Church-sourced Missionary Nurture Teams–Compilation
NOTE: This is a compilation of a three-part blog series we posted previously.
Missionary Nurture Teams 1
The glory of God is reflected in a special way when local churches embrace and engage in both sending AND caring for their own members that He calls to serve as missionaries.
In a healthy local church, a Spirit-generated passion moves the pastors and leaders to nurture the growth and development of every member.
When God calls some of those church members to serve as missionaries in other countries, His Spirit will move the leaders to think through the unique challenges and stresses they will experience in preparation for departure, while they’re on the field, and when they return back to America on a visit or to start life again in this country.
PRACTICAL REASONS: UNIQUE CHALLENGES AND STRESSES
Here’s a small sampling of what their church members will face in getting to, and then living on the field:
–Receiving and then sharing with others that God has called them to be a missionary.
–Trusting that God will provide the money necessary to fulfil the vision He’s given them through churches and fellow believers, some of whom they have never actually met.
–Selling or storing pretty much every one of their belongings.
–Disconnecting themselves, their wives, and their children from anything or anyone that is familiar and then resettling them in a different country
–Beginning a whole new life in another country and needing to discover how to get around, where to buy food, what is available to buy, and how to use the currency.
–Finding out what medical or dental care is available, how to obtain it, and then facing the reality that it might not be of the same quality that they have had access to in the U.S.
–Learning to live in the midst of a completely new culture and environment, and acquiring language and cultural skills at the same time they’re trying to help their family adjust AND attempting to engage in the “ministry” they’re convinced God called them there to do.
When church leaders comprehend that these are just a few of the realities missionaries face, and that the unique challenges and stresses involved with returning back to life in America are added to the pile, that same Spirit-generated passion to nurture their members will move them to see the need for creating and equipping a group of people to provide the special nurture that their missionaries need.
NECESSITY OF SPECIFIC TRAINING ALREADY ACKNOWLEDGED
In the same way that God is moving an increasing number of churches to train some of their key members for Critical Incident Stress Debriefing in order to meet the special needs of those who have been through traumatic events, He is also moving more and more church pastors and leaders to create and train what Shepherd’s Staff refers to as Missionary Nurture Teams.
MISSIONARY NURTURE IS UNITY IN HIM ON DISPLAY
In John 17, Jesus said more than once that when His people are unified in Him, the reality of His coming in to this world is declared to those who don’t yet believe.
The unity and love that is necessary and on display when local churches take missionary nurture so seriously that they establish and train some of their members to provide it, reflects God’s glory in a very special way and validates that the Son of God really did enter into this world.
Missionary Nurture Teams 2
The unique challenges and stresses that missionaries experience provide an incredible privilege and opportunity for the leaders and members of their local church to reflect God’s glory through the love and care they bestow on them.
Whether a missionary is on the path to departure for the field, currently serving on the field, or in the midst of the difficult transition back to life in America, the call to be a missionary includes a call to dependence on God’s people to meet a variety of distinct needs that cross-cultural ministry in another country produces.
CARING FOR MISSIONARIES REQUIRES THE WHOLE CHURCH BODY
When the diversity of gifts, talents, life experiences and resources that God has deposited into a local church are harnessed to meet the multi-faceted and obedience-generated needs of their fellow believers that God calls to be missionaries, His glory is proclaimed to the nations in a very distinct way.
Missionary Care is the term that is generally used to describe the wide-ranging ways that God’s people express their love and care for missionaries in the spiritual and practical realm.
Because the spectrum of needs missionaries acquire are so diverse, most members of a local church with a heart and desire to do so, can find a way to participate in being a channel of God’s love to the missionaries they know.
Yet as important as every form of Missionary Care is, Shepherd’s Staff is convinced that missionaries need specialized care that is focused on their spiritual and emotional growth and development, in addition to the care that can be provided by many of their fellow church members.
WHAT IS MISSIONARY NURTURE?
We refer to this specialized form of Missionary Care as Missionary Nurture.
Using local church terminology, Missionary Nurture is pastoral-type care that includes the encouragement that any mature believer should be able to give, but also aims at helping move the missionary forward in their lives in these areas:
–Their intimacy with God
–Their understanding of His grace and truth in this unique season of life and ministry
–Their application of His truth and grace in their own lives, their family’s, and those they serve
–Their capacity to grasp the local language and culture and then communicate God’s truths as clearly and understandably as possible.
NURTURING OTHERS IS A RECOGNIZABLE GIFT
The ability of a man or woman to nurture the growth and development of others is a gift from God that they exercise in the lives of others on a regular basis, and that is easily observable to those who know them at any level.
When those that have the gift of nurturing others are made aware of the unique challenges and stresses that missionaries face, they are usually very eager to gain an understanding of what missionary life entails, and diligent to learn the best way possible to speak into their lives.
A SMALL TEAM TO PROVIDE MISSIONARY NURTURE
Due to the out-of-the-ordinary context missionaries live and serve within, the type and amount of nurture necessary for their growth and development is most effectively provided by a small team of people who have the gift of nurturing others and that have been specially trained and equipped to nurture missionaries.
Shepherd’s Staff refers to this small group of people as a Missionary Nurture Team…..and we’re convinced it’s an essential component of church-based Missionary Care.
Missionary Nurture Teams 3
When God calls one or more of the members of a healthy local church to serve as missionaries in another country, He will also move the pastors, leaders, and other members of that church to discover and develop a variety of channels for Missionary Care to flow through.
As part of a local church’s multi-faceted expression of Missionary Care, Shepherd’s Staff recommends that the leaders of a local church construct a Missionary Nurture Team in order to provide specific, pastoral-level care for their missionaries
OVERVIEW OF THE TEAM
The members of the Missionary Nurture Team should be:
–Selected by the pastoral staff or missions leadership team of the church
–Taught to understand the unique challenges and stresses that missionaries experience
–Trained to provide a portion of the nurture that is necessary for the missionary’s well-being
–Recognized, and recommended to the missionary by the church leadership as an expression of their love and care
WHAT THE TEAM MEMBERS SHOULD KNOW
They should be equipped with an understanding of these things:
–What motivates a person to become a missionary
–Why they embrace a higher level of risk and possibility of suffering than most people do
–What someone born and raised in America experiences when they live in a different culture
–How to be a source of encouragement to any missionary
–How to debrief a missionary for God’s glory, the good of the missionary, and their own joy
SIZE AND COMPOSITION OF THE TEAM
Ideally, the Missionary Nurture Team should have at least 10 members, including three or four married couples that would be willing to minister together to a missionary couple.
Due to the abundance of single missionaries, especially single women missionaries, if it’s at all possible, there should be at least two women and two men on the team that have never been married.
Shepherd’s Staff recommends that a designated pastoral-staff representative:
–Actively participate in the team member selection process
–Ensure that training is scheduled and attended by all the team members**
–Guide the process of connecting team members to a specific missionary
–Provide ongoing oversight of the ministry of the team to ensure that the church’s missionaries and the team members remain spiritually and emotionally healthy.
Regardless of the numerical size of a local church, if it’s healthy, God WILL call one or more of the members to move outside the borders of America for His glory–and creating a Missionary Nurture Team will be an added demonstration of just how healthy that local church is.