I’ve talked to a number of mission committee members about the missionaries their church supports financially. Many committees are not happy. Why? Reason #4, some missionaries are unproductive.
Many missionaries have the right motivations and the right abilities to get the job done. However the difficulties of working cross-culturally, learning a new language, seeming lack of progress in the work, lack of personal and family support; work together to make some missionaries unproductive.
The result is that they sometimes resort to “pseudo-productivity.” These are activities that make missionaries feel productive, but accomplish little or nothing toward their ministry goals. Here are some examples of good activities getting in the way of the best:
- Attending unnecessary meetings with other missionaries
- Attending unnecessary meetings with other missionaries in other cities or countries
- Doing research on places where their target people group live outside of their city
- Attending networking meetings
- Online social networking
- Traveling around the country doing cultural research
- Hanging out with local friends who have over time shown no interest in spiritual things
- Getting too much family time
- Going on too many personal retreats
- Justifying shopping, paying bills, running errands as work time because it is more difficult to do cross-culturally
- Entertaining family from home who want to visit
- Going to movies or watching too much TV in the name of language learning
- Being drawn to ministry in English rather than the local language
- Making arrangements for the next furlough or vacation
- Focusing on supporting and encouraging other missionaries rather than ministry to local friends
- Taking online or other courses
Nearly 100% of these activities should either be done on a missionary’s day off or not at all. These are pseudo-productive activities that are mostly distractions to a missionary’s main ministry. Missionaries who spend most of their time doing these activities are unproductive.
What should we do?
Pseudo-productive activities are usually a sign of frustration or discouragement.
It may be that the frustration is because a missionary does not really have the skills needed to do his job and resorts to pseudo-productivity to feel like he is doing something. His need is encouragement and accountability. Talk this through with the missionary and help him develop a plan to get the skills he needs. Consider how to encourage him. Help him to get the accountability that he needs. If he can’t get the skills, accountability, and encouragement that he needs and remains in the realm of pseudo-productivity, encourage him to leave the field.
Stewarding the financial resources is an important role in your church, avoid the error of funding missionaries who are unproductive in the job they want to do.
See summary article here.