global outreach as a single expression of the church’s calling, makes it easier to avoid pitfalls like ineffective shortterm teams, or becoming a church that has an either/or approach to local or global mission. Local outreach and justice/mercy ministries should be supported by the mission team, who can: o
Help find volunteers for local and international outreach.
Make useful connections between local outreach and global mission work.
Connect those who have a passion for giving with appropriate ministries.
Model the unity of the missional calling of the church as they promote both local and global mission efforts.
Pursue the unique benefits that come from each type of global mission work. Short-term and long-term work will attract different audiences, participants, and funding sources. Likewise, people will be attracted to different types of mission work (church planting, evangelism, justice/mercy ministry) and different parts of the globe. An effective mission committee looks for ways to “increase the pie” in each of these areas.
Support long-term mission work and missionaries. In many cases, long-term relationships and sustained work provide some of the most effective mission work. As people get to know long-term missionaries and develop relationships with them, their interest in going, giving, and praying increases.
Unite short-term mission work to long-term teams and trusted international partnerships. This keeps people focused on the unique calling of the church, while still encouraging new people to come aboard, instead of dividing energy and resources.
Recognize that giving often comes from new sources. Some will only respond to global mission work, or a particular mission need. That’s okay! Often, as people begin to give in one area, they begin to give in other areas, as well.
Value the importance of giving to global mission. A strong global mission program often captures people (and their resources) who are not passionate about local ministries. Likewise, there are people with a heart for global mission who will respond with deeper generosity when given the chance. In each case, the total resources being freed up for mission work increase, often allowing previously allocated money to be redirected.
6 | An effective mission program benefits the church’s overall health by preventing it from becoming too self-focused.
It is all too easy for churches to become self-focused instead of other-oriented in ministries and plans. An effective mission program helps check this tendency by reminding us that we are called to be “pipes,” not “buckets.” God’s blessings and grace are given to us so that they may run through us to others. An effective mission program keeps the larger realities of the Kingdom in focus, even as we engage in our day-to-day lives.
This can happen in a number of ways:
Local ministry and global mission, both needed in every church, form a single, holistic response to Christ’s call. Global mission can’t be reduced to local efforts. Saying “everyone is a missionary in the church” does not remove God’s calling to global mission. In the same way, local ministry work can’t be replaced by having a strong global mission program. Churches are called to both.
In global mission work, the church takes up God’s heart for the world. God loves the world, even His enemies. He welcomes the stranger and the alien. He loves everyone with an undying passion, even those who do not think, act or look like us.
Global mission work pulls the church out of its own culture and its religious subculture, and forces us to re-examine our gospel clarity. Our unexamined traditions and cultural forms are tested when we have to communicate a clear gospel message across language and cultures. The church needs this skill to reach its changing home culture.
The church imitates Christ, who left heaven and suffered to reconcile those who were enemies to God’s love and favor. God’s Son left “home” to enter our world. Global mission joins that “incarnational” model. Rather than asking others to become like us or enter our culture, we become like Christ as we “become all things to all people” so that we, too, “might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22 ESV).
The church responds to the call of Christ to take up our cross and follow Him. That “cross” is not only our painful struggle to grow in holiness but also includes the suffering we experience when we take the gospel to the world. The church joins Paul in filling up “what remains in the sufferings of Christ.” (Col. 1:24).
Through global mission, the church can embrace opportunities to love and serve those who will not add to the local church’s members or finances. When the church offers grace and love to lost and dispossessed people who cannot benefit the church, it gives a clear testimony to the love of God.
7 | An effective mission program provides a strong continuity that helps the church avoid pitfalls and manage change in loving ways.
By paying particular attention to a church’s relationship with missionaries and regularly revisiting the vision for mission established by the leadership team, an effective mission program often helps a church love people well while moving forward with new work.
A good mission committee can make a huge difference in the life and work of committed missionaries by communicating changes and helping them through the shifts that come in ordinary church life. Some missionaries or partnerships your church supports will outlast the tenure of a pastor, elder, deacon, or committee member. Ensuring that the committee is intentional about stewarding “institutional memory” for the church helps your global outreach partners feel well cared for and loved. Likewise, some missionaries will rotate on and off the field more quickly than your congregation may realize. By helping to communicate these changes to your church, the committee often provides a vital link between the stated vision of the church for mission work and the actual expression of it.
An effective mission committee also proactively brings its experience of seeing God work in and through global mission to the life of the church. It’s possible for a church to become so identified with its home culture, or religious subculture, that members don’t realize when decisions, methods, structures, and strategies have started to stray from gospel principles. By continually asking, “What does the gospel look like when it’s preached and lived out in cultures other than my own?” mission committees can often help churches avoid pitfalls.
A final word of caution: Mission committees must take care not to allow personal agendas or the mantra of “We’ve always done it this way,” to cause the committee to become disconnected from the present needs and calling of the church. A good team can be a helpful tool in balancing long-term commitments with new efforts that reflect the passions of next generation leaders.
>>> This article has been adapted from Going Global: A Guide for Deepening Your Church’s International Mission Program. Get your FREE copy today.