Three Ways Pastors and Churches Can Care for Missionaries

Church Matters, Missions, Pastor's Life

This year, over 7,000 missionaries will be forced to leave their calling. That’s almost 20 missionaries a day, throwing in the towel.

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of reasons why mission workers return home. Look at some of the reasons we lose valuable, qualified Christian workers.

Statements like these are reported every year:

  • “They burn garbage all day. The pollution’s killing my asthmatic son.”
  • “Our denomination shut down ministry in that region—we’re out of a job.”
  • “The locals tried to kill us in our own home.”
  • “The war is getting too close. They air-lifted us out.”
  • “I hate my assignment. My heart is in Africa but they sent me here?”
  • “My spouse died, our agency is making me come home.”
  • “The government won’t renew our visas.”

Most of these are unavoidable and often unpredictable. That’s the nature of the job. After all, if missions were easy, everyone would be doing it. However, most of the reasons missionaries leave are not because of war, famine or natural disasters.

They leave for reasons that could have been avoided:

  • Lack of converts
  • Poor education for their children
  • Tempting job offers back home
  • Churches stop sending money without advance notice
  • Lack of morale/support from relatives
  • Burnout

These issues and dozens more pull gifted, anointed ministers off the field and into different occupations. This is an overwhelming problem. Of those 7,000 workers who leave each year, about 71% leave due to low morale, lack of funding, fatigue and other issues. This may have been prevented if their support system had been better equipped to care for their missionaries.

This isn’t a new problem—it happened to John Mark in Acts 13, and it’s still happening today. Although most missionaries have a support system in place before they leave, we have a large number of missionaries that are forgotten once they leave. What can pastors and churches do to help our beloved missionaries avoid the ambushes of Satan, and the harsh realities of everyday life overseas? Beyond praying or writing a check, how can we love and care for those we send—whether it be to a university across town or a village across the ocean?

  1. A listening ear. Having someone to talk to can help missionaries navigate the frustrations of passports, language schools, selling or renting their house, and shipping or storing furniture. Leaving the U.S. is a long process and red tape can drive a missionary insane when all they want is to go reach the lost—yesterday.
  2. Help them with a fund-raiser. Obtaining finances takes a while. While younger missionaries may not need more than a backpack and a can of beans, mid-career folks may need to raise money for health insurance, their kid’s tuition, even retirement. It can take two years or more to raise all they need. The lengthy process can cause them to abandon the call altogether.
  3. Pray for them. Spiritual warfare is very real. Intercession is one of the biggest gifts you can give your missionary. God has invited us to be part of this ministry. Congregations can stand in prayer for these precious servants.

Leverage your influence and involvement in the Great Commission. Your church can make a huge difference with these three easy habits. Ask God to show you other ways to keep these full-time “fishers of men” in the boat and serving the Lord—long-term.

A missionary for 20+ years and former pastor, Tez Brooks is an award-winning author. His book Debriefing: Meditations of Hope for Those Who Protect and Serve is found on Amazon.

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