by Stan Lindquist
It helps to improve missionary performance and it saves possible loss later on.
God has called me to be a missionary. What right do you have to test my fitness?"
"That question often comes up when we are asked to assess a candidate’s qualifications, and to pinpoint areas for possible additional training. Should mission boards, after all, require psychological assessment? How does psychological assessment fit in as far as God’s call is concerned?
An important part of a mission board’s responsibility is stewardship, not only of time and money, but also of human resources. Sending people to the field because they have a "call," without adequate evaluation and preparation, would seem to be a failure to discharge this stewardship. That this does not happen is demonstrated by the unacceptable number of early returnees, who have not been adequately assessed and prepared to do crosscultural work.
Some mission organizations have stopped using psychological tests as part of their screening. Are they right, or have they been using inadequately trained testers and poor tests? Are they failing to follow-up results of the assessment? These are serious questions. First, Is it right to require psychological assessment?
Obviously, there is no direct scriptural warrant for such testing. The principles for any such requirement come by inference and application. So does the "right" to establish principles of education and training, management of resources, field assignment, and the actual duties to be performed on the field.
The board and the candidate are responsible to use the most effective ways of preparation, not being "slothful in business" (Romans12:11). If adequate assessment can increase effectiveness, reduce the early return rate, and save money, not to do it is "slothful." Nevertheless, some boards have never required testing, and some have abandoned what little they have done in the past. Therefore, the value of psychological assessment must be first determined. Because a single test, often improperly administered, has not been helpful, is no valid reason to scrap the whole procedure.
The value of assessment is related to the prediction of successful cross-cultural adjustment and work. Britt’s research (1980) indicates that a rigorous prefield orientation course based on assessment correlates highly with success overseas. Kealey’s study (1982) indicates that empathy, respect for and interest in local culture, tolerance, flexibility and technical competence are important indicators of future success. Tucker (1982) reviewed 245 studies, and suggested that a profile for cross-cultural workers should include foreign language communication skills, interest in the country, desire to travel and learn, a positive lifestyle, adjustability, knowledge and factual information about the country, and knowing how to get things done at home by phoning or letter writing.
The usefulness of current procedures has not been verified as yet by any extensive and properly controlled study. However, clinical data involving case histories of candidates who did or did not have assessment as part of their training indicates there is value in a comprehensive assessment done by qualified persons. Our survey of 112 mission sending agencies in 1979 showed that most mission agencies do not keep good records that can be used to verify the value of assessment, or other procedures for preparation of candidates. (These agencies are members of the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association and the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association.)
We are now embarking on a comprehensive study to discover the value of these procedures. This research will be done by our staff of six clinical research psychologists and several others. We want to develop adequate assessment tools and to validate them by field study. At the present time, according to studies already done, there is no valid measure to determine possible success or failure (not just early return, but ability to be effective on the field) when a candidate goes overseas.
That being the case, what can be done? There are several measures that have been used successfully to diagnose areas of possible future trouble for the candidate. Using a judicious combination of them, following the principles and tests suggested below, we can provide the necessary interim measures to increase the reliability and validity of the assessments being made now, while the new procedures are being developed and validated.
Psychological assessment affects the candidate in an intimate manner. Therefore, it causes more of an action than any other aspects of preparation for cross-cultural work. He may see the psychologist as an unnecessary roadblock and therefore resent his part in the selection process. He also may look on testing as a threat to his acceptance by the board.
My brief answer, when confronted by the question about a "call," is to say something like, "God has called me to my vocation, too. Right now this call is to help you to determine what your gifts are, to maximize in your preparation, or to discover if there are areas of concern about your present personal adjustment. Your call is for preparation for the task, as well as for the task itself. Therefore, this information will help you to fulfill Gods call. My call is to serve God by serving you. That’s why I’m here and that’s why you are here."
Because we desire to preserve our aura of invincibility, privacy, or value, most of us have a tendency to resist an invasion of that privacy. This is especially so when an executive tells a person to go to someone else to be evaluated. It is understandable, then, why missionary candidates feel threatened when asked by their board to be assessed by a psychologist. If a person chooses to be evaluated on his own, or understands the value of testing as a help to him, he lowers his resistance. What are the elements of the assessment process?
1. The Psychologist. Mission board members and executives need to be very careful about the person who does the psychological assessment. Sometimes they choose a former missionary with limited training in psychological evaluation. Although he may be effective on the practical side, such a person is inadequate when it comes to rendering an accurate diagnostic assessment, as well as prescribing further preparation. Also, a psychologist, well-trained and competent but with little knowledge of the practical aspects of field stresses, would not be right. The right person must be a blend of these two factors. That comes only through adequate professional preparation, certification, and personal experience overseas, and/or contact with many who have been on the mission field.
A Christian psychologist or psychiatrist, who happens to be down the road from the mission headquarters, may not be God’s provision for this important need. Adequate testing with diagnostic and prescriptive results requires special training and experience seldom found.
2. The test results. Any assessment results should be fed back to the candidates. It has been our experience that many candidates who have come to us for further assessment have seldom been told the results of previous testing. Comments such as, ""This is the first time I have learned anything about the results of all the tests I have been given," occur too of ten. The goal of testing is to assist the candidate to recognize areas of strength and weakness. From this information he should be given guidelines or improvement. Candidate psychological testing is not done just to screen out undesirable candidates. The responsibility of the board is to help the potential missionary to become effective.
Psychological testing without feedback to the candidate is wrong; it wastes the assessment and diagnosis. Evidence indicates that when feedback is not give it is not by design. More likely, it is due to lack of information about how the assessment procedure fits into the whole preparation process.
An integral part of our program is the development of a battery of instruments that will provide feedback to the candidate and the mission board. It consists of a profile of both personal strengths and weaknesses that require additional preparation. This type of prescriptive assessment is part of the selection process. More important, it is the basis of a program of self-evaluation, leading to a course of action whereby the candidate can improve his areas of weakness.
he cost of inadequate assessment, resulting in unfortunate placement and performance in too many cases, is illustrated both by ineffectiveness on the field and by the number of early returnees. Reports by missions indicate that early return rate to be from 1 percent to 40 percent, within or by the end of the first term. Conservatively, this means about 350 candidates per year.
Can this loss be prevented? With proper expenditure of time and funds we believe it can. The financial cost of the early returnee is staggering. Statistics indicate that it costs two and a half times the basic salary for an early returnee. Mission executives figure the cost at $60,000 per family unit. A conservative figure for the total financial loss must be estimated at millions every year.
A psychological evaluation, including a prescriptive diagnostic report, can cost from $200 to $400, depending on the amount of time required. The potential savings to the missions program by increasing the effectiveness of candidates and reducing the early return rate is substantial. Research psychologists, aided by missionaries and executives, can fine-tune the diagnostic tools already being used and add the new ones now being developed. These instruments can be used by the Spirit of God to prescribe courses of action to correct existing problems. These useful factors can be integrated into candidate training programs, increase effectiveness, and further reduce the early return rate. The question is, "Can we afford not to do something?"
Arndt, Richard; Lindquist, S. E. "20% to 40% Fail. Why?" Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 1975.
Brislin, Richard W.; Dinges, Norman G.; and Fontaine, Gary. "The Impact of Cross-Cultural Training on Overseas Adjustment and Performance: An integrated Review." Prepared for the Institute of Behavioral Science, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1981.
Britt, William Gordon. ""The Prediction of Missionary Success Overseas Using Pretraining Variables."" A Dissertation, Rosemead Graduate School of Professional Psychology, 1980.
Ferguson, Larry; Kliewer, Dean; Lindquist, Brent and Lindquist, Stanley. "The Use of Psychological Assessment in the Evaluation of Missionary Candidates: A Handbook." Paper presented at the IFMA/EFMA, the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association /Evangelical Foreign Missions Association, Personnel Committee Workshop, 1981.
Friesen, Gary and Maxson, J. R. Decision Making and the Will of God. Portland: Multnomah Press, 1980.
Hawes, F. and Kelley, D. J. "Canadians in Development: An Empirical Study of Adaptation and Effectiveness on Overseas Assignment." Communication Branch Briefing Centre, Government of Canada,1979.
Herndon, Helen. "Drumming Out Different Drummers." Eternity, September, 1982.
Johnston, Roy A. "A Task Force on Candidate Evaluation." Paper presented at the IFMA Personnel Seminar, 1975.
Kobasa, Suzanne. "The Hardy Personality: Toward a Social Psychology of Stress and Health." Journal of Social Psychology of Health and Illness, New Jersey: Erlbaum, 1981.
Kliewer, Dean; Heinrich, Robert; Lindquist, Stanley, and Williams,
Donald. "EFMA Missionary Candidate Selection Survey 1980 Response Overview. "Paper prepared for the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association Convention, 1980.
Kliewer, Dean. "Tools for the Evaluation of Missionary Personnel." A Prospectus prepared for Link Care Center, 1980.
Lindquist, Stanley E. "Servicing of Overseas Units." Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 1976.
Lindquist, Stanley E. Action Helping Skills, Fresno: Link Care Press, 1976.
Lindquist, Stanley E. "Missionary Grind Down." A response to "Drumming Out Different Drummers." Eternity, September, 1982.
Lindquist, Stanley E. "Psychological Hardiness As A Factor in Cross Cultural Adjustment." Paper presented to CAPS West, Portland, Oregon, 1982.
Lindquist, Stanley E. "Prediction of Success in Overseas Adjustment." Journal of Psychology and Christianity, Volume I & 2; 1982.
Mumford, Sandra and Yellen, Ted. "The Cross-Cultural Interaction Inventory: Development of Overseas Criterion Measures and Items That Differentiate Between Successful and Unsuccessful Adjuster." Designed for the Navy Personnel Research and Development Center in San Diego, 1975.
Tucker, Michael F.; Benson, Philip G.; and Blanchard, Fletcher. "The Development and Longitudinal Validation of the Navy Overseas Assignment Inventory." Task order 77/951D U.S. Navy Contract #NO0600-73-D-0780, 1978.
Williams, Donald and Kliewer, Dean. "Perspectives on Psychological Assessment of Candidates for Cross-cultural Christian Missions." Link Care Center, 1979.
Williams, Kenneth Lee. "Characteristics of the More Successful and Less Successful Missionaries." Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, United States International University, 1973.
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