by Rob Hay, Valeria Lim, Detlef Blöcher, Jaap Ketelaa
The insights on missionary retention in WorthKeeping equal or exceed the contributions on missionary attrition in Too Valuable to Lose, the first book from the “Researching Missionary Attrition Project” or ReMAP.
William Carey Library, 1605 E. Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA, 91104, 2007, 422 pages, $24.99.
—Reviewed by Marcus W. Dean, associate professor of intercultural studies, Houghton College, Houghton, New York.
One never knows if a sequel will be as good as the original. I am glad to say that the insights on missionary retention in WorthKeeping equal or exceed the contributions on missionary attrition in Too Valuable to Lose, the first book from the “Researching Missionary Attrition Project” or ReMAP.
WorthKeeping is divided into three sections. The first describes the current research and includes a review of ReMap I. The second, and largest, section details the research findings. Each chapter includes a description and interpretation of the findings, at least one case study and discussion questions. The third section contains the retention questionnaire and other resources.
The research was based on the practices of mission agencies from around the world. Factors perceived to be essential to retention were studied by surveying mission executives—the same method used in ReMAP I. However, it seems that only looking at “best practices” of the agencies limits the understanding of why missionaries stay.
Having been a missionary and also having done my doctoral research on missionary retention, I believe that relationships with nationals and interaction with the local church on the field are also strong retention factors. These factors were not a significant part of this study and would be hard to evaluate by executives. Considering the trend that today’s recruits are very relationship-oriented, I would ask if we can completely understand retention without looking more at the on-field relationships outside of the immediate influence of the mission agency.
In spite of these limitations, WorthKeeping is valuable. It offers the sending agency tools for empowering missionaries to stay on the field and develop positive relationships both within and outside of the agency. The case studies and questions can lead to discussion and further analysis of a mission’s practices by executives and caregivers to look for ways to improve retention.
WorthKeeping could be useful to prospective missionaries scouting out agencies by providing questions to ask about the support network provided. In education, it can assist professors with ideas for preparing future missionaries, especially in the areas of dealing with culture change and working with teams. Having used Too Valuable to Lose, I will also use this book for its valuable additions to the understanding of retention. However, I believe the field needs to keep pushing for more direct research by asking the missionaries themselves why they stay and why they leave.
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