Have you ever been in a relationship where you truly love and care about an individual but you’re really bad at showing it? I remember being newly married and reading, The Man’s Relational Tool Box. I would read a chapter and then try out the practical application on my wife Charity. I was blown away at how helpful and responsive my wife was once I learned how to relate to her, how to show her that I cared for and loved her.
Relationships are awesome aren’t they? The way we handle those relationships is vitally important to the growth of that relationship.
The relationship of the missionary and the church is very similar. Over the years I’ve noticed that missionaries can be easily forgotten, it’s not that the church doesn’t love or care for their missionaries. Many times, the church isn’t sure how they should show that love and care.
Today I’m sharing with you three practical ideas to help encourage the missionaries of your church. I pray that this will draw the people of your church closer to the heart of God, the heartbeat of missions.
I. Adopt a Missionary
You’ve heard of companies like “Compassion” or “Feed the Children” right? You get connected with a child, you pray for them, write them, send photos as well as financial support. Well, for Christmas this year we are implementing the same kind of idea with our missionary families.
In order to create a deeper connection and a greater buy in for our church families and so that our people can more easily connect with one of our 97 missionary families we are trying out this new method. The main idea is to present each missionary family and a church family or individual then in turn “adopts” this missionary for the year.
Some key elements would include:
· Missionary adoption packet
o Missionary family connection card
o Preaddressed/stamped postcards
o Christmas ornament/magnet with the missionary families photo
o Detailed instructions on what is expected from someone who is adopting a missionary family
o Replica passport booklet (these can be found on oriental trading company, the purpose is for the family to collect signatures of each missionary as different missionaries come to your church. This gives the children reason to approach the missionary
o Sample questions to ask the missionaries
· Connection cards with missionary family information
o Prayer Requests
o Contact information, including all social media handles, phone number, email address and sending address
· Quarterly reminders from missionary contact
Our prayer through this endeavor is that more families will connect with our missionaries and that each year they will connect with another and then another. It’s one way a church can grow in closer relation to missionaries and ultimately the heart of God.
II. Create a Missionary Contact
This may seem like an obvious point, but hear me out. Over the past 12 years of serving as the mission’s pastor I’ve been reminded on multiple occasion of how vitally important it is for missionaries to have someone other than the lead pastor to connect with regarding meetings, reports and finances etc.
How often does a missionary contact your church interested in sharing their ministry and you struggle having enough time to call them back and tell them “no”? How often do you receive missionary letters that go unread? We have this difficult balance of low accountability tied with little to no relationship.
Often lead pastors or even associate pastors can get so encumbered with the work of the church that they unknowingly neglect one of the most vital extension works of the church, the missionary. The missionary may not be neglected in the sense of receiving the funds promised by the church, but in so many other important ways they can easily be forgotten. They may be struggling to adapt, find and engage with friends as well as be understood.
Enlisting a volunteer who has (or is willing to learn some) clerical skills and a heart for missions is the key to this idea. The volunteer could be a stay at home mom, a single who may have some extra time on their hands or even an older, responsible teenager.
This volunteer is the contact point for each and every missionary in regards to their updates, their needs and their connections with the church family.
III. Christmas in June
Everyone enjoys celebrating Christmas! Years before I came on staff, our lead pastor created what we lovingly refer to as “Christmas in June”. Our mission’s conference is hosted during one of the hottest months of our year, June. We easily reach temperatures between 100 and 120. Adding a Christmas theme to this heat is just one more way to get our people excited about being invested in our missionaries and our conference. It is truly a moving experience.
Once we have our missionaries scheduled for our conference we can start working on our Christmas in June!
At least six months before the conference, contact your missionary asking them to fill out a “wish list” for each person in their immediate family. Be sure to let them know you are looking for both their wants in addition to their needs. Sometimes you must insist on these missionaries to get back with you or to add to the list. Some feel awkward sharing a list, not wanting to appear greedy.
Once you receive the gift lists, begin to categorize them on 3x5 cards by individual name and gift, you will also want a coordinating list with an empty line next to the gift for the person who chooses to purchase that gift. (This is one of the areas your mission’s coordinator can be a huge help). About three months out, set up a table near the exit of your church for your members to come look through and choose the gift they plan to purchase. Be sure to have them write their name on the list before they take the card, in order for you to contact them incase you have questions. For the cards that didn’t get chosen, two weeks before the conference, on a Sunday evening (or whatever “church family” service you have) at the end of the service have a card auction, to auction off any additional items for your members to purchase.
Once all gifts are purchased and donated, they are separated into each family group. Now, keep in mind, the missionary families have no clue that they will be receiving any, let alone most or all of the gifts on their lists. The second night of the conference we begin the evening with Christmas songs (since the church family has been doing this for years, they are all in on the surprise, yet the missionaries all think we’ve gone a little crazy.)
We then bring each of the families up to the platform to introduce them. As the first family is introduced the pastor shares, “About six months ago we contacted you asking you for a Christmas list, some of you were very reluctant in giving us a list.” He then continues by saying, “These were the items on your list…”
Cue the music and the tears…as soon as the items begin to be listed, one by one church volunteers and their families start bringing in those gifts and laying them at the feet of the missionaries.
This then continues from one missionary to the next, until each and every gift has been gifted. At the very end, the pastor thanks them for their service, reminds them that we love our missionaries and then as a church family we sing, “We wish you a merry Christmas!”
Recognizing and fulfilling the needs of missionaries is vital to the growth and expansion of God’s Kingdom globally. Those who are Kingdom minded will be mission’s minded. I’d love to get your feedback! Have you done any similar programs at your church? If you’re a missionary, out of these ideas, which do you like best? If you have an idea to go along with this post, please them in the comments below.
Liberty Baptist Church - Las Vegas