Each church has it’s own ideas on what and who to support. Younger congregations tend to lean toward social mission programs, missional churches tend to look at the strategic approach to reaching the unreached. Some additional thoughts as your mission’s team develop its Great Commission goals.
Age – The effectiveness of a missionary or project does not depend on age. There is always a push to support younger projects and it is indeed important to invest in the future of missions. However, there is something to be said for people and organizations that have been serving for ten years or more. New missionaries must learn culture and language while those on the field long term are in place to do significant ministries. Those who invest in the stock market look for a proven track record of the companies. That would be true of missionaries and mission organizations on the field as well. Venture capitalism is important, but I wouldn’t put all of the resources into those with just a good idea.
Diversify - Try to keep your projects in balance. Avoid investing all your capital into one region of the world or one people group. The congregation will weary if they only hear about the needs in China when there interest may be in Ukraine or some other part of the world. Even if your mission budget is only $10,000 a year, divide that money among two or three projects, not just one.
Keep People Informed – There are several good ways to keep the congregation informed. One is to focus on a missionary or missions project each month. If you have a bulletin for Sunday services, highlight one project or person each month in that bulletin. Some churches have “mission moments” each month, where they take five minutes of the morning service to report on missions. Sometimes it is a video clip from the missionary on the field. One of our supporting churches writes me occasionally to set up a Skpe presentation. The person in charge video’s my greetings to the congregation, activities I am involved in and prayer requests. They then show that presentation in their morning service. Posting prayer letters on a board is okay, but it’s not the best approach these days. People want “real time” updates. Always remind the congregation how the church’s mission program is funded and how vital there participation to the Great Commission.
Conferences - Whether you call it a global impact week or discover missions or a missions conference, each year their should be at least one Sunday that is dedicated to the Great Commission effort. Though the days of having nightly services Wednesday through Sunday is not as effective with 21st century Christians, a week of highlighting the congregations missions effort is still the best way to keep global outreach a priority before the people. One church I know has bookend Sunday’s. The fist Sunday sets the tone for the missions emphasis week, with different missionaries speaking in Bible classes and a special speaker for the morning service. International suppers on Saturday sometimes work as well as a breakfast for men or women to hear a missionary speaker. Though the attendance may not be high for all venues, the goal is to give opportunity for busy people in the church to pick the forum that fits their need for engaging in missions. The first Sunday is informational, the second Sunday should be for challenge people to do their part in reaching the world with the Gospel.
Evaluate Annually - Each year the mission’s team should meet to evaluate the missionaries and projects they support. Analysis should include their ministry activities the past year, their prayer needs and their support level.
Prayer – Finally, in all things pray that the Lord of the harvest guide and direct the team and the church in how to be engaged in world missions. If the church members are praying then it is probably a safe bet they are also giving and going.
One lady came up to me after a conference and said she just couldn’t wrap her head around missions, that it was vast and complicated, “like the national debt.” All too often when people think about “taking the Gospel to the whole world,” they are overwhelmed. They don’t believe God is calling them to be a career missionary and they are dissatisfied with just giving money. It’s the role of the local church to help each member to recognize they do have a role. Giving is indeed a part and certainly going. But being engaged with missionaries and projects may be as simple as getting on Facebook with a missionary family. Through constant contact people can be informed and pray for those who serve in different parts of the world.
I trust these simple guidelines on how to energize the local church for the Great Commission has been helpful. Certainly there are many other issues that need to be discussed. If you have a specific question, please write to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will give you my best opinion, and recognize, it is just my opinion. God bless, as together we seek to take the blessed hope of Christ to every nation, people and tongue in the world.