All churches focus on missions, right? All churches support missionaries, right? All churches care for missionaries, right? Probably not exactly, though no church (or pastor) wants to admit where there might be some gaps in the care being given to the missionaries that they support. Yet, deep down, every Christian knows that there is responsibility to care for missionaries. How do YOU spell care when it comes to caring for missionaries?
There are many ways to spell CARE when it comes to missionaries. Here are just a few different principles that can guide all of us to strengthen missionary care for those who are near and dear to our hearts.
C is for communication and coaching/counseling.
A critical way to care for missionaries out on the field is to communicate with them. They need to hear from your church so that they know you are praying for them and that you support them by reading their news. They need to hear from your church that you are available to meet their needs, which may be more than financial. They need to hear from you that you are there in any crisis. They want to communicate with you, so return the favor in communication with them. Through proper communication, the church may find out that times are stressful. If so, there are coaches who can provide a valuable service to missionaries on the field so that they have someone who is skilled to listen and understand the challenges that they are facing. Once communication has begun, the church may discover that the situation is severe enough to move from coaching to counseling. If communication is part of the way you spell missionary care, your church will learn that it is not always necessary to call missionaries back home off the field, but perhaps supporting through offering a coach will be the care that is needed.
A is for advocacy teams and agency partnership.
If you spell missionary care with advocacy teams, your church will implement a team that advocates for each missionary sent and/or supported by your church. Whether it is a small group, Sunday school class, prayer group, or other affinity group, missionaries can be adopted by any group and advocated for through prayer, communication, and support of various needs. These are often called other titles depending on the source, such as Barnabas teams or PAC Teams (prayer and care). If your church doesn’t spell care with advocacy teams, find out how to get started. Perhaps you spell care by realizing that the agency partnership is very vital to the missionary’s success. If the agency, the missionary, and the church can all come together and work together, the missionary can receive the best care.
R is for regular rest and re-entry support.
If you spell care with regular rest, you will admit that missionaries need time to refuel. Rather than demanding that the missionary spend all of the furlough time visiting and speaking and connecting at home, it is wise to balance those requirements with the requirement that the missionary rests. Maybe you prefer to spell care with re-entry support, and your church is ready to receive a missionary well when the time to come home arrives. Whether the missionary is home on furlough or home for good, the best care comes with an offer to support in re-entry. It might involve helping to find housing (temporary or permanent), assisting with unpacking or moving, offering to drive missionaries to appointments, or being available to purchase needed supplies. There is much care to be provided by being ready with re-entry support.
E is for equipping and empowering.
Care must be spelled with all sorts of activities that equip and empower a missionary. These activities might come in the form of trainings and preparation meetings before the missionary heads to the field, or perhaps equipping comes with providing financial resources. Encouragement goes a long way to empowering, but it can be equally balanced with assessments and requirements for making sure the missionary truly is called and capable of having success on the field. Care involves having standards and helping the missionary meet those by equipping with proper resources and empowering future success.
There might be a few different ways to spell C-A-R-E, but the outcome will be the same. If you get those magic letters into the perfect combination, your church will be on its way to truly providing missionary care to those who need it most.
Serving as Senders Today by Neal Pirolo
Mind the Gaps: Engaging the Church in Missionary Care by David Wilson
Well Sent: Re-imagining the Church’s Missionary Sending Process by Steve Beirn
Kirsten McClain serves in church missions mobilization for OMF. She has been serving churches and mission agencies for the last 20 years. She has a heart to see the church realize her potential in missions and is driven to be a mobilizer to this end. She lives in Georgia with her husband and three children, and she is ready to direct pastors to the various resources that OMF uses to come alongside churches and individuals so that they can do missions well. firstname.lastname@example.org