Missions belongs on the priority list of every pastor, church, and Christian. But as any missionary will tell you, you cannot take a random approach to missions and hope to be successful. Everything worth doing is worth doing well and this requires a strategic approach.
If you are starting your missions support from scratch or if you are wanting to evaluate your effectiveness, the best place you can start is a missions strategy.
So what is a missions strategy and why do I need one?
Your missions strategy serves as the vision for your church’s approach to the Great Commission. It clearly documents how your church views both local outreach and global missions, what kinds of support you intend to offer, and the degree of participation you hope to see from your church body. Defining this vision will help you and your team as you incorporate missions in your sermon planning, financial giving, children’s curriculums, etc.
Here are some practical steps to develop a missions strategy for your church:
First outline where your church’s strategy will focus:
- Start at home. Do you have members of your church that feel called to local or global missions? (If the answer to that question is no, it might be time to do a sermon series on the Great Commission.) Are there people in your church who are thinking of setting up a local non-profit? Do you have families in your church who feel led to a specific country? Maybe there is a couple who has a burden to be foster parents. All of these are forms of missions! Your first step is to find these people in your church body and get behind them!
- Have a local presence. I have often heard pastors preach the importance of global missions OR the necessity of keeping missions at home; but the reality is that Jesus commissioned us to do both. Your financial support and volunteer efforts on the foreign field will be maximized if you are already financially and practically invested in local outreach opportunities. Do some research and learn what issues are prevalent in your community (think domestic violence, drug addiction, homelessness, abortion, poverty, etc.) and then find organizations who meet these needs in a Christ-centered way. If there are not organizations for these issues, pray for members of your church to have a burden for them! (Then see point one.)
- Go Global. Once again, missions is not an either/or subject. Your church members are going to return home from global missions trips with a revived passion for the lost and fresh creativity to reach their own community. Give them the opportunity to partner with and learn from missionaries around the world by broadening your missions strategy to include other countries, as well. If the Lord gives you a burden for a particular region or people group, pray that He will connect you with a missionary serving there.
- Champion a cause. Pray for a burden for specific issues and pray for wisdom in responding to those issues. For example, if abortion is the injustice that keeps you on your knees, find local crisis pregnancy centers to support and then champion the cause. Do “baby shower” outreaches for the pregnancy center; train a team of volunteers to organize their donation closet; volunteer counseling time (or donate a local licensed counselor’s fees); highlight their ministry in your church services, etc. Here are some causes to consider: girls’ education, race equality, clean water accessibility, refugee care, foster children aging out of the system… and many others. Do your research, pray for a burden, and be intentional by including your cause(s) in your missions strategy.
Once you have outlined your where, it’s time to determine your how.
- Educate yourself. Learn everything you can about the people you are trying to reach. Research the country’s religions and politics, investigate the underlying reasons for the injustice, and learn the history, culture, and specific needs of the people group. Don’t assume that you know enough already! Instead, taking the humble posture of a student will open the door for you and your church to build deep and long-lasting relationships.
- Determine what hills you are willing to die on. Not everyone will agree on everything in ministry, especially if you decide to champion a cause. Decide ahead of time where you draw certain lines. For example, our church does not send missions teams on construction trips or any other opportunities that take away job opportunities from local people, especially in low-income regions. Although we do support missionaries that host these sorts of teams, we won’t be one of those teams. That’s a hill I’m willing to die on, because I’ve done the research and seen the results of that sort of participation. We also don’t support missionaries unless they are training up local people to be missionaries in their own communities. You’ll have to do your own research to determine your hill; but once you’ve found it, put it in writing to serve as a reminder to yourself and a policy you can point to if necessary.
- Decide how you will keep missions before your church body. Each month, our church highlights our Missionary of the Month, taking five minutes to explain who they are and what they do to our whole church during a specific segment of the service. We cycle through our whole list of missionaries, giving them each the opportunity to send in pictures or videos, mention prayer requests, and (if possible) come talk to our church in person.
We also send out missions experience trips to the same three places each year. We have chosen three countries in different regions of the world that allow for three different cultural experiences, three different types of ministry opportunities, and (on a practical note) three different price points, flight distances, and maturity requirements. We also chose these places because of the longevity and depth of relationship we have with the missionaries serving there. We have known them for years- some of them we helped launch when they first felt the Lord’s call- and we have watched their ministries reach hundreds of people.
In addition, throughout the year we incorporate missions into our sermon series, highlight missionaries during our prayer campaigns, and feature a missions track in our leadership college. We present the opportunities to get involved in local and global missions in our Next Steps classes. Finally, I am developing a Missionary Care project that will be launched later this year. (I’ll write about that another time.)
Some churches host missions banquets, create missional small groups, or teach Sunday School classes that talk about the history of missions. You know the culture of your church- be creative!
Now that you know where you are focusing and how you intend to focus there, write out your strategy.
As the Lord enables us, XYZ Church intends to seek out and support church members who have shared their heart with us and whose vision aligns with ours. We intend to seek out local partnership opportunities with organizations that fight generational poverty, offer resources to vulnerable women (in abusive relationships or facing unplanned pregnancies), and bring hope to the incarcerated and their families; and we will partner with them through financial giving and volunteer opportunities. We will partner intentionally with the global missionaries the Lord has led us to through financial giving, missions experience trips, and practical missionary care. Finally, we plan to champion the causes of vulnerable children, girls’ education, and racial equality through intentional partnership. We plan to educate ourselves on these issues, determine policies that reflect our strategy, and bring missions regularly before our church through sermons, small groups, Missionary of the Month highlights, and other opportunities that the Lord shows us.
This can be an evolving vision statement, and I encourage you to prayerfully seek the collaboration of your leadership team and/or your board members. Once you settle on your strategy, share it with your church!
Developing a strategy will determine the guidelines for your entire missions effort. The missionaries you support, the trips you lead, the causes you champion- all will be a reflection of the missions strategy you have created.
What does your missions strategy look like? Tell me in the comments below, or write to me with any questions you have!