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.

50-Year Kentucky Missions Partnership

KBC’s Teresa Parrett, with Spartanburg FBC pastor Dr. Don Wilton and Linda Gilden. Linda was on the first Spartanburg FBC Mission Trip to Kentucky 50-years ago.

This past weekend I was once again reminded of the story of a mission team that came to serve in eastern Kentucky.  They had a great week with the children and youth and, when saying their sad goodbyes, a person on the team said, “don’t worry, we will be back,” to which one of the local children replied, “that is what they all say, but they never do.”  That statement gripped the heart of the team member and caused them to change their plans and come back the next year.  It was during that visit that the mother of the child who said “they all say that” accepted Christ as her personal Savior.  This team developed a partnership in eastern Kentucky and came back many times.

Partnerships are important, because it is through partnerships that relationships are built.  In partnerships missions, teams “adopt” a specific location and go multiple times to the same place, perhaps even several times in one year.  They may bring a VBS team on one trip, a construction team on another.  The local residents get to know the team members, develop a bond and look forward to them coming each year.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting and presenting a certificate of appreciation to Spartanburg, SC First Baptist Church who has been partnering with Bell, Knox and surrounding counties for 50 years.

Bell County Associational Mission Strategist Bruce Walzer says he has personally worked with this team for 30 years as they come and do Vacation Bibles Schools, basketball and cheerleading camps, a feeding program and construction.  Bro. Bruce said they do whatever he needs them to do in his association.

Many lives have been touched in those 50 years.  One local lady shared that her children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren came to know Christ through the VBSs of the Spartanburg team and thanked God for their faithfulness to come year after year.  Another man, now in his 50s, shared that he had accepted Christ at one of the VBSs when he was 9-years old.  On a video, child after child confessed, “I gave my heart to Jesus.”

The families of Kentucky are not the only ones impacted by the Spartanburg FBC team.  Leaders of the group say this is where many of their youth shared Jesus for the first time and/or led someone to Christ for the first time.  And, many are in ministry today because they heard the call of God on their lives during Kentucky mission week. 

Linda Gilden, who was on that first mission trip 50 years ago shared about a 5th grade boy that was misbehaving.  She sat down with him and asked what was going on, to which he replied, “nobody cares what I do.”  Linda was able to share with him that she cared, and that God cared. 

This team loves the children and families of eastern Kentucky and come with one purpose, to share the Gospel of Jesus.  Many stories are told of their 50-years of service in Kentucky.  Go to   https://www.facebook.com/firstbaptistspartanburg/videos/1120596114794727/ to view their 2019 video and hear many of these stories. 

Thank you, Spartanburg FBC, for your faithfulness.  We will never know, this side of eternity, the huge impact you have made in eastern Kentucky.    May this partnership continue for many years to come.

For information on how to develop a partnership in Kentucky contact [email protected] or 502-489-3530. 

Preparing for Short-term Missions

Have you ever felt strongly compelled be part of something great only later to realize you were extremely unprepared for it?  The call of missions is indeed a great calling.  God certainly calls some to spend long-term amounts of time on mission away from their home.  He also calls others to join His mission through short-term capacities.  Both calls require preparation. 

Short-term missions—individuals and teams joining a long-term missionary’s vision and strategy for advancing the gospel among particular places and peoples—requires much preparation in order to be most effective.   

While there may be times when a mission effort can be pulled together quickly, most often the preparation requires many months.[1]  No rigid timeline exists for short-term missions, but there are some general steps that allow a team to prepare well in advance in order to maximize the impact of the team with the strategy of the host missionary.  Here is a suggested timeline that can be used as a guide:

  • 10 to 12 months prior–determine assignment
  • 9 months prior—determine team leader(s)
  • 9 months prior—publicize mission effort
  • 6 to 9 months prior—recruit team/receive volunteers, deposit due
  • 6 to 9 months prior—contact travel agent to begin searching ticket prices
  • 6 to 9 months prior—schedule initial info meeting, collect bi-monthly or quarterly payments
  • 6 months prior—apply for passport and check requirement for visas
  • 6 months prior—plan team meetings and meet monthly to discuss general mission prep
  • 3 to 4 months prior—purchase plane tickets
  • 3 to 4 months prior—get immunizations (shots!) if necessary
  • 3 to 4 months prior—team meetings should become more specialized according to what the team will be doing on the field
  • 2 months prior—develop prayer team
  • 4 weeks prior—plan commissioning service for team
  • 1 week prior—hold commission service
  • 1 week or month after—plan celebration time with team and/or church

May the Lord use our preparation in short-term missions to have lasting impact among places and peoples in need of knowing Jesus. 


[1] Disaster Relief is an example of mission efforts that take place quickly, but even then, preparation and training have occurred months and even years prior. 

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.

Kentucky Joy in the Mourning

Linda Otterback’s ministry has taken a lot of different turns.  In early 2001 she was scheduled for a mission trip to El Salvador.  When the trip had to be cancelled, Linda received a phone call asking if she would like to go to Fleming-Neon instead.  “What country is that in?” Linda asked.

Linda soon learned that Fleming-Neon is in Eastern Kentucky.  She said “yes” to that mission trip, which began the Eastern Kentucky SONrise ministry that is still active today.  Linda and her husband Larry poured their hearts into the Eastern Kentucky area, where they have led prayer meetings, women’s and men’s conferences, gathered much needed resources (clothing, diapers, household furniture, Christmas gifts), and led mission teams to the EKY area.  They have also been such encouragers for many residents, as well as missionaries that serve in eastern Kentucky.

Larry and Linda were married 52 years, grew up in church together, and served together as North American Mission Board MSC Missionaries.  Larry served in this position for 12 years until health issues forced him to step down. On September 30, 2016 Larry went to his heavenly home and Linda was left to serve alone.

After Larry went “home” Linda felt her life was over.  “I couldn’t sleep or eat for almost a year,” she said.  “I cried every night and much during the day. I put on a great face to others, but really had hit the bottom. My kids were concerned that they had lost me also.  But, PTL for friends, family and God who didn’t let me stay there.  I started reading the Psalms in detail after Larry passed. I believe God wrote them for me especially!!  They hadn’t meant as much before, but now I see how HE spoke to me through my trials and valleys.  I still miss my man so very much but have found that God has much yet for me to do.”

The summer before Larry passed, God spoke to Linda in a dream saying she would be doing a widow’s ministry. So, in the midst of her grief, God led Linda to use her experience and her role as a “widow” to begin a ministry to others who had lost their husbands.  Thus, “Kentucky Joy in the Mourning” was born. 

Widows all across Kentucky have challenges and are in need of God, our churches, and each other to help them through this journey.  “Kentucky Joy in the Mourning” reaches out to them to share stories, encourage, minister, and give insight on how to navigate this season of life.

Linda, along with the “Kentucky Joy in the Mourning” team, is available for church workshops, retreats, speaking engagements, luncheons and conferences.  If you know a widow who is struggling, or if you feel led to begin a widow’s ministry in your church, please contact Linda at [email protected].  Visit their website (www.kybaptist.org/widows) to download resources, or connect with “Kentucky Joy in the Mourning” on Facebook.

Praise be to the God… who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

Numbers Matter for the SBC

Their smiles, colorful outfits, upbeat music, movements and songs had the crowd captivated.  While the room was filled with likely 1500 guests, everyone’s attention as they filed toward their tables was on the children.  The IMB hosted dinner at the SBC annual meeting began with the beautiful Swahili children’s choir singing in their heart language.  We then saw the gospel in sign language and later prayed for soon appointed IMB missionaries.  All these special treats represented the importance of numbers for the SBC.    

IMB Dinner SBC 2019

Every year Southern Baptist churches compile internal stats in order to report for the Annual Church Profile (ACP).  Each church sends these numbers to their state convention—numbers which cover multiple categories like membership, worship attendance, small group attendance, baptisms, mission participation, etc.  These numbers intend to represent, for the most part, the health of the local church in a given year.  Numbers represent health ultimately because they represent people.  The SBC is ultimately about people—making disciples of all peoples (Matt 28:16-20).   

While numbers do not tell the whole story, they do reveal an important part of the life of the church.  To minimize numbers is to ignore the importance of numbers in the Bible.  After all, a whole book in the Bible is called Numbers in order to number the people of Israel after their wilderness wondering.  So, while we don’t place all our emphasis upon numbers, we dare not overlook the importance of numbers. 

In fact, the Bible speaks of a great multitude (of people) so large that no one could count the number.  John the revelator wrote in Revelation 7:9-10 of this “great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb . . . crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

John’s words in the last book of the Bible remind us that numbers matter, massive numbers at that.  This great multitude gathers around the throne of God and the Lamb declaring that salvation belongs to our God and the Lamb. To be sure, these around the throne are around the throne because salvation brought them there, salvation from God through the Lamb.    

Our new IMB president, Paul Chitwood, reminded us so well this week at our annual SBC meeting why we exist as a denomination (Rev 7:9).  The work is still not complete.  John did not promise an incalculable number from some nations nor a few tribes, peoples and languages, but all!  Jesus will not be worshiped by some peoples of the world and praised by many languages on this planet.  He will be praised and prized by all nations, tribes, peoples, and languages. 

We exist for this reason as the Southern Baptist Convention.  Under the “big tent” of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, though differences remain, our common doctrinal commitment allows us, rather compels us, to work together for Revelation 7:9. 

Let’s not forget that numbers matter.  Though not telling the whole story, numbers tell an important one.  We aim for a number so large that no one can count.  We long for people from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.  To this work we set our sights because numbers matter.

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.