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Missions 101

How to Evaluate A Missions Agency

Jun. 26, 2013By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

There are over 700 missions organizations in the United States that send missionaries around the world. With so many out there, Bethlehem Baptist Church gives it’s missionaries helpful points to consider. They are:

Doctrine

Ask to receive a copy of their formal doctrinal statement. Make sure they are Biblically sound in their doctrine. Notice if the statement is broad or narrow in it's outline and how it will therefore affect everyday life and ministry practices. Find out whether or not there are any individual variances among the mission's representatives or missionaries. Is there harmony among the missionaries on doctrinal issues? Look at their distinctives and those of their people and supporters. What's their view of God, man, the church,

spiritual gifts and missions? Are there any theological distinctives that set them apart from other Christian organizations? Do they cooperate with those who hold to other positions on those issues? How do you feel about their answers?

Emphasis and Scope of Ministry

Find out what kinds of things they are doing (evangelism, nurture or service) - what is their ministry and to whom? Does their approach to ministry emphasize flexibility and spontaneity, or stability and structured objectives? Are they people- oriented (evangelizing, nurturing or serving people through a variety of programs) or task-oriented (specialists in radio broadcasting, literature production, for example)? How do they view the roles of men and women in ministry? Could you see yourself fitting into an agency with their philosophy? What are their goals, both long and short term? Are they broad or narrow? That is, are they focused or general or both? Who sets the goals - the field, the missionaries, the nationals, the representatives, the home office? How are they evaluated? By whom? What will your role be in goalsetting -- will you have any significant influence?

Geographical Extent

What are the geographical perimeters and how were they set? Was it strategic, purposeful or accidental? Are they static or dynamic? Are there dreamers in the mission who give vision? Are they over-extended? Has the extent grown, shrunk, or remained the same in the last ten years? What do they see for the next decade? Is there coordination and harmony among the fields? In what countries do they place missionaries? Would you work in English or would you need a second language? Do they work with people culturally similar to you, or very different? What place does “unreached peoples” play in their strategy and priorities?

History

Do they have good understanding of where they've been? How does the past influence their future - by choice or default? What do they feel about their history? How do they evaluate it? Do they want to share it? Here are some ways to find out about their history: read any books the founder wrote or any biographies written about him; read articles written about this mission in mission magazines; read old prayer letters and literature you find; view any films made about the mission; ask for a history of the churches they've established; talk to any retired missionaries. It is important to find out about history - you will be asked about it by others once you are a part of the mission.

Reputation

What is their reputation locally -- among churches, other mission boards, supporters? What is it overseas? What do the nationals think about it? The churches they established? What does the foreign government think about them? Does the agency have a good reputation with other mission agencies, with the national churches with whom they work, with personnel within the agency, etc. Are they a part of IFMA (Interdenominational Foreign Missions Association) or EFMA (Evangelical Foreign Missions Association) or ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability)?

Administration

Who does what in terms of mission staff? Are their levels of authority clear and organized? Can you work well where you'll be assigned? Who sets the policies - a board, the missionaries, national churches, supporters, a combination? Is it clear? Organized? What are the costs of administration - how much of your support will they want to keep to help meet these costs? Can you endorse and justify that cost wholeheartedly?

Finances

Are missionaries on salaries (denominations sometimes give salaries and so do relief organizations) or do they raise support? If they raise support do they need to raise a set amount before they can leave for the field, (promised support) or do they go in faith that the Lord will meet their needs, and raise no support? If they raise a set amount, does that support go toward their needs only (promised support) or do they share it with all the missionaries in the mission (pooled support)? At what level do the missionaries live when compared to the local people? How much pressure on you to raise funds?

Candidate Qualifications

What are they? Can you find out up front - can you get the whole picture or do you find out bits at a time? Be realistic - how long has it taken others to meet these qualifications? Why are they necessary? Do they provide assistance to help meet these? How firm are they - for instance, if you need a certain amount of education do you need to get it from a specific place, any accredited place? Have the qualifications always been there or do they change? Are they stringent enough to not accept just anyone, but only people who will do good work - and who you could work with?

Training/Education

What is required? Is there field orientation? Candidate school? Do they have specific training for language and culture learning (Missionary Training International, Brewster, Larson, Smalley . . .)? Do they allow for or encourage on- going education?

Placement

How are you placed on the field? Who makes that decision? Do you have the final say or does someone else? How, when, or how often is it evaluated? Is it reversible? Flexible? How soon does the mission want you to move on?

Personnel

What kind of people are they looking for - team players or pioneers? What kind of people do they become? Are missionaries satisfied with the mission? What's the dropout or turnover rate? What are the unwritten rules for lifestyle/strategy, etc.? Do they function well as a team? Are they caring well for missionaries' emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs?

Family

How does the mission care for the whole family -- both parent and child? Do they see family as 1st or 2nd priority or as one that shifts between the two? Do they care for children as children and as current and maybe future missionaries? What educational opportunities are there for children -- home schooling, correspondence, boarding school or local public schooling? What living standards are expected of their missionaries? Is this the environment you want?

Prayer

Ultimately the question is not whether you find the perfect mission agency (there are none) but whether this is the mission agency God wants you to serve with. So bathe the exploration process in prayer. God will lead you!

Darren Carlson is the Founder and President of Training Leaders International.  As President, Darren oversees the general direction of the ministry and serves as an advocate for pastors with little access to formal training and thoughtful cross-cultural theological engagement. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter

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