Most church mission teams have been through this: A member of the church family comes to your mission meeting and declares that they are ready to become a missionary. They have a distinct sense of call and a field in mind but little idea how to go the next step.
There are a number of obvious discussions to have and decisions to make, particularly, which mission agencies should be involved? Here are a few questions you can ask your mission candidate to steer them in the right direction.
Where do you desire to serve?
Nations and cultures vary so tremendously that different agencies tend to focus on specific areas or people groups. Most people desiring to serve overseas have some idea of where they’d like to go. Discovering which mission agencies work in that area will make the decision considerably easier.
What do you desire to do?
Agencies also tend to have a particular emphasis. Some focus on medical work, others on education or literature distribution or children’s work. Knowing which agencies work in the area of choice will narrow the range even further.
What are the agency’s selection criteria?
All agencies will have distinct criteria. These may involve courses of study or previous experience. Some agencies have their own training courses, others rely on the applicant to organise study and experience themselves. Help your candidate weigh up the best course of action. Bear in mind that most people are eager to get out into the field as quickly as possible. Encourage your candidate to be patient; effective long-term service requires the proper foundation.
What are your essential doctrinal positions?
This can be easily shoved to one side and treated as of secondary importance. Ensure your candidate resists that urge. Most agencies will have a doctrinal statement, some of them quite distinct and even restrictive. Your church’s mission candidates need to ensure they can live within the doctrinal statement of whatever agency they choose to serve with.
What is the agency’s approach to member care and supervision?
To be blunt, some agencies are good at this, some are not. It falls on the church mission team to ensure their candidate will be looked after by their agency of choice. Don’t be afraid to ask agency representatives tricky questions about matters to do with their support/supervision, crisis support systems and the like.
What support are you required to raise and how is it used?
Some agencies have this well organised. They will oversee the handling of your candidate’s money here in New Zealand with portions being put aside for superannuation, home assignments etc. Other agencies are not so organised. Be sure you, as a church missions team, are convinced your candidate is going to be well looked after financially while they are on the field and when they return.
What is the agency’s policy on children?
Some agencies have policies relating to children, others do not. Even candidates who are currently single should be aware of an agency’s policy on matters such as the education of children. After all, you never know what the future might hold.
What do others think of the agency?
Find out who else is overseas with the potential agency and contact the overseas mission team from their church to see what recommendations they can give. You might even speak to someone who has served with the agency and get a first-hand perspective.
What are the expectations relating to language learning?
Some agencies will insist on language training, others will not. In general, ministry overseas is far more effective if the missionary has a grasp of the local language. Recommend that your candidate find out if the mission agency has a policy and finance to enable language learning.
This is not an exhaustive list but it gives an idea of the questions potential missionary candidates can ask while selecting a mission agency
– Resource Corner – NZBMS, helping resource your church for mission