Setting Goals for North American Missions: A Multi-ministry Exercise

by Robert Hodge

Forty-five mission executive directors/CEOs participated in an exercise to consider the future challenges for North American missions.

On September 23, 2010, leaders of missions with membership in CrossGlobal Link and The Mission Exchange met in Charlotte, North Carolina. Forty-five mission executive directors/CEOs participated in an exercise to consider the future challenges for North American missions. In fast-paced roundtable fashion, small groups framed their discussion around four questions, returning to the larger group to aggregate and discuss their thoughts. The results presented here may serve as the foundation for further discussion within each mission.  

The Framework for Discussion
The basic model for discussion was based on four questions (Nickols and Ledgerwood 2006):
1. What do you want that you don’t have? (achieve)
2. What do you want that you already have? (preserve)
3. What don’t you have that you don’t want? (avoid)
4. What do you have now that you don’t want? (eliminate)

The Results
Responses (in the original wording) from the six working groups are in the boxes on pages 225-227. These were subsequently categorized and lightly condensed. Items of particularly strong consensus are bolded.


Vision Relationships
Reach all peoples
• Refocus on the unreached or limited access groups
• A “radicalism”—edginess—pioneering spirit
• More effectiveness in multiplying churches
• A fresh vision of what mission is becoming

• Working partnerships with sending churches (especially mega-churches that perhaps don’t yet know they cannot sustain their full independence in missionary support)
• Greater collaboration with local churches
• More ministry partnerships
• Incorporate “locals” into the mission as equal partners
• An intentional, purposeful reflection of our effectiveness in carrying out the mission purpose—the Great Commission
• A consensus and mechanism for defining and measuring the “mission edge” or value added by the missionary
• Help to get national partners into CrossGlobal Link
People Practices
• Developed, younger leaders
• More diversity in leadership
• More long-term missionaries
• Sustainability—critical mass of missionaries for a ministry area as well as for the organization
• Engaged, productive board members
• Improved ministry area leaders and team unity
• Women/people of different ethnicities in leadership

• Better “branding” of our mission
• Greater resources, primarily funding
• “Parity” of missionaries with the North
• American church staff (i.e., salary and benefits
• Improved organizational, people, and leadership development
Missiological information network


Vision and Purpose People
• Values, ethos, passion, and purpose
• Emphasis on evangelism
• Focus on purpose—reaching the unreached
• The simplicity of the gospel— truth, centrality, orthodoxy
• Prayer
• The history of who we are, our calling
• Focus on establishing reproducible churches within unreached people groups
• Commitment to the entrepreneurial spirit
• Global senders

• A culture of grace—mistakes are okay
• Commitment to Western missionaries going
• Member care
• Missionaries we have now
• Intentional efforts to keep quality staff

• Effective agency partnerships
• Continuity between generations



Vision and Purpose Organization(s)

• Avoid fads while encouraging creativity
• “Chasing” of new ideas
• Losing the “mission edge”— decrease in focus and attentiveness
• Theological division within
• Leaving the gospel

• Institutionalization that is unsustainable
• Complacency
• Unhelpful policies and policy making
• Competition, exclusiveness, pride

People Practices

• Elitism and defeatism
• Becoming a “closed society”
• Adding the wrong people just to grow
• Sending unprepared missionaries
• Pride and paternalism
• Moral failure

• Competition between missions
• Property ownership—
extravagance/luxury, “air conditioning for foxholes”
• Hostage or abuse situations
• Cumbersome programs
• Clinging to our old methods and models (e.g., funding and mobilizing)
• Losing generational continuity
• Attrition from avoidable events and issues


Organization(s) Home office/administration

• Reinventing the wheel within a mission and between missions
• The “distance” between mission agencies and the North American church
• Organizational dysfunction
• Non-collaborative thinking from “over-independent” focus; move toward interdependence
• Waning morale from economic downturn
• Relational issues between leaders—bitterness
• Forgetting of significant history
• The too-small view of “mission success”

Unnecessary overhead
• Bureaucracy
• Long missionary manuals
• In-house financial and HR headaches via outsourcing
• Administration fees and/or that model of funding
• Unengaged board members
• Aversion to organizational policy governance


• Spiritual isolation of missionaries—“work focus” rather than “God focus”
• Relational issues between leaders—bitterness
• The over-valued dependence on comfort and safety
• “Missionary entitlement”
• Multicultural conflict in teams
• Destitute life of retired missionaries

 A Qualitative Summary of the Exercise
Beyond the categorized data above, I detected some patterns within the exercise.

• Compared with similar exercises across different types of organizations, this group was more passionate about its desires to achieve—doing God’s work within the Great Commission.

• This group exhibited a more robust desire to eliminate than seen in similar exercises.  Those desires were often described in tones of frustration with worldly obstacles.

• Any desire can be expressed in a positive or negative way. Sometimes, the same desire showed up in multiple categories (e.g., “achieving engaged, productive board members” can also be expressed as “eliminating unengaged, unproductive board members”). Redundancy of expression within a question or in its negative counterpart gives weight to the topic.

• The exercise and discussion strongly emphasized the calling of North American mission organizations. Surprising was the strong pattern that North American missions could and should continue “as is” with what appeared to be tactical modifications. No clear changes of how North American missions can become more strategically effective were forthcoming as a consensus of the whole group. The discussion remained predominantly North American, individual mission-centric. While there was an openness and desire to engage sending churches with other countries’ sending agencies or churches, it was not typically expressed as a fundamental, core-critical requirement.

What Can Be Done with This Information?
This exercise and report are neither scholarly nor prescriptive. It may serve as the basis for further conversation within each mission. To conclude the exercise, a method was suggested to pursue the conversation within individual mission planning:

• Convert the results provided here to a survey format that allows a response to each item.

• Survey the board, senior ministry leadership, and a significant cross section of missionaries.

* Inform them by providing the results of this exercise.

* Ask about their degree of agreement with the suggestions coming from the CEO exercise. Ask for additional suggestions for each category.

* Identify the consensus of each group surveyed within the respective mission as to what suggestions are deemed most relevant for the mission. In a second, separate survey, ask participants to evaluate how well the mission is attending to the suggestions that enjoy general consensus.   

* Utilize both the CEO exercise and the internal exercise as input to the strategic planning process within the respective mission.

Nickols, Fred and Ray Ledgerwood. 2006. “The Goals Grid: A New Tool for Strategic Planning.” C2M: Consulting to Management 17(1): 36-38.



The Mission Exchange provides a series of learning initiatives for church and mission leaders. If you have the ability to talk on the phone and access the Internet at the same time, you have all the technology you need to join a webinar! Spring/Summer 2011 webinars include:

April 7: Cool Tools for Travel and Training: Low Budget Productivity in a Gadget World
Doug Lucas, president, Team Expansion; founder/editor, Brigada Today

April 14: Resolving Conflict with Cross-Cultural Partners
Mary Lederleitner, cross-cultural consultant, Wycliffe International

April 28: Foundations Stones for Local Church Missions Impact
Doug Christgau, missions pastor, Valley Community Baptist Church, Avon, Connecticut

May 12: Candid Reflections on Missionary Attrition and Retention—Global Stories and Implications
Bill Taylor, global ambassador, World Evangelical Alliance; senior mentor for the WEA-Mission Commission

Register for the webinars at: For those unable to participate, webinars are also recorded.

Robert Hodge coaches leaders and organizations to their preferred future. He is on the Bureau of Consultants of CrossGlobal Link and serves as the board chair for TEAM. He can be reached at

EMQ, Vol. 47, No. 2, pp. 224-228. Copyright  © 2011 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS).  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.


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