Missionary care is the responsibility of every local church. Every church should be engaged in the Great Commission both locally and abroad and with that comes the necessity and reality of missionary care. Therefore, I wanted to provide five ideas that every pastor should consider and implement into the DNA of his ministry and church. I also need to give credit where credit is due. I have been serving as a Missions Pastor for a long time and I have an amazing Senior Pastor, Trent Douglass, who has been an exceptional model of these five points.
1) Never be too busy to care for your missionary
As a pastor, I understand the insanity of pastoral ministry and the onslaught of problems that come across your desk. However, I have implemented a rule that I will drop whatever I am doing to make time for one of our missionaries. The reality is, this conviction will extend your hours and add one more task to your already overloaded plate. But it is massively important. Take the time to shepherd the missionaries that God has placed under your care.
A note to Senior Pastors – A few years ago I was speaking to a Missions Pastor here in Southern California. He was struggling with ministry and vision and was coming to me for council. In our conversation, I asked him, “What is your Senior Pastor’s vision for missions?” His answer shocked me – “My Senior Pastor doesn’t have any vision for missions, that’s why he hired me.” Now, I know that there are always two sides to every story and I am sure that this Mission Pastor’s statement about his Senior Pastor wasn’t totally accurate, but let me exhort the Senior Pastors reading this article: Don’t pass the buck off to your Missions Pastor. Sure, it is the Missions Pastor’s primary role to pastor your missionaries, but it is not only his role. The missionaries that you have sent out of your church should be considered a part of your congregation and therefore are under your direct pastoral care. Make sure that you are faithful to shepherd them as well.
2) Make sure missions permeates your church
For those of us who teach the Bible accurately, this point will sound strange. You cannot separate missions and the Bible. Every page you turn to communicates God’s heart for the nations and the very nature of the Gospel causes the church to move out in evangelism. Missions is not merely a department of the church; it is why the church exists. You should be preaching the Great Commission from the pulpit; it should be a key component of your children’s and student ministries. Missions should permeate your church.
Let me share one idea that our amazing Children’s Ministry Director has implemented in our fellowship. Once a month our children’s ministry has missions Sunday where they are introduced to one of our missionaries. Each child receives a prayer card and each child writes a letter to that missionary. This is beneficial on multiple levels as the teachers need to prepare and learn about the missionary, the kids get the benefit of learning about the missionary, and the missionary gets prayed for and will receive a care package with a few dozen notes.
3) Schedule missions updates during church services
Once a month we schedule what we call a Missions Minute. This is a 3-5 minute mini-update about one of our missionaries or ministries around the world. One of our missions department staff or care team members will organize a brief presentation and will deliver it to the congregation on Sunday morning before the sermon. Or even better, when possible, we will schedule a live video call/interview to the missionary during the service.
4) Develop a missions department
This might sound contradictory to the last point. Because missions is not supposed to be one department of the church, missions is to be the foundation and the purpose of the church. That is, spreading a passion for the glory of God all over the world is the job and responsibility of everyone who flies the banner of Christ over their life. But it will benefit your fellowship if you have a department that is solely dedicated to missions. This group can help organize and promote missions within your fellowship, they can lead short-term teams, and they can be the primary ministers to the missionaries. At our fellowship we have two levels of this: We have a missions staff and we have care teams. Our missions staff leads the day-to-day organization of missions and each missionary gets assigned a care team.
5) Schedule short-term trips from your church to go and see your missionaries.
This point has two levels to it. First, as a pastor, you should plan a private trip to go and visit your missionaries. This is a trip where your sole focus is to minister to your missionaries and see their ministry without the distraction of managing a team. The second level is to plan short-term teams from your church. Above all, this will radically benefit your congregation and will bless your missionaries. Instead of them coming home, you are bringing a small part of home to them. Furthermore, you will bring home a group of people who will be zealous for missions and will further fuel the fire of missions in your congregation.
I have briefly covered the benefit of each of the points and for brevity’s sake provided very little “how to” information. I would be happy to meet and help anyone who has a desire to establish a missional vision in their church. Please reach out to me if you have any questions.
Train4Missions.com is a ministry Pastor Mike Thiemann runs to help equip and train missionaries and senders on all topics of long-term overseas service. Pastor Mike and his wife Erin serve State-side as full-time missionaries through Saving Grace World Missions and raise their own missionary support. If you would like to partner with Pastor Mike and Erin to help them further the ministry of Missions Training, please click the “ways to give” image below. Also, you can access their website by going to sgwm.com/thiemann.