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An Example of Starting a Missions Network in Your City

Do you remember the last time you started a new job or tried something that you’d never done before? Even though I had twenty years of experience leading groups of high school and college students on summer-long short-term mission trips, when I was approached by a church to become their missions pastor, I was a rookie in leading missions in a local church context. I needed to learn fast!

 

I find that I learn best in three different ways. 

  1. I try something and it works. 

  2. I try something and it doesn’t work, and I learn not to do that again!

  3. I expose myself to what others are doing and learn from their experience. This is my favorite way to learn!

I was a rookie in leading missions in a local church context. I needed to learn fast!

Building a Network


I’ve always been a networker, so when I first stepped into the role as a new missions pastor in a large church in the Seattle area, the first thing I did was to begin setting up meetings with other missions pastors. I came to those meetings with lots of questions and a desire to learn.

 

I discovered leaders who were doing great things in their churches. Because of their generous sharing, I gained insight into how to structure a missions team, how to budget for missions in a large church, and how to cultivate missions awareness in my people. Each of these leaders had developed tools that helped them in their roles, and they gave me permission to steal or adapt them to fit my context.

 

It didn’t take long for me to recognize that there was a wealth of knowledge and wisdom I could glean from these leaders, so, one day, I invited four of the missions leaders to meet me for coffee and presented the idea of us meeting on a monthly basis to share resources and ideas. This meeting quickly grew as the word spread about what we were doing and others wanted to join us. 

 

At the time, there was no intentional gathering of missions leaders in the area. We decided to form a leadership team of missions pastors to plan the agenda of our network, and we formalized it as the “Seattle MP3,” which stood for Missions Pastors, Practitioners, and Providers.

 

As we developed a contact list and spread the word about the network meetings, we soon had more than twenty leaders attending. It continued to grow over the next year, and we ended up having people who were driving three-plus hours from central Washington to attend.


How It Worked


The network’s main focus was on local church missions leaders. While we welcomed the involvement of those from other organizations and missions agencies who attended, we kept our conversations centered on missions in the context of the local church. We asked the agency representatives to “put on their local church hat” when they attended. Throughout the time that we met as a network, the attendance of missions pastors stayed strong. 

 

Our leadership team met monthly to plan the topics, speakers, and agendas for several months in advance. Our typical network meetings were two to three hours long. We began with introductions, since we usually had several new people at each meeting. Then we would have one of the mission pastors present on a relevant topic and break up for table discussions. As we wrapped up each meeting, we would announce upcoming mission events in the Seattle area and then give the date, location, and topic of the next month’s meeting.

Look beyond the walls of your church to other local church missions leaders in your area. Invite a few of those leaders out for coffee and begin building a relationship.

Beyond the Walls of Your Church


These network gatherings resulted in some great cross-pollination and strong, long-lasting friendships.


It’s been fourteen years since I left Seattle, and I still enjoy strong relationships with many of these mission pastors. It’s encouraging to know that missions leaders from around the Seattle area still meet together on a regular basis. 

 

In your role as a busy missions leader, I would encourage you to look beyond the walls of your church to other local church missions leaders in your area. Invite a few of those leaders out for coffee and begin building a relationship. Who knows what might come from it?

 

Dave Childers serves as the Upstream Sending Church Network Director and has been involved in networking with other leaders since his days as a youth pastor. He served as the Missions Pastor in three different churches, most recently in Chicago at a large, multisite church.

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