Storm Chasers

I have served almost twelve years as Disaster Relief Director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention and have been involved in countless disaster responses across our globe – from hurricanes on the Gulf Coast to tornadoes in the Midwest to famines in Africa. As I reflect on these events, there is no question in my mind that God is good and His heart breaks as He watches the suffering caused by these catastrophic events. For those reeling in the aftermath of these life-changing events, the loss can be overwhelming.

So what should our response be as the church to those suffering in the aftermath of these crushing incidents?

The Bible again and again calls us to reach to those wounded by life with compassion.

Jesus taught us in Matthew 7:12, ” Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—this is the Law and the Prophets.”

The apostle Paul commands us in Galatians 6:2, “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. “

This is at the heart of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief. Disaster Relief volunteers respond time and time again to bring practical help, a healing touch, and the hope of Christ to those struggling in the aftermath of disasters. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams are often the first on the ground and the last to leave these broken places. God’s light shines through the darkness as these responders offer the compassion and hope of Christ.

God often uses nature to both bless and to challenge us, to bring us food and to teach us the lessons of the struggle. The Bible challenges the church to fight against the devastation, disease, and brokenness of our world. He calls His followers to enter the battle and to be His hands and feet of compassion in a broken world. We are to leave the sidelines and enter the fray. As John reminds us,” This is how we have come to know love: Christ laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).

Historically, the church has always responded to tragedies with sacrifice and courage. During the third century it was the church that remained to minister to its neighbors when most others fled the plague. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief provided millions of meals and rebuilt scores of homes. And last year, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief provided over 116,000 meals to survivors of Hurricane Florence and assisted hundreds of families with chainsaw cleanup and recovery after Hurricane Michael.

As the followers of Christ, we choose to be “storm-chasers”. But we do not chase the storm to gather data, we chase the storm to bring help, healing, and hope.

If you would like to learn how you could become a Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer, go to www.kybaptist.org/dr or call us at (502) 489-3527.

Seven Ways to Embrace the Displaced

Imagine being a refugee landing in the United States for the first time. You’ve been waiting for years for the opportunity to start your life again. You haven’t had a home to call your own, your children have only sporadically attended school, and your spouse suffers from insomnia and nightmares about the violence that drove you from your country. You don’t speak English, and you have no idea how to get started in a new country.

Refugees have an array of hopes and fears as they acclimate to a new culture and a new way of life. As followers of Jesus, we need to stand ready to embrace those who arrive in our cities and neighborhoods. We have a ready opportunity to impact their hearts and lives for the gospel as they resettle in our midst. Here are seven powerful and practical ways to welcome them into your community.

1. Greet Newly Arrived Refugees

Greet and transport a newly arrived refugee family from the airport to their new home. Meet them with a welcome basket filled with information about their new community, including emergency contact information, maps, invitations to your church worship services, tutoring sessions, and ESL classes, as well as a note telling them how happy you are to have them in your community.

2. Be a Friend

If you’ve ever moved to a new neighborhood, you understand that you don’t truly feel settled until you’ve been welcomed by new friends and neighbors. Unfortunately, most refugees are accustomed to being ignored, and loneliness is one of their greatest challenges.

For help getting to know a family and becoming a part of their lives as they adapt to a new country and culture, connect with the local resettlement agency that sponsors new refugees in your community, and learn about their volunteer opportunities.

3. Visit Refugees in Their Homes

As with any friendship, you must make time for your new friends. Visit them frequently in their homes and bring along a basket of fruit or a freshly baked cake. Allow time to stay and chat. Ask them questions about their family’s stories and how they came to arrive in your community. Learn about their favorite foods and customs. They’ll likely be happy to share.

In return, you can share more about your family and some of your favorite traditions. If you’re invited to a meal, try everything. They’ll be happy to share their very best with you, even when they have a limited amount to give.

4. Help Refugees Adapt to Their New Communities

Take your refugee friends shopping and explain the different types of stores in your community. Help set up phone service and doctor’s appointments. You can also assist them in registering their children for school and showing them how to use public transportation.

5. Share Your Home and Life

Open your home and welcome a refugee family into your everyday life. Share important milestones by inviting them to birthday parties. Invite them to participate in routine family activities throughout the year. Teach them how to build a snowman and serve hot chocolate or make homemade cookies. Take them for their very first roller coaster ride at a local amusement park. Invite them to your children’s baseball or soccer games or to be your guests at a professional sporting event. Host them for their very first American picnic or cookout.

6. Share Special Holiday Traditions

Invite your refugee friends to take part in your special holiday traditions at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and any other festivities that may be new to them. Share the American tradition of thankfulness with a traditional turkey dinner. Plan your favorite Christmas recipes, sing carols, and give each family member a special gift. In the spring, invite them to the Easter service with your church. Special occasions like these can make your new friends feel honored and provide wonderful inroads to explain your hope in Jesus and the difference he makes in your daily life.

7. Strategic Church and Associational Involvement

Churches and associational networks also have strategic opportunities to be a blessing to refugees in their area. Not only can they provide cross-cultural evangelism training to their members who will be building relational bridges, but they can also provide venues for larger community outreach. Consider the following ministry possibilities:

  • ESL (English as a Second Language) classes for adults and tutoring sessions for children
  • Health screenings and basic health care
  • Classes on citizenship, budget planning, banking, and driver’s education
  • A furniture bank where families can obtain essential household goods
  • Job boards to post hiring opportunities
  • Baby showers for new mothers

Ask the Lord to give you his heart for the refugees in your community. Perhaps Jesus has placed specific families in your area so that you could be the one to demonstrate the gospel to them. Showing and sharing his love and compassion to refugees in your community can be one of the most strategic and rewarding global missions experience you will ever have. Contact John Barnett, KBC Mission Strategist, to get you and your church connected today. [email protected]

They Went because They Were Sent

In response to Scripture (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15 and Acts 1:8), churches should be intentionally sending their members. Sending them on mission trips, church planting efforts, ministry projects and disaster relief responses. The church can reach our world with the gospel by putting the focus on how many we send rather than how many attend. 

What does it mean to send? Sending isthe act of enlisting, equipping and mobilizing believers to engage the world with the gospel through local community ministry, short-term mission experiences, church planting efforts, disaster relief work, vocational ministry, and long-term missionary service.

A sending church equips its members go, challenges them to live on mission every day, and provides many opportunities for them to demonstrate the gospel using their gifts, talents, and life experiences. 

First Baptist Church, Inez, Kentucky is one example of a sending church.  FBC Inez has experienced tremendous missions participation growth during the last two years  because pastor Casey Carver has made sending a priority. 

Pastor Casey preached a month-long series of sermons on the importance of missions, challenging the church to not only pray and give, but to send and go.  He used “One Call” to send a missions themed daily devotional by phone to the entire church during that month-long emphasis.

The church had not taken a mission trip in many years, so pastor Casey planned a 3-day mission trip to an eastern Kentucky ministry that was only 3 hours from their church.  They sent 25% of the church’s Sunday morning attendance on that initial mission trip.

Pastor Casey also encouraged the church to engage in ministry to the local community and many have done so.  Members are doing mission work through local ministries like Appalachian Reach Out, Haven of Rest, Heavenly Treasures Thrift Store, and God’s Food Pantry. Additionally, a group of ladies meets regularly to knit items that are given to residents of the local nursing home. 

The church recognized the need of children in the foster care system who arrive at local homes with nothing to call their own.  Therefore, the church began a ministry in which they provide host families with backpacks filled with items needed by foster children.

The sending of members on mission continues, as does the vision for how that will happen.  Pastor Casey has taken steps toward a new ministry called, God’s Connection, that will serve as a residential drug recovery ministry.  That vision includes a coffee shop and thrift store that will provide revenue for the ministry and a place of employment for those in the program. They have received permission to use an old motel for the ministry are seeking donations to help with renovation as plans for God’s Connection and the micro-ministries are developed. 

Sending people on mission out from the church won’t happen by accident.  There must be intentionality by church leadership, specifically, the pastor.  Pastors, will you challenge your members to go?  Churches, will you send your members out on mission as commanded by Christ?  We serve a sending God who expects nothing less from us, than to go, because we’ve been sent. 

What is Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief?

Our world continues to experience devastation and destruction annually.  Man-made events as well as natural disasters continue to challenge our minds with “why.”  Why has this happened?  Why me?  Why my community?  As Believers, we cannot answer the “why,” but we can respond with love and compassion as we help those affected know that they are not forgotten by God.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is one of the three largest disaster response entities in the United States. Trained volunteers stand ready to respond when disasters hit across our globe.  Disaster Relief ministry provides an opportunity for believers to be the hands and feet of Christ to hurting people.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief began ministry in 1984 and is part of the larger Southern Baptist Send Relief network of 42 state conventions, the North American Mission Board, and Baptist Global Response.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief is supported by gifts of Kentucky Baptists through the Cooperative Program and the Eliza Broadus Offering for State Missions.  This ministry offers opportunities for believers to be on mission for Christ during times of crisis.

The Apostle John instructed us:

“Let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

In times of crisis, people need more than empty words.  They need someone to come alongside them with genuine help and real hope.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief brings practical help, the healing grace of Christ, and the hope of the Gospel to those devastated by disaster.  More than 4500 Kentucky Baptists are trained as disaster relief volunteers.  Volunteers can staff mobile kitchens designed to provide thousands of hot meals, move in with a chainsaw after a tornado, assist homeowners in cleaning up a flooded home, offer spiritual care as a chaplain, and provide many other disaster services.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are trained in:

  • Bulk Supply Distribution
  • Chainsaw Ministry
  • Chaplain Care
  • Emergency Childcare
  • Damage Assessment
  • Flood and Wildfire Clean up
  • Mass Feeding
  • Roof Tarping
  • Radio Operations
  • Shower and Laundry Ministry
  • Water Purification and Well Repair

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief has a host of resources that can be mobilized during times of disaster.  Resources that can be deployed are:

  • 4 Mobile Kitchens with the capacity to prepare 68,000 meals a day for disaster survivors
  • 27 Chainsaw/Flood/Fire Recovery Trailers
  • 2 Mobile Communication and Command Units
  • 7 Mobile Shower trailers
  • 1 Mobile Laundry Trailer
  • 2 Mobile Childcare Trailers
  • 3 Mobile Water Purification Units
  • 1 Mobile Roof Tarping Trailer
  • 1 Kuboda Skid-Steer
  • 1 Mobile Lift
  • 2 Fork-lifts

To learn how you or your church can get involved in this Kingdom ministry go to http://www.kybaptist.org/dr, or call (502) 489-3527. Our next Disaster Relief training is at Lifepoint Church in Franklin, Kentucky on September 14. You can register for this training at
http://www.kybaptist.org/drtraining/

Strategy is a MUST for Baptist Associations

Most of the 2,400 churches of the Kentucky Baptist Convention have chosen to belong to an association of churches.  Generally speaking, each association exists to provide support and assistance to member churches.  But, the specifics of how that is done and what it looks like is up to each association and its member churches to determine for their context.

For years, associations have been able to assist member churches, and many of them without any real strategy in place. But times are different today and every association should have a strategy that is understood and embraced by member churches.   It is estimated that 60-70% of associations exist in a rural or town and country setting, and they too, need a strategy that guides their work. 

According to the 2017 Baptist Associations Survey conducted by Jason Lowe, the second-most frustrating aspect of rural/town & country associations (according to church leaders) was a lack of clear vision/strategy.  It’s interesting to note that the greatest frustration was a lack of church participation.  Perhaps there is a lack of participation because there is no associational strategy. Additionally, it’s encouraging to note that according to the same survey, the top reason among church leaders in rural/town & country associations for why they would consider increasing their church’s financial contributions to the association was if the association had a clear vision/strategy.   The survey shows how important it is that every association develop a strategy that church leaders can embrace. 

Research provided in The State of Baptist Associations report did reveal 5 common elements that church leaders indicated that they wanted to see in their association’s strategy.  Those strategy elements were shared by Jason Lowe in a breakout session during the 2019 SBCAL meeting in Birmingham.  Here they are:

  1. Local evangelism and community engagement strategy –the most desired element of an associational strategy was to increase the association’s efforts to assist member churches in evangelism and community engagement.  While the details of how that looks will be different in each context, church leaders want to partner with other churches to engage their communities with the gospel.  Associations should take the lead in studying spiritual & social demographics of communities and coordinating efforts to mobilize churches on mission locally.
  2. Local church planting strategy – while some church leaders would prefer that their association spend less time in church planting efforts, the majority of church leaders would like to see their association spend more time in leading, assisting, or (at the very least) supporting local church planting efforts.
  3. Missions Strategy – in addition to local evangelism efforts, church leaders want their association to assist in planning and coordinating missions opportunities beyond their local area. This could include state, national, or international partnerships or mission projects led by the association.
  4. Leadership Development Strategy – associations need to make sure that opportunities are provided to equip, encourage, and strengthen pastors and church leaders. Consider developing a Leadership Pipeline, especially if your association has difficulty in identifying enough pastors to serve in your churches. Partner with your state convention to provide workshops and conferences that assist in developing leaders. 
  5. Communication Strategy – when asked to identify what would motivate them to increase their church’s financial contributions to the association, one of the most popular answers was an increased awareness of the association’s ministry efforts among church leaders and lay members alike. Therefore, associational leaders must not only implement a clear strategy for helping churches partner together to advance God’s kingdom, they must share the message of how it is being done through email, newsletters, social media, etc.  And it must be clearly communicated frequently and consistently. 

Association’s that have an effective strategy to guide them will prove value to member churches and bring benefit to themselves.  If your association doesn’t have a clearly defined strategy, now is the time to develop one.  For assistance in developing a strategy for your association, contact your state convention or an associational mission strategist.   

My Name is Alex and I’m a Missionary

There was a celebration reception at the Freeda Harris Baptist Center in eastern Kentucky earlier this month to recognize retiring missionaries Greg & Alice Whitetree and incoming missionaries Richard & Amy Greene. 

Richard served as a pastor in Salyersville before being called to come serve as director of the Baptist center in Pike County.  He and Amy have a 10 year-old son Alex, who has Down syndrome and has always been an active part of their ministry.   It was not uncommon for Alex to accompany Richard when pastoring, as he made visits, took care of things at the church, handed out popsicles or met needs in the community.  Coming to Pike County to serve as missionaries at the center will not be any different.  Alex will be there serving alongside his parents as they feed the hungry, operate a thrift store, welcome and direct the work of volunteer teams, conduct mobile Bible clubs for kids in the hollers and share Christ. 

Something very special happened during the introduction of the Greene family at the reception. After Richard and Amy were introduced, Alex took the mic and said, “my name is Alex and I’m a missionary”.  Wow, what a statement of intent and understanding.  I was moved by his candor and innocence.  Here is a young man that understood anyone can be a missionary. 

Many people picture a missionary as a middle-aged man who leaves his job in America to evangelize and plant churches in Africa. But that is a simplistic view. Today, African Christians reach out to Muslims in the Middle East. College students spend their summer teaching English in Asia. A family in America befriends and witnesses to international students. A truck driver responds to those hurting following a disaster and a 10 year-old boy in Appalachia wants to share Jesus with people he meets. All these are missionaries.

Although technically a missionary is someone specifically called by God and sent out by the local church, every Christian has a mission to share the gospel and make disciples.  But simply put, a missionary is an ambassador of Christ and every believer is expected to live out our faith and represent Christ as we go. 

You don’t have to be formally educated, have years of experience or receive a salary to be a missionary.  You just have-to be willing to GO.   The Greene’s are beginning to learn the community and meet the people who live there.  But I have a feeling it will be Alex who the community knows best because he is so accepting of others and shares an infectious smile with everyone he meets.  Thank you Alex, for being a missionary at the Freeda Harris Baptist Center.

Amazing Grace

Jesus demonstrated to a broken world that “grace” is more powerful, more inviting, and more life-changing than fear, lectures, or judgement.  God’s truth is embraced when we understand that God is good and desires to give us life.

Our Christian faith teaches that Jesus fully satisfied God’s wrath and judgement on the cross, and assures everlasting life to all who follow Him through the resurrection.  God offers us forgiveness, acceptance, love, and life through the life-changing grace of Christ. 

The Bible shouts to the world the best news ever, “God in His deep love for us has poured out His grace that we might know Him and have life in Him.”  It truly is “Amazing Grace.”

Understanding the depth of God’s grace has three powerful, life-changing results in our life:

  1. It overwhelms you with gratitude.
  2. It captures your heart and awakens deep trust in the God who has poured out His grace on you.  When grace captures your heart, you embrace God’s biblical truth because you realize God desires the best for us and that His way is the best way.
  3. It motivates you to overflow with grace to others.

In 2 Timothy 2:1, the Apostle Paul exhorted young Timothy to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Paul is reminding this young Christian leader that as Believers we started in grace, stand in grace, and are strengthened in grace.  God calls us who have been given such grace to be strong in grace, to be empowered in grace, and to be a witness in a broken world by overflowing with grace.

Mercy ministries give us an opportunity to demonstrate the life-changing grace of Christ to a broken world.  In times of disaster, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers illustrate the grace of Christ by offering unmerited help and kindness to those devastated by the ravaging loss of a disaster event. 

God calls His followers to wade into the muck and to be His agents of grace.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief extends the grace of Christ by sharing a hot meal to the hungry, cutting a tree off the home of a widow, bringing clean water to a village, cleaning out the flooded home of our neighbor, or praying with one overwhelmed and broken by loss.

Time and again those whom we minister ask disaster relief volunteers;

“Why would you come and help me?”

“Why would you travel so far, sleep on cots, help someone that you have never met, and do it all at no cost?” 

 I am thankful that we can share with them that it is all because of the grace of Christ.  We offer grace because God has poured out His grace on us. And as we demonstrate that grace it opens doors to share the best news ever that God in His deep love offers that life-changing grace to all who will receive it.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief demonstrating the strength of Christ’s grace as they offer help, healing and hope!

Effectiveness of Baptist Associations Questioned

The Baptist association has been an important part of our history as Southern Baptists. It has been described as “the oldest cooperative unit in Baptist life tracing its existence back over 300 years.” Therefore, because of its long history, one could assume that the association must be effective in networking and helping churches in missions and ministry.  But longevity of an organization doesn’t guarantee its relevance and value.  

I have participated in associations that were effective and viewed as important by member churches.  However, I’ve also seen associations where the focus had subtly shifted from serving and assisting churches to maintaining the associational staff and budget. So, what determines the effectiveness of an association?  While the answer to this question is in some part determined by the context of the association and its member churches, there are some basic principles that can be applied to any association of churches. 

Several years ago, Hugh Townsend (North American Mission Board) and others presented a model for a 21st Century Association known as the Four F’s: Fast, Focused, Flexible, and Friendly. It’s something that I have referred Kentucky associations to on numerous occasions.  I would suggest that the leadership of every Baptist association or network of churches evaluate their effectiveness through the lens of these four F’s.  Consider building the association’s structure and documents around these as well. 

Fast – How long does it take your association to make a decision to spend $1,000? If a church has a need to be met, or the association has a ministry opportunity for its churches that it is made aware of, how fast can you meet it? Can you do so within hours or days, or does it take weeks and months? Effective associations are able to minister effectively in a short period of time.

Focused – Priority-based core values, mission, vision. Focus on taking the association to the churches… and when they need it. Customize what you do. Is the association’s focus on serving the churches and assisting them in advancing the Gospel, or is there a mindset that the churches are there for the association? The focus of the association should be on assisting the churches in their mission of reaching the lost and discipling the saved.

Flexible – How do you respond to immediate or emerging opportunities and needs? Is your structure flexible enough to meet church needs and conduct mission and ministry opportunities as they arise, or is it necessary to wait three or more months until the next Executive Committee or Annual Meeting to get approval? An Administrative Team or other committee/team should have the ability to adapt and readily meet the needs of the churches and the community. The structure should be simple, effective, and welcoming to new pastors and churches as well as to existing ones.

Friendly –Do the churches find the association ready and able to provide assistance and resourcing at their point of need and in a timely fashion? Is your association staff and leadership pastor/church friendly, or are they more concerned about not being inconvenienced? Is it relatively easy and simple for a pastor/church leader to contact the person needed and access the info/material that is available, or is it difficult? 

Based on the Four F’s, how effective is your association?  If associations aren’t effective, they will cease to exist because they are no longer of value to local churches.   

by Eric Allen, Leader, Missions Mobilization Team, Kentucky Baptist Convention, June 2019.

What Is Our Answer When Disasters Come?

When disasters strike, we must avoid the urge to throw out pat answers or offer flippant explanations. So how do we answer those struggling in the aftermath of disasters?

  • We grieve with those who suffer. Suffering causes us to pause, to look at the hard questions, and should move us to weep with those who are weeping. Grieving hearts need someone to come alongside them. They do not need pat answers and simple explanations. Followers of Christ should be the first to respond with grace, love, and generous help. Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are often among the first to respond in the aftermath of disasters, and seek to bring help, healing, and hope to those affected.
  • We should be reminded of our many blessings. Life is a gift. Even the air that we breath is a gift from God. We should never trivialize the suffering, but we should also not forget all the goodness that we have been blessed with in life. God is good every day and even in the trying days, He has blessed us greatly.
  • We must decide how we will respond to God. We can be angry with God or we can trust Him. We can question His goodness, or we can worship Him. Disasters remind us that tomorrow is uncertain, so we had better be prepared for eternity. The only way to be prepared for the uncertainty of life and for eternity is to know God in a personal relationship through Jesus Christ.
  • We must rest our lives on a solid foundation. The Bible encourages us to build our lives on a foundation that cannot be shaken. Disasters remind us that this earth as we know it now will not go on forever. There is a time coming when time will cease, and this world will be gone in the twinkling of an eye. Tragedies teach us that the only sure hope is to know God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to have the assurance of the life that He alone can give. The uncertainties of disasters remind us to prepare for the certainties that are to come. The only sure foundation to build one’s life upon is to know God and to rest our lives in His truth.

2 Corinthians 6:2

” For He says: I heard you in an acceptable time, and I helped you in the day of salvation. Look, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation.”

If you would like to know more about how you can become a disaster relief volunteer or how you can know Jesus Christ in a personal relationship, contact us at [email protected] .

A Missions Team is a Must!

The church was founded as a missionary sending organization. It was not intended to be a religious organization with missions as only a department within the organization. Its primary purpose was missionary and its members were to be involved in the spreading of the gospel.

Unfortunately, many local churches today are not engaged in missions. Oh, they may send an offering or even pray occasionally for missionaries, but their focus of attention and participation isn’t upon missions. Sadly, many local churches have gone from being the important participant who makes things happen in missions (like in the book of Acts) to being a gentle spectator.

How can the church once again, become the seedbed for mission involvement and engagement?

First of all, we can’t assume someone in the church will automatically lead this effort. If it’s everyone’s responsibility, it quickly becomes no one’s. It’s takes an intentional effort by a specific person or group, and not just the pastor. Having a team or group of people who are tasked with this responsibility is critical to ensuring that missions is focused upon and carried out by the congregation.  So, form a team, committee or group of people who will help the church re-establish its rightful place in missions.  It’s not important what you call them, but there is something effective about a group of people that work together on how they can engage and help the whole church to focus on missions. 

Secondly, specific steps must be taken to restore the local church’s sense of participation and importance in missions. Determining how that will be done is responsibility of the “missions committee” or “Acts 1:8 team”. Here are some role recommendations that will guide this group in leading the church to once again, becoming a missions focused, engaged participant in reaching their community and the world for Christ:

Raise awareness and educate 
The first and most basic task of the missions team should be raising awareness and educating the church family about missions. This includes arranging opportunities for members to learn more about the missionaries, the spiritual and physical needs of people living within a region, and how the missionaries are seeking to address those needs. It might be slides or videos in worship or an article in the newsletter, highlighting a missionary the church is partnering with.  Consider a digest of missions efforts or missionaries supported by the church with data, pictures and testimonies, outlining ways members can be engaged.

Raise awareness through Sunday School classes, community groups, and children’s ministry. Teach and focus on missions year-round, inviting missionaries to speak or have them Skyped in during a worship service.  While some churches feel that an annual missionary conference is enough, it seldom sustains the church for the whole year.

Lead out in prayer
The missions team must lead the way by getting church members involved in missions in practical ways. First, encourage them to pray for missionaries every day.

Show them how to use the monthly prayer guides published by the NAMB or IMB. Praying for one missionary or one locale every day is a great start. Few people can pray for “the whole world,” or “all the missionaries,” in any manageable way.

Highlight prayer for missionaries and missions projects during the worship service and in small groups.  How can we expect people to give and go if we aren’t willing to set aside time to pray.

Develop strategy
Every church receives many requests from people or organizations asking for money. They are many worthy causes, but no one church can help everyone.

Develop a strategy for how you will allocate funds and support various missionaries or ministries.  A strategy will give direction and purpose to the missions committee’s task and to the church’s giving.

The missions team must decide one basic question: How does God want our church to be involved in missions?  Consider developing a strategy that simultaneously involves the church in their local community, state, nation and world.  This may sound overwhelming, but it is possible for even the smallest of churches to adopt this kind of Acts 1:8 strategy.

The KBC Missions Mobilization Team is equipped to help your missions team in the development of a strategy. They can also help the team to assess the church’s current level of missions engagement through MAP, Missions Assessment Profile. For assistance, contact www.kybaptist.org/missions, [email protected] or 502-489-3530.

Encourage missions giving 
One way or another, if God’s missionary mandate is to be fulfilled, missionaries must be supported by local churches. The missions team’s role is crucial, whether the church determines an annual missions dollar amount that is divided between missionaries and projects, raises a challenge goal amount for each of the missions offerings, or takes on the personal support of a number of missionaries.

Ideally, financial support should be determined by the church’s missionary strategies. That strategy guides budget decisions by the church. Without some direction and purpose to the missions program, money is usually spent for the most persuasive speakers and causes. This leaves little opportunity for critical needs that may receive little attention. The committee must guard against this kind of imbalance.

The missions team must also shield the budget from “pet” causes, which often come from influencers within the church. Tough, sometimes unpopular decisions must be made. This is easier to do when the church has agreed on both its missions strategy and its budget in advance.

Provide missionary care
While I’m thankful for missions sending agencies like our IMB and NAMB, I’m afraid the church has relinquished its responsibilities to nurture missionaries who are sent and now serving. In full cooperation with mission boards, churches must take more responsibility for missionaries.

After a missionary begins serving, the missions team should work to ensure they are cared for. Specific suggestions include encouragement visits, communication with them (email, letters, Facetime, etc.) providing supplies and resources, sending care packages and mobilizing short-term teams to assist in the ministry.  

Don’t forget to make caring for the children of missionaries part of your focus as well.  The church should be aware of cultural adjustments, loneliness, and moral tests that MKs face.

Caring for missionaries while on stateside assignment (or home on furlough) gives the committee many chances to show care in meeting such needs as housing, cars, clothing, vacation retreats, administrative assistance, etc.

Call out the “called” 
Many young people receive their “call” to missions in college organizations or at missions conferences. That’s great, but I am saddened that so few of our church’s passionately challenge those God has called to go and then actively send them.

In the book of Acts, the “call” of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13) came to them from the Holy Spirit through the church at Antioch. The missions team should look for people with cross cultural interest and ministry skills, and then challenge them to prayerfully consider serving in missions.

Be missions specialists 
Don’t let the word specialist scare you and keep you from assuming this role. The missions team can become missions specialist by familiarizing themselves and learning from many different resources.  Resources may be missions books, magazines, newsletters, special seminars, conferences or our mission sending agencies (IMB, NAMB).  

Missions team members should specialize to more effectively accomplish their role. Subcommittees (or individual committee members) can be organized by the Acts 1:8 strategy, each having a responsibility for a specific area (local, state, nation and world). Another way to organize for specialization is to assign each subcommittee/individual one of the recommended roles discussed in this article (education, prayer, strategy development, giving, and missionary care).  

In closing, a church that chooses to form a missions team that actively functions as outlined above will find itself right in the middle of what God is doing!  It will be a seedbed for missions engagement and they will be impacting the world with the gospel as God intended.  My prayer is that more of our churches will have a missions or Acts 1:8 team helping them to organize around missions, rather than religion.