Caring for the missionary on the job

Caring for the missionary on the job

While mission agencies have a responsibility to provide “member care,”[i] caring for missionaries[ii] is not only, or even primarily, the responsibility of mission agencies.

When a congregation sends out missionaries they extend their church’s ministry beyond their immediate cultural and geographical context. This partnership means the missionaries do not cease to belong to their sending church,[iii] or are simply absent friends, but should remain valued members of their church, albeit in another place. Therefore, a sending church should continue its pastoral care for these distant brothers and sisters.

Due to the unique practical and spiritual needs of each cross-cultural ministry, churches need to be informed, proactive and creative in their care for their missionaries.

A healthy relationship between a sending church and its missionaries will a rewarding and enriching two-way process, keeping the church abreast of God’s wider purposes and giving an increasing awareness of cross-cultural and global mission.

[i] Member care – the intentional care of missionaries by mission agencies and churches. This involves preparation for cross-cultural service, monitoring their physical, emotional and spiritual needs while on cross-cultural and home assignments. It also involves assisting them through transition periods such as Re-entry to their passport country after service. Agencies have a duty of care for their members, but this should be provided in support of the pastoral care provided by sending/support churches.

[ii] Missionary/missionaries – a person/family who has been commissioned by their sending church(es) and/or mission agency to be explicitly dedicated to the work of cross-cultural ministry. It indicates someone who is gifted, set apart and trained/prepared for cross-cultural service, and so serves a particular role in the global Body of Christ. While every follower of Jesus is called to be His witness wherever they are, some are specifically lead to cross cultural and geographical boundaries to share the gospel with those who could otherwise not comprehend its message.

[iii] Sending/supporting church(es) – the church or churches who have commissioned and sent out a missionary/family to serve as their representatives in another culture/location. Generally, a missionary/family will have one main sending church, which is often (but not always) the one they were fellowshipping with before leaving to begin their cross-cultural ministry. Supporting churches are other churches who have agreed to support the missionary/family financially and prayerfully. These churches are often visited by missionaries/families on home assignment.

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