Serving the Sent


January 26, 2024 Brian W

When serving missionaries, the same problem repeats itself. Despite good intentions and genuine effort on both sides, a gap grows between the missionary and the sending church. This gap comes from the unique experiences and specialized knowledge the missionary acquires over years of service with their host culture. Friendly communication is difficult when it falls to the missionary to explain things and convey information to an audience instead of conversing with partners. The same thing can happen the other way around. The missionary may be sent by their church, but after two, three, or five years, the missionary has now lost context for accessible communication with the church, and filling them in on the details can be a chore. Instead of an enjoyable exchange, conversations can devolve into a teaching session that leaves everyone feeling a little cold. What is the solution for this? We must work to lessen the information asymmetry between both the missionary and the sending church.

For the church, reading newsletters, watching videos, and other resources from a missionary that has been trained to share their story will help a lot. Joining them on the field with regular short-term trips are excellent, but an overlooked aspect of this is to simply read. Reading a book about the society, history, geography, or current news of your missionary’s host culture can be very useful. This will allow you to make sharp observations about the reports you are reading from the missionary and to ask better and more interesting questions of the missionary. 

One common objection to this kind of reading is: I have so much to read already, or I don’t like reading that (insert genre) kind of book. Making time for reading can be challenging. Here is one reminder and a technique that may help. Remember that when you have a relationship with a missionary, reading becomes more personal as you connect it to a person, even if you don’t like history in general. Once you start to associate history with your missionary’s stories, history may come alive for you in a new way. Try reading for your missionary once a day for just 20 minutes. That's it! Just 20 minutes, once a day. You will be surprised how far and how fast you can read a book that way. If you are willing to use an index card and take notes as you go, you could even just read the book for half an hour a week! Surely, we have that much time for your missionary.

Another underused gem is YouTube. YouTube’s wealth of content and videos almost certainly will have at least a few videos on nearly any place in the world. These videos may not be Christian in context but can contain fascinating eyewitness observations about the people and places that your missionary serves. Also, watching a few videos of tourists out in the world and how they behave may very well improve your short-term mission training!

Finally, consider having your missionary care team or missions team commit to writing or better compiling a bi-monthly church newsletter to send to your missionaries.

Include new baptisms, new members, brief descriptions of church events, and perhaps share the church’s current prayer list with your missionary. Different leaders and team members can take on each section, so everyone writes only a couple of hundred words or less. When the news compiles, it is sent to the missionary every other month. That really helps the missionary keep up on general church news and allows them to ask you better questions! 

While all these techniques are not necessary for every mission or situation, using even some of them can help your conversations with a visiting missionary become engaging, encouraging, and energizing exchanges instead of mutually draining mini-lectures. Try them out, and let us know what you think.


Brian W
Brian served 14 years in the Republic of Georgia, where he started a youth ministry, discipled new leaders, and planted over 15 new churches before serving in leadership of another missions organization. Brian is married to Maia and they have two children.