One of the key parts of the journey to long-term missions is raising a support team of people who provide prayer and financial support. This can take time, but is vitally important.
Alex McCann, who serves with OMF in Cambodia with his wife Marguerite and their two children,, shares five key things he learnt on a recent home assignment (HA) when it comes to raising up mission partners.
1) Get your priorities right
Approaching speaking engagements in the hope of picking up lots of new supporters often leads to disappointment. A different approach that doesn’t start with us and thinking what we’ll get out of it is needed.
Instead, on our home assignment we tried to think about what we could give the church we were visiting. Particularly how we could encourage them and develop their interest in mission overseas.
We had to get out priorities right. They went in this order:
1) As many churches tend to focus more on local mission rather than global mission, our primary aim was to spark an interest in overseas mission.
2) Next we wanted to get them interested in the ministry of OMF.
3) Finally, we wanted to get people interested in partnering with us.
Maintaining those priorities was easier said than done at times. On home assignment we needed to double our financial support to be able to return to Cambodia. However, we did try to approach each speaking engagement thinking how we could best serve that church.
Also, our priority needs to be building relationships with churches and supporters, which takes time. This and our priorities above meant it was OK if no one signed up to pray for us or support us after one presentation. Hopefully, God would still use that visit and we might get invited back in the future.
2) Give Practical, Passionate Presentations
What should you cover in your presentation? Because our priority was to build interest in global missions, our presentation was often based around explaining the ‘6 ways to engage in mission’ (learn, pray, go, send, welcome and mobilise). We included examples of how the six ways had applied to our lives and the lives of some of our supporters. It is also helpful if you are able to include specific answers to the prayers of your supporters as well or specific ways of being involved.
If you can, getting the whole family involved in your presentation helps. My children still won’t do a song and dance routine, but occasionally my daughter would do a quick slot about her life in Cambodia and my son very helpfully shouts out all the punchlines to my jokes.
Above all, be passionate about what you are talking about. If people think you are not interested your subject, then why should they be interested?
3) Speak to as many different groups as possible
To do this you need help to build contacts with different churches. We were fortunate in that my wife Marguerite’s parents had a large number of church contacts in Essex. We approached many of these to see if we could speak at one of their services. Use your own contacts to find churches to speak at.
Visiting home groups also helped engage people. There isn’t much opportunity to talk in depth on a Sunday morning. Home groups, though, give more time to spend getting to know each other and answering questions.
Another key thing is to visit OMF prayer groups. These groups are great because by definition they are already engaged in missions, OMF and prayer. We approached every OMF prayer group in the South and East regions of the UK and spoke at many of them.
4) Mobilise supporters
Any supporters you already have can be your best advocates. We tried to have coffee with as many supporters and other interested people as possible on our home assignment. While we keep in touch every month through prayer letters, meeting face to face is very important in building and maintaining those relationships. Also, when you go overseas your supporters can be great advocates for you at home in their churches.
It’s also important to communicate clearly about finances. We never asked for money, but our prayer letters gave details about how far we were from our target and when the deadline was.
5) Trust and Surrender
So, have the right priorities, mobilise your supporters, speak to as many different groups as you can, be passionate about your subject, don’t be afraid to drive long distances and drink more coffee than is good for you.
Ultimately, though, seeking and trusting in God is foundational.
A significant theme for us on our home assignment was surrender. Surrendering going back to Cambodia, surrendering knowing whether we were going back, and surrendering the ministries we had been involved in before. The finance we needed came in, mostly through existing supporters, but only after we had surrendered everything to his will.
Will you pray for those on the journey to long-term missions?
Pray for those raising support to serve overseas long-term – pray they would have the right priorities and most of all trust God and surrender everything to him.
If you’re on the journey to long-term missions yourself, why not take a moment to pray about the areas Alex raises and also pray for God to provide for you.