Adventures with Larry & Caleb: How Do You Relate to Your Sending Church?

Upstream co-founders, Larry McCrary and Caleb Crider, are living in very different places: for Larry, Madrid, Spain; for Caleb, Richmond, Virginia. Along with their families they’re not just teaching Tradecraft missionary skills, they’re also applying them. So we wanted to tap into their unique experiences and at the same time parallel their local and global perspectives. So “Adventures with Larry and Caleb” will be an ongoing series throughout the year where we ask them one mission-related question at a time. Here’s the question for this week:

How do you relate to your sending church?

Larry McCrary

I really like to begin answering this question by promoting advocacy teams as a very good way of staying connected to the sending church. By using advocacy teams, the sent-out one and the sending church can relate to one another. The advocacy team leads the way in praying and caring for the sent-out one. They are also present on behalf of the sent-out one, raising awareness to the entire church on a continual basis.

Unfortunately, I think the relationship between the two can easily become one-sided. Sometimes it’s only the church, who connects and asks how they can help, but they never hear from their sent-out one. At other times the sent-out one is doing all of the communicating. For this to work well there needs to be a consistent, mutual conversation.

When we first arrived overseas in 2001, our church was so good in keeping up with us. They would send us care packages and pray for us. This eventually became a long-standing strategic partnership for us on the field as they would send short-term teams and mid-term workers (people who would stay with us from three weeks to three months). And this was in the days before Facebook and Instagram! Today with things like social media and group texting, it’s really quite easy to stay connected with your sending church, and for them to stay connected with you.

Here are some best practices that have helped along the way.

The Sent-Out One

  • I created a secure email group to give personal requests to the advocacy team to pray for and pass along to the church.
  • The best way to get mail is to send mail, so from time to time it’s good for me to send mail to the leaders of the church. People love getting postcards!
  • I love posting pictures on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Though it looks like I just drink a lot of coffee and take pictures of really cool things, my supporters know there is work going on and are reminded to pray for us in our ministry abroad. In today’s world it’s not so much about information but presentation.
  • I like my church to speak into my strategy. I serve with an organization, but even still it is important to get the church involved in what I’m doing and how it’s going.
  • I’m honest about the ups and downs of the work. It’s easy to talk about the tangible things or what’s going well, but also sharing things I’m struggling with creates a deeper relationship with the church.
  • I try to find ways to communicate with supporters on a regular basis. We do this at least monthly.

The Sending Church

  • Accessibility on the part of the pastor is key. There is nothing like being able to talk with your pastor from time to time. I love how Pat Hood, pastor at LifePoint Church and author of The Sending Church has let all of his sent-out ones know that he is accessible via Skype and that they can touch base with him as needed. In other cases it works best to simply schedule a call once a quarter to check in and talk with your sent-out one.
  • I am seeing more and more churches (of all sizes) send over a small short-term team to simply care for and love on the sent-out one. In some cases if they have several who are on the field, they will host a small gathering to worship, pray, get updates, and talk about strategy.
  • Peanut butter – I do not know many workers who do not like to get something in the mail from time to time. I, personally, love the peanut butter. 
  • I know of several churches who let the worker join their elder meeting occasionally. This allows the sent-out one not only the chance to connect with the leaders of the church, but also to speak into the mission and life of the church.
  • Hold the worker accountable in things like marriage, family, strategy, and finances. Just because they’re mature enough to be a sent-out one doesn’t mean they no longer need accountability. And don’t assume they’re getting it sufficiently on the field from co-workers.
  • Ask the sent-out ones what they may need in terms of resources. They almost always have specific needs, and usually it’s things that the church can easily contribute to.
  • Talk with the sent-out ones about their family back home and if there is anything the church can do to help out. This one has become very dear to us as we have children living far away from us, as well as aging parents.

Caleb Crider

When we left Portland to move to Richmond, we asked our small church to send us. We had already sent a couple to Canada and another to serve in Haiti, so sending had already become part of our rhythm as a church. It was empowering to have our spiritual family lay their hands on us and prayerfully send us out to what God would have for us in Richmond. Through our transition, we spoke regularly via Skype. We shared what we were learning, and received their advice about our marriage, family, and building new relationships. The church prayed for us, and we prayed for them. Members have come to visit us in our “mission field” of Richmond, and that helped them understand what we were going through and how best to pray for us. They treated us with the same level of care and interest that many churches might only reserve for those serving in faraway places.

Since then, we’ve connected with Movement Church in Richmond. We thought it was a good idea to connect to a church early on to help us step into what God is already doing here. This necessarily changed our relationship with our church in Portland. We moved from being cared for remotely to being part of a local body for whom Richmond isn’t a distant place, but the context of our life and ministry together. Sure, we still keep in touch with our church in Portland, but now as friends and partners rather than as sent-out ones.

In a sense, we’ve been blessed with a collection of sending churches. Like the anchor points a mountain climber might use to prevent falling, we’ve remained connected to the line of churches that have sent us on each step of our journey. Trinity Church sent us to Spain. Henderson Hills Baptist Church adopted us as their sent-ones to Barcelona. The Evergreen Community sent us to start North Portland Neighborhood Church, and NPNC sent us to Richmond, where Movement Church sends us to be on mission in our south-of-the-river neighborhood. We’re so grateful to be able to look back at God’s provision for us through these faithful bodies of believers. We’ve been influenced and cared for by each of them during the different stages of our ministry, and we can say, as Paul wrote in Philippians 1:

I give thanks for my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace.