By David Empson
I think Family Feud is one of the funniest game shows on television. And the humor isn’t always in the participants’ answers to survey questions. Sometimes it’s found in the responses of those surveyed. I have seen both team members and announcer break out in laughter at the ridiculous answers that appear on the game board. Recently I conducted an informal survey of my own to find out what churches are doing to recruit, equip, and send out missionaries. Thankfully, those who responded to my survey provided answers that were enlightening and encouraging. As I share with you what the “survey said,” I hope you’ll be enlightened and encouraged too.
VBS and Church Camp
Based on my survey, the top two ways many churches are recruiting missionaries today are through youth ministry and short-term mission trips. Many missionary recruits have been raised up in the context of youth ministry in the local church. Annual exposure to programs like Vacation Bible School and summer church camp have been instrumental in challenging young people to consider the mission field. These programs continue to plant seeds and dreams in the minds of young people.
Short-term mission trips are another widely used tool for mission recruitment in the local church. Some churches make short-term mission trips available to young people from preteen through high school, and then arrange missions internships for high school and college students. Many churches provide tuition scholarships for students who enroll in Christian colleges and state universities to prepare for the mission field.
Of course, short-term mission trips have also contributed to the commitments adults in the local church have made to the mission field. Some adults who have participated in short-term mission trips have made mid-career decisions to serve Christ in another country. Others have chosen to use their retirement years to take the gospel to people groups who have never heard of Christ.
Focus and Strategy
Many churches include the Great Commission in their mission statement. This is good, but I also heard from several churches that have developed specific strategies for carrying out the Great Commission. They have narrowed their focus to a specific area of the world, a specific nation, and even a specific unreached people group. In addition, they have chosen specific forms of ministry to help them accomplish their goals. I was encouraged by their vision and clarity.
Declaring a focus and developing a strategy for carrying out the Great Commission provide a clear direction. Churches without such a focus and strategy often find themselves making plans that are more general and less measurable.
Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, Texas has chosen to focus on regions of the world plagued by extreme poverty and on people groups who do not currently have access to translations of the Scripture in their native language. They have chosen to work among groups where there are no Christian churches and few believers.
Central Christian Church in Mesa, Arizona has made global connection an integral part of the congregation’s discipleship strategy. The church works according to the slogan “Some go. Some send. All are called.” The leadership of the church challenges members to affiliate with a specific mission, to participate in focused prayer for the mission, to support the work of the mission, and to consider traveling to the mission to participate in its work.
This is more than a program. The church leadership works to make these commitments personal, connecting each of its small groups and Sunday school classes with a specific mission or missionary. Developing the philosophy and implementing the strategy required a great deal of time and effort on the part of the church’s leadership, but it has led to significant growth in global outreach.
Crossroads Christian Church in Grand Prairie, Texas, has developed a unique plan to encourage and bless the missionaries supported by the congregation. The church holds an annual banquet to honor their missionaries. Missionaries attend as guests of the congregation and church members purchase tickets to this grand event, providing additional financial support for the missionaries. The level of love and support shown by the church to its missionaries through this event sets the tone for the entire congregation.
Another facet of the missions strategy of Crossroads is their mandate that every student who receives a ministry scholarship from the church must attend the annual International Conference on Missions. The church helps underwrite the cost of attending ICOM as well. This simple step is another way to ensure that their ministry and missions students are globally connected.
Another Crossroads Christian Church—this one located in Newburgh, Indiana—includes the call to global evangelism in teaching modules used as part of their discipleship strategy. In addition, the church provides a comprehensive training program to prepare members for short-term mission trips. All short-term mission trip participants must complete a minimum of 16 hours of training. Maybe that’s why 9 of the 22 missionaries they support were members of their church before going to the mission field.
If there is an underlying principle shared by each of these churches, it’s intentionality. The congregations that most successfully carry out the Great Commission have chosen to make global evangelism a priority. Perhaps there is a lesson here for your congregation. Can your church become more intentional about reaching lost people around the world? It will certainly require a commitment of time, money, and manpower. But remember that you are making an eternal investment in the souls of men, women, and children.
There is no higher priority. Jesus set the tone. It’s time to go, and it’s time to send.
David Empson is the executive director of the International Conference on Missions (ICOM) headquartered in Clayton, Indiana.
Training for Your Church
Kairos: God, the Church, and the World
The Kairos course is a nine-session, interactive study of world missions designed to educate, inspire, and challenge Christians to active and meaningful participation. The course focuses on the biblical, historical, strategic, and cultural dimensions of missions and is designed for local churches, organizations, and other groups such as Christian business people.
Find out more at: www.kairoscourse.org
Access: Church Coaching
ACCESS (Assisting and Coaching Churches to Effectively Send and Sustain) helps churches sharpen their focus in global outreach. This weekend training seminar educates and challenges churches to move to the next level with their current missions strategy so they can more effectively partner with their missionaries. Local churches will interact with mission leaders and discover ways of raising the bar of their missions program or find a place to start.
Find out more at traininternational.org