Most people who’s primary goal is evangelism or church planting while working cross-culturally, choose to work through a sending agency that provides critical support for its personnel. Agencies give specific orientation for cross-cultural living, training in ministry skills for the specific context, leadership and direction, accountability, encouragement, and more.
Below are some questions to ask in helping evaluate an organization before signing up:
- Some people pick their ministry assignment based on a people group and don’t really care what job they have to do or what organization they have to go through. Others have a particular job skill (e.g. dentist, veterinarian) that they want to practice and don’t really care where they go or who they are with. Finally, some people like a particular sending organization and don’t have strong feelings on where they will go or what they will do. Take some time to rank your preferences for job assignment, people group/country, and organization.
- Who will be your team leader and what will his expectations be? Is there any way to talk with him before making a decision to join that team? What happens when there is a breakdown between the team leader and team members? In reality, this happens often overseas and there should be a process to deal with it. Most missionaries return home because of problems with other missionaries and especially team leaders.
- What are the expectations of the sending organization’s missionaries? Are there any rules that don’t seem to fit? Be sure you get clarification before you sign up. Sometimes rules are followed absolutely and sometimes they are optional guidelines. Some organizations allow their missionaries nearly complete autonomy to work independently, while others have fairly strict guidelines and work in closely knit teams. What is the process if your job assignment doesn’t work out? It is possible to change? How is that decided?
- How long has the organization been in existence? How long have they worked in your specific area of interest? Often new organizations are still learning and changing. The way they operate in five years may look different than the way they work now. Expect older organizations to make changes more slowly. This can be both an advantage or disadvantage.
- What are the application requirements of an organization? Are you qualified now? How long will it take you to get qualified? How long do you have to be in the application process before the organization indicates that you are qualified? Some application processes are so long it could be six to twelve months before you even know if you are qualified.
- What does the organization require you to do for the support you receive from them? Some agencies pay salaries, but usually they keep 10-20% of the support that you raise for “overhead” and other “support” that they give. Learn the details about the support that you will receive from the organization. Ask about how conferences and training that you are expected to attend are paid for. Are they included in the overhead funds you’ve raised, or do you have to raise more funds? How about funds for ministry? If you have to pay 20% of what you raise for home office support plus raise funds for every expense, you might question what you are really getting for the 20%. Ask about how they train their personnel to raise support, how long it normally takes, and what happens if it suddenly drops off while you are on the field.
- What will your identity be on the field? Will you be known as a missionary? If not, what will it be and what help will you get in finding a local job? Are the jobs being offered believable and accepted by local people? You need to know if working through these issues is your responsibility or the organization’s.
Other posts in this series: