BY JASON HUNSUCKER
From start to finish, both the missionary and the church must take responsibility in sending process. Jason Hunsucker, lay pastor at Antioch Church and co-founder and CEO of Givapp, talks through the particulars of being “sent well”. You can read the entire series here.
In Part One we clarified the why—why it’s important to be sent well. Now let’s move to the how—how to actually be sent well. This begins with the recognition that many churches do not know what that looks like, or that it is even a need. And so, it likely falls on you to help them send you well.
Your sending church must know that you need them.
They probably do not know that. In fact, they likely think the opposite. The fact that you are leaving is a tangible demonstration—in their eyes—that you do not need them anymore. Your actions are confirming their assumptions:
They are assuming you are strong and self-reliant. You are assuming they know you are vulnerable and in need of support.
They are assuming you have other people who are helping you get ready and who will maintain relationships with you when your are gone. You are assuming they know you’re afraid of being lonely, incapable, and isolated, and that you believe the sending church should be a primary source of ministry to these needs.
That’s a lot of assuming!
Some of them may even be taking your leaving personally, which makes it all the more likely that they will not seek to send you well. Since you are the one leaving, you must take the initiative to tell them these things. The sooner you embrace that posture, if even it feels unfair, the better chance you have of being sent well.
What does it look like to let them know you need them?
Obviously, there is a spectrum to all of this. Some churches try to do their best at engaging, but still fall short of missionaries’ expectations. Other churches are completely unaware of the need. Regardless of your situation, here is how I would counsel someone in your shoes:
Seek to communicate to pastors: Ask for coffee and share your vision, story, calling, etc. If early enough in the process, invite them to speak into your journey. Then seek counsel from them as to how to raise awareness and build a community of support from within the congregation. Hear them out. Get their blessing. If necessary, make suggestions and ask permission. Pastors provide the air support for so much of what takes place on the ground in church ministry. If your pastors become your allies, you can gain a lot of traction quickly.
Seek to communicate to deacons: Depending on the structure of your church, deacons are often very relationally connected. In some churches they act as a governing body. Similar to pastors, sharing with them, hearing from them, and gaining them as allies will open up other areas of the church. Regardless of your church’s structure, deacons will likely be relationally connected to larger parts of the church body.
Seek to communicate to small group leaders: Connecting with them allows you to get in front of the congregation in a very relational way. Here, you are looking for those people who share your passion, who empathize with the reality of what you are facing, and who want to be part of that support structure. As one missionary did at in our church, encourage each group to “adopt” a particular place, person, or aspect of your ministry, so they can pray and participate in the work.
Seek to communicate to children and students: First, think of how many people have ended up on the mission field in part because they heard a missionary speak when they were kids. But also, a good kids ministry will be delighted to send you care packages, videos, cards, etc. They minister to your heart in very unique ways. And don’t underestimate their diligence to pray for you, and the power of their prayers.
The whole point is, you have to be proactive and lay the ground work. Being sent well is very relationally driven. If you want people to invest in you, invest in people.
Jason has been a pastor at Antioch Church since it’s start in 2009. He is also a Financial Planner, a career that started nearly 20 years ago. Since 2005 he has been part of a small, private firm located in downtown Louisville. He also more recently Co-founded one of Upstream’s partner organizations Givapp: which allows you to give your spare change to the non-profit of your choice. Jason is married to Shannon and they have two children, Maggie and Garrett.