Selecting a mission agency is one of the most important decisions missionaries make as they begin their missionary journey. “But wait,” you might interject, “doesn’t a mission agency just provide logistical support for the missionary, like making sure I get my support and making arrangements if I need to evacuate the country?” While that is true to an extent, there is much more that a mission agency does.
So, what are the things that must be considered when selecting a mission agency?
The selection of a mission agency is the creation of a partnership between the mission agency and the missionary’s local church. Therefore, it is essential that the doctrinal position of the mission agency agrees with that of the local church.
Read the mission agency’s doctrinal beliefs. Are they in agreement with your local church on matters of faith? If not, scratch them off your list. They would not be a good fit.
The next step is to evaluate the mission agency’s philosophical practices. What is the agency’s primary purpose? Are they seeking to “make disciples of all nations” through evangelism, discipleship, leadership training, and church-planting, or are they focusing on meeting humanitarian needs through medicine, education, and business?
This is sometimes difficult to discern because marketplace ministries, education, and medicine can be very effective tools in accomplishing the Great Commission task; but it’s also very easy to get distracted with the tool and forget about the ultimate goal.
Is the mission agency staying on track and making disciples, or are they fixated on their tools? Does the agency’s philosophical practices align with those of your local church? If not, they may not be a good choice.
If things are looking good so far, consider the organization’s leadership and policies. Leadership determines direction. Do you know the leaders? If not, get references from people you know.
When I was looking for a mission agency, one caught my attention. I knew many of their missionaries personally, but my pastor had not heard of the organization. So I asked two friends of his who knew the organization well to write letters of recommendation. After reading these letters my pastor strongly endorsed this new partnership.
Other questions to consider include their policies … how they operate. Financially, how do they raise and use their funds? Do they have debt? Are they audited? What about policies related to health care, retirement, and taxes? Some agencies leave this up to the missionary, and some build these items into the missionary’s support schedule. Is that important to you?
Administratively, what kind of assessment tools do they use? Are there theological assessments to determine if the missionary is compatible with the organization? Are there linguistic and cultural proficiency standards in place to determine if the missionary can handle the rigors of cross-cultural ministry?
Some mission organizations consider the wife as a partner in the ministry; some only accept the husband as the missionary. What are the expectations for the wife’s role and responsibility?
What is their policy regarding teams? Most recognize that teams are very beneficial in getting the job done. A team can bring balance with complementary gifts and shared responsibilities. But how are the teams formed? Are personality assessments done? Are the strengths and weaknesses of potential team members evaluated? Is training provided on how to function effectively as a team? Do the potential team members have any input into decision making, or are they forced to comply with the mission agency’s decisions?
Whatever organizational policies he mission agency holds, it is important that the missionary’s local church supports these policies. If not, future conflicts are inevitable.
Finally, consider the mission agency’s partnerships. What churches partner with the agency? These churches will be the ones supplying the pool of missionaries from which teams will be formed for global ministry. Hopefully, these partnerships are like-minded, but are they compatible with your local church?
Another way of seeing the mission agency is as a family. Healthy family members love, encourage, and look out for the best interests of one another. So should the mission family. Are the missionaries excited to be with the rest of the mission family to learn from, help, pray for, and encourage each other? Are the missionaries’ children being encouraged and discipled, or are they ignored? Seek a mission agency that treats its members like family.
Selecting a mission agency should not be a gut decision. Investigation needs to be done, and questions need to be asked. And, in case you missed the emphasis, your decision should be done in conjunction with your local church leadership.Selecting a mission agency creates a partnership not only between you and the agency but also between the agency and your local church.
This month’s Serve is written by Mr. Phillip Peterson, the Missions Major Chair at Appalachian Bible College (ABC) in Bradley, WV. Before their service at ABC, Phillip and his wife Cindy served on several mission fields in Europe.