The Role of Pastoral Visits in Missionary Member Care

EMQ » April–June 2023 » Volume 59 Issue 2

Photo by PhotoGranery, Adobe Stock.

Summary: While both agencies and churches can engage in member care with their missionaries, churches can focus more on personal care. Field visits can be a particularly impactful aspect of member care. These visits can bring missionaries hope and strength when they are need, while also providing pastors first-hand experience in the life of a missionary their church supports first hand.

By Ed Grudier

Recognizing the need to care for our missionary partners has been an important development in the missions enterprise over the past generation. In the 1970s, authors began to write on the topic. In 1980, the first meeting of what would eventually become the annual Mental Health and Missions Conference was held in the United States. Member care became an officially recognized field of study and practice by the 1990s.[1]

Member care can have a profound impact not just on the missionary but also upon their ministry outcomes as noted by member care advocate Kelly O’Donnell. He says, “Doing member care well helps us to do missions well. It strengthens missionaries so that they can effectively love, evangelize, and disciple people groups, endure hardship; and grow as people. It is a pioneering, practical, and deeply personal ministry.”[2]

Member care is a broad field that has many facets because missionaries have a variety of needs. As a missionary in Central Asia for twelve years and then a pastor in the US for the past fourteen years, I have personally experienced the benefits of member care. I have also observed the benefits in the lives of numerous missionaries.

Field visits are a particularly impactful aspect of member care which afford both quality communication, as well as firsthand experience with the missionary’s living and ministry situation.[3] The felt need for a personal visit is not a sign of spiritual immaturity or of a character flaw. Scripture reveals that the apostle and great missionary Paul, himself, received personal visits and felt the need to be ministered to by those visiting him.

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