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Foundations to Healthy Missions Leadership

As a mission pastor in a local church, there is much that is required, but I have found three actions that need to be prioritized. I have discovered that if these things are not intentionally acted upon, they tend to be pushed aside to the detriment of the ministry.

Like other mission pastors, I spend a lot of time planning international and national trips, organizing local mission opportunities, and tending to a thousand administrative tasks. These things are all essential, but getting to the point where we could do all of them was preceded by hard work in educating our congregation about missions, inspiring them to have a mission’s heart, and recruiting influencers for mission projects.


I have always operated from the belief that my church is full of really good people and that, if our people had the knowledge, they would rise up to that knowledge and act upon it. This is why I have always focused on educating our people about missions. For example, we are a Southern Baptist Church who gives to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering every year. One hundred percent of this money goes to our mission force on the field serving with the International Mission Board. However, when I came to my church, I discovered that most people didn’t have a clue who the International Mission Board was and especially who Lottie Moon was. Once they understand these things, giving dramatically increased.

As a matter of fact, I quickly learned that “missions” was a very confusing term. When I served as a missionary overseas and had to learn a new language, I quickly realized that culture is tied closely to language. If you want to move your church to having a mission culture, start with defining the terms. Don’t assume that people in your church understand the basic language and concepts. Among others, you need to define these words for your people: mission, missions, partnership, mission trip, local missions, sending, Great Commission, etc.

If you want to move your church to having a mission culture, start with defining the terms.

The correct resources can be an excellent way to educate your congregation, but don’t inundate them with too many. Choose one and push that until it is finished. I began with John Zumwalt’s book A Passion for the Heart of God, but you might use others, such as Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad or Radical by Platt. I literally bought cases of the book. I gave it to anyone who said they would read it. I did weekly studies working through the content in the book with different groups. One day my pastor came to me and asked me for a copy because he was hearing so much about it!

Another educational resource that I would highly recommend is Perspectives. Of everything that we have done over the years to mobilize people to the nations, no other resource has been more effective or even come close. We have now designed our own course, so we no longer use Perspectives, but the concept remains the same and remains highly effective.


Inspiration is a key component to mobilization. Education alone will not move people, but when education is combined with a compelling story—that is a powerful force! As a mission pastor in a local church, you have to make it a priority to tell stories through any means necessary. We use social media, videos, live testimonies, etc. to get our partners in front of our people. One thing we have been doing that seems to be very inspiring is to get our partners on what we call Go Clips. We do these on Tuesday nights for a couple of months each year. It is basically just an online meeting that lasts for about an hour where we allow our partners to share what God is doing in their part of the world. We allow time for some questions and prayer at the end. It is super simple, but it is consistently getting our folks in front of great stories.

Education alone will not move people, but when education is combined with a compelling story—that is a powerful force!

One thing I know a lot of mission pastors have expressed concern about is the loss of the opportunity to report after a short-term mission trip is complete. We used to have Sunday night services to be able to do this, but that is no longer the case in most churches. We are starting to experiment with hosting a podcast within our church to be able to do that reporting. In addition to this, we provide a two- to three-minute video every week to each of our small groups.

Another thing that I do to inspire our congregation toward missions is to host mission movie nights periodically. Movies have always served as a source of inspiration for me, so I break out the popcorn machine, ice down some sodas, and invite our folks to come watch a movie. Here are some suggestions: Free Burma Rangers, Insanity of God, and Unplanned.


Long gone are the days of the sign-up sheet. I have found that people need a personal invite to anything and everything. Some of you are in large churches and find this a daunting task. This is where recruiting influencers comes into the mix. You cannot possibly recruit everyone for every mission endeavor, but you can recruit a few key influencers who will do the job for you. I keep a list of these influencers and make sure I take them to coffee and get them on trips with me. When they get excited about a partnership, they will bring others with them.

This is going to sound bad, but too many times the weird ones in the church are the missions people. I’m ok with being one of the weird ones. Our job is not to mobilize just the few willing to go on every trip, but to mobilize everyone put under our care. Like you, these weird mission people are going to go on trips and participate in local missions without much effort on your part. The key influencers in your church will mobilize those that never thought about volunteering.

What about you? How are you seeking to involve greater numbers of your church members in your church's missions efforts?


Scott Ward is the Mission Pastor at Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Prior to this position, he and his family served as missionaries in Tanzania with the International Mission Board.


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