Supporting a Missionary
Supporting a missionary involves a bigger commitment than signing a check once a month. Many churches do a great job with finances and prayer; but it also takes a commitment of love. Imagine what could happen if your church members cared deeply about your missionary families and the people they work with.
6 Minute Read
By Galina Hitching
I spoke with Steve and Kathi Weemes who served in Japan for 22 years and have worked with churches for 6 years. They are committed to helping churches, missionaries and mission agencies partner better together.
They believe, “it takes all the members of the body to accomplish the plan God has for the nations” and that having a mission plan fosters unity and builds relationship. It also creates opportunities for the church to raise up more missionaries while supporting their current missionaries well.
How to Support Your Missionaries Well
So how can churches support their missionaries well? The Weemes shared three keys to strengthen how you support your missionaries. We’ll unpack each of these below.
- Build trust with your missionaries.
- Be mutually accountable.
- Have a mission strategy so you are working towards a shared goal.
Build Trust with Your Missionaries
Supporting missionaries well means building trust and relationship with them. There is a lot of pressure for missionaries to succeed and be spiritual giants. With that pressure it can be difficult for them to share honestly about life overseas.
Kathi expressed the pressure missionaries often face, “To tell you the truth, it’s hard to know how much they can share with their churches because they’re worried about losing financial support.”
If a missionary doesn’t succeed at being a missionary, then what? They often spend years preparing to go overseas. What if they don’t accomplish what they set out to do? How will they build a career if they have to return home? All of these things add extra pressure on a missionary, making it difficult to communicate openly with their home church about their struggles. Add to that the unreasonably high expectations that people sometimes place on missionaries and the ability to be open and transparent becomes even harder.
Steve echoed her thoughts, “I think many missionaries have had a hard time finding someone other than another missionary to talk honestly with. It’d be nice if they felt they had a soulmate like this in their home church.”
A relationship of trust provides the missionary with the opportunity to share without judgment or feelings of guilt. Part of the church’s role in the Great Commission is being a safe place for individuals to feel accepted and be transparent.
One of the most important things churches and pastors can do is build trust with their missionaries. Churches can build trust by getting to know the missionary and then being there for them when they need it. >>Click here for practical tips.
Remember, trust takes time and it can’t be forced.
Be Mutually Accountable
Accountability will naturally flow from a relationship of trust. Attempting to force accountability without even knowing your missionary can create feelings of resentment and cause added stress for them.
So why would missionaries want to be accountable to their sending churches. Kathi said this isn’t just about moral accountability. While extremely important, it’s not the only area a missionary has responsibility to others. Kathi shared, “missionaries really want to accomplish the work they are called to do.”
Steve and Kathi encourage asking specific questions and being aware of the work the missionary is doing. This helps the church to care about what they are doing and to invest in praying and loving the people they work with. Just like any job, there is a responsibility for missionaries to accomplish what they have been hired (in the case of missional business) or commissioned to do.
At the same time, churches need to be aware they don’t always know the individual context of the country or area. Steve says it’s important to, “collaborate with the mission agency, because the mission agency knows what’s going on (in the country context)”. This can help you have realistic expectations for the work being done.
Holding missionaries accountable is not adding extra pressure based on your personal or denominational expectations.
Accountability doesn’t mean demanding a number of baptisms, salvations, or events.
Instead, the Weemes have found as churches invest time and interest in the life of their missionary, it provides a safety net of support to help the missionary accomplish their goals.
Kathi: “We find it very dangerous for someone at one extreme to go out and not have a church behind them. If there is no church at home who knows them there won’t be anyone involved enough in what they are doing. The church needs to be asking questions to know if the missionary is being effective, if they need to be doing something different or they are not doing well. But, please remember that a church should also be accountable to their missionary.”
What would it look like if we encouraged our missionaries to provide honest feedback about their supporting church? What would your missionary say about your church? Periodically ask the Lord to show you where you might have room to grow or improve.
When a church sends out a missionary they are making a serious commitment to pray, love, uphold, and support that person, couple or family. This includes a commitment to the people they are ministering to. The church is partially responsible for their success or failure. If you aren’t sharing their burdens, it’s time to reassess your mission strategy.
Have a Mission Strategy
What are you trying to accomplish through your support and sending of missionaries? Do you have a mission strategy?
The Weemes have seen first-hand how a common goal (good mission strategy) helps missionaries and churches work as a team.
The Weemes gave the example of a church who was passionate about missions but lacked a strategy. Without a long-term plan and vision, their mission committee members would advocate for their favorite missionary or short-term trip.
Over the last year with help from Steve and Kathi the church has put together a plan. As a result, the mission strategy has helped that church “move forward with a focus” so they are stewarding and supporting well.
Problems you may run into without a mission strategy:
- Difficulty in knowing where to allocate financial resources.
- Spreading resources too thin to support your missionaries well.
- Finding yourself in a situation where you have to stop support of a missionary.
- The mission program isn’t accomplishing your church’s goals.
“The church is God’s primary way of doing the Great Commission. The (mission) agency is supposed to help the church accomplish that.” -Steve Weemes Pull quote
You Have a Vital Role in the Great Commission
Churches, you have a vital role to play in the Great Commission. Yes, please continue supporting missions financially. Beyond the money, engage the gifts and passions of each church member to be a part of the Great Commission.
Let’s be good stewards, and begin by supporting our missionaries with wisdom.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by creating a mission strategy to engage your entire church or feel like your current missions committee could use some support, Kathi and Steve would love to walk with you. Reach out and we’ll help you develop a plan for your church. >>Get Me Started
Need some practical tips on loving your missionary well? >>Give Me Tips