by Monroe Brewer
A four-phased approach to establish excellence in missions.
A challenge for pastors, leadership teams, and mission committees is to establish and maintain a balanced, comprehensive, healthy mission thrust for their churches. Fads and silly trends abound, sapping churches of creativity, resources, and energy. These prevent them from focusing on the important by simply being busy with the urgent. The purpose of the 4-phased approach below is to establish excellence in missions through the implementation of a comprehensive mission thrust. It is an approach that can work for any size church—those that are denominational or non-denominational; urban, suburban, or rural; Western or non-Western; avant-garde or traditional. The four phases, sequential in both priority and implementation, are the (1) strategy phase, (2) selection phase, (3) support phase, and (4) stimulation phase.
The Strategy Phase
This phase can be as general or specific as a church wants. The strategy phase implies a strategic plan—a statement about an optimal future. Some strategic plans are not detailed plans at all; instead, they are simply one or two key concepts that form an all-encompassing philosophy of ministry. Examples of this approach might be (a) a house church movement committed to planting home fellowships in a city, county, prefecture, state, province, or region; or (b) a Western church committed to doing mission work exclusively in India or only in major urban centers of Latin America. A more extensive strategic plan may be the outcome of a series of key choices: first, a purpose statement; next, a vision statement; then, a mission statement; and finally, a strategic plan, which frames and issues forth into a more detailed tactical plan. In either case, scripture, prayer, fasting, discussion, consulting, reflection, and guidance by the Holy Spirit are all needed to determine what is best for each church in each context.
For the church that wants to take a more detailed approach to this first phase, here are the kinds of concerns and tasks that can be a priority.
1. Bring the church leadership to the point of establishing a strategic plan in order to guide future choices and decisions.
2. Research and understand geo-political issues (e.g., the Back to Jerusalem Movement or the Darfur crisis) and missiological topics (e.g., tentmaker missions or dependency issues).
3. Become better connected to missionaries, agency representatives, and mission professors via email, websites, journals, phone calls, personal relationships, conferences, and partnership meetings. At least one person or sub-committee of a church can become the church’s strategy pro, guiding the whole fellowship in implementing and following its strategic plan.
The Selection Phase
Because these guidelines advocate a strategy-driven approach to missions in the local church, the selection phase implements phase one through selecting the people, projects, and organizations that best fit its strategic plan. Selection of key components of a church’s mission program can often be random, political, or shortsighted, but it need not be. Some concerns and tasks that can be a priority in the selection phase may include a screening process for new workers; a candidate training program; procedures for renewal or termination (for missionaries, organizational support, and short-term projects); on-site visits; in-service training; and debriefing sessions. At least one person or sub-committee can become that church’s selection pro, guiding the whole church in the selection process of those people, projects, and organizations that best fit its strategic plan.
The Support Phase
It is important that a church enthusiastically support the people, projects, and agencies it has selected based upon its strategy. This third phase involves spiritual, moral, and physical support. Service projects associated with spiritual support could include organizing a prayer chain, sending sermons or resources to field workers, or working on planning and counseling issues with missionaries. Ministries associated with moral support involve adopting-a-family projects, gifts at Christmas, work teams to the field, and encouragement for Missionary Kids (MKs). Tasks associated with physical support may include budget preparation, housing and autos for workers on home assignment, dealing with health and retirement matters, one-time or annual offerings, and schooling options for parents and kids. At least one person or sub-committee can become a church’s support pro, guiding that fellowship in enthusiastically supporting the people, projects, and organizations that best fit its strategic plan.
The Stimulation Phase
The ongoing mobilization of a church in missions is crucial. The two main elements of the stimulation phase are mission education and meaningful involvement. General mission education may involve mission conferences or weekend emphases, mission sermons, a mission film or special event, or the Perspectives course. Specialized mission education might involve monthly Missionary Sundays for children, mission themes for Vacation Bible Schools, missionaries speaking in adult Bible fellowships or small groups, or a local mission project for the youth. Likewise, meaningful areas of involvement can be both general and specific. General areas include congregational collection projects, offerings, adopting an unreached people, establishing a sister church relationship, and hosting an international students’ dinner. Specific areas of involvement could mean a mission project for juniors (fourth to sixth grade), a mission trip for college students, teen outreaches at a retirement center; or a local work team for the men. Again, at least one person or sub-committee can become a church’s stimulation pro, mobilizing a whole congregation through education and involvement to enthusiastically support the people, projects, and organizations that best fit its strategy.
Starting at the Right Place
Most American churches today start with phase four as their beginning point, working backward until phase two. They never reach phase one. The next year’s busy church calendars push them into a series of feel-good activities once again. They hope their efforts are fruitful, effective, and strategic, but they never know for sure. Such is the fate of the activities-driven (phase four), money-driven (phase three), and personality-driven (phase two) programs. On the other hand, churches that begin at phase one, then encompass phases two, three, four, and back to phase one again, spin off an ever-increasing circle of involvement, and, in time, envelop the whole congregation. The strategy-driven model for mission ministry in the local church is easily communicated; has something for everybody; is flexible, adaptable, and comprehensive; and produces a healthy, vibrant, effective mission thrust for any church. Strategic, purposeful churches are in short supply today. May the Lord direct in such a way that efforts are taken to assure that your church portrays excellence by being strategic and Spirit-directed for the global cause of Christ.
Dr. Monroe Brewer has been a mission pastor for thirty-five years. He is international director for the Center for Church Based Training, serves as president of the National Association of Missions Pastors, and serves as director of Church Connections for CrossGlobal Link.
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