Choosing a mission agency is a bit like dating. Each organisation has its own personality, its own weaknesses and strengths. Like dating, you want to find a good match. You want to be heading in the same direction and to be willing to work together on things. You want a personality that you enjoy, you want to have the same values, and you want to be able to live with the weaknesses (like any relationship, there will be some frustrations after the first glow of love!) So what value will an agency add to your cross-cultural ministry? And how do you work out which is the right one for you?
1. Their vision lines up with yours
Most importantly, you need to care about the same things. Read the vision statements of different agencies and see if one grabs you more than others. Read biographies from different agencies and work out what pulls at your heart. You want to be passionate about the things that your agency is passionate about.
2. You like the way they do missions
You may find that there are multiple agencies that share your vision for ministry. The next thing to check out is their values. Do you agree with the way they do ministry? An agency’s values drive the decisions they make, the way they structure their teams, the way their missionaries are accountable. If you don’t agree with their values, you’ll find yourself in conflict with an agency’s leadership.
3. They don’t skimp on training you
A good agency will encourage you to get theological and cross-cultural training to help you share the gospel and disciple people from another culture well. There may be certain qualifications you need to get a visa.
4. They affirm the role of your church in your ministry
You want an agency that will recognise the important role your church plays in affirming your suitability for ministry and want your church to be actively involved in supporting and sending you.
5. They will care about your health – spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally
A good agency will do all they can to ensure that you are healthy so that you can cope with the rigours of missionary life. They know the importance of caring for the whole family and will help to ensure your children receive the care and education they need.
6. They help get you into the country
An agency will advise you on how to obtain a visa in the country you hope to serve in and give you the opportunity to learn the language and culture. Your visa will depend on your ministry and your agency will help you apply for the one you need (religious worker, work, student, business…).
7. They cover the practical details so you can get on with your ministry
An agency will provide administration support and accountability, helping ensure that you comply with government regulations for both the country you come from and the country you are going to. This should include child protection laws and financial accountability.
8. They will help you to do missions well
They’ll hold you accountable in your ministry, invest in your professional development, and provide leadership as you learn the ropes. Developing and being part of a well thought-through mission strategy will help you prioritise your use of time and resources.
9. You feel like you can trust them
You will be going through the challenges of missionary life with your agency. They need to be people you trust to pray with, work with, and laugh with. It is important that the agency you choose provides fellowship, prayer and encouragement as you serve God together. At the same time, they’ll assist you in a crisis when things get challenging.
10. They give you an opportunity to be involved in a ministry bigger than yourself
No matter which one you choose, doing mission with an agency will give you the opportunity to be involved in a ministry that is bigger than yourself. You’ll be working with other people whose gifts and abilities are different and complement your own. Then, when it comes time to leave, you will have others who can continue the ministry well into the future.
It is very hard for an agency to meet all of your needs, but a good agency will want you to ask lots of questions to see if they will be able to help you where you need it most. What support might you need? You might want to learn language and culture. Or you’re wondering about your family. You can’t ask too many questions, and a good agency will appreciate being asked!
This journey of working out the best agency for you is a wonderful time to allow God to teach and grow you in discipleship. Pray that God will direct you to one that is a good match for your needs and personality. As you look for ‘the one,’ keep in mind that joining an agency is all about sustaining a ministry for much longer than if you try to go it alone.