• Mike Ironside

Four Types of Sending Churches: Strategic Sending Church

The Strategic Sending Church is one that has recognized the value of a rifled approach to overseas missions. While they might not have the capacity to be a Team Sending Church, they have recognized the value of having a strategic focus on their partnerships. They are very proactive in their existing partnerships and new partnerships. They do not rush to decide on new partnerships, but have created a process by which they decide who to partner with. They desire that their dollars, their efforts, and their people go towards fewer and clearer priorities. When locations and strategies are more focused, the ability to remember what the church is doing and the ability to get involved in what that church is doing is higher for the average church member.


Strategic churches likely have two hundred to five hundred or more members. They have a staff member for whom global missions is at least a quarter to half of their role. They have a solid missions committee or global leadership team that helps vet locations, assess potential sent ones, develop partnerships, and care for missionaries. The focus of this church’s missions vision and strategy will be clear to the average member.


The key difference between a Team Sending Church and Strategic Sending Church is that the Strategic Sending Church is not trying to create church-based teams. While they are sending to fewer and more directed locations, they are great at partnering with existing team leaders on the field and members that are not from their church. Rather than starting new teams, their goal will be to vet great partnerships that fit their vision and steer their people in the pipeline towards those opportunities.


"Strategic Sending Churches are great at partnering with existing team leaders on the field and members that are not from their church."

It will also be clear whether the focus is on the reached, unreached, or unengaged. It will also be clear if the focus is on church planting, church strengthening, or justice/mercy ministry. The specific locations will develop over time. Their metric for global missions success will be about the number of members sent, not the number of teams.


Becoming a Strategic Sending Church


There are a few key steps that a church seeking to be a Strategic Sending Church needs to take. The first is the creation of a clear vision among the leadership team, which is then communicated to the church. Developing clear missions convictions, a vision, and a strategy document is an important first step.


Second, it is vital to communicate this vision and strategy to the church through mediums like: Sunday morning teaching and announcements; through information on the website or in the foyer; through missions classes, equipping sessions, and prayer gatherings, etc. The vision must be clear and it must be communicated creatively and thoroughly in order to take root in the culture of your church.


"Strategic Sending Churches are making a great impact in global missions and are the kinds of churches that are sending a multiplying number of their members to the nations."

Another key aspect of becoming a strategic church is to create tiers of focus and funding with your partnerships. Becoming strategic doesn’t mean that you discontinue loving and caring for all your partnerships. It simply means that you will create varying levels of focus and funding towards your different partnerships so you steward your time and resources by giving particular focus and funding to partnerships that most greatly reflect your values.


We would highly encourage every church to move towards becoming a Strategic Sending Church. Strategic Sending Churches are making a great impact in global missions and are the kinds of churches that are sending a multiplying number of their members to the nations.


If your church does not currently have a missionary strategy, begin here. Care for those who have been sent from your church and find ways to more deeply partner with them. As you care for them, you will begin to see which partnerships should become more of a strategic focus for your church.


If your church is unable to afford having a part-time staff role devoted to global missions or a very solid missions committee with a close connection to their elders or to their staff team, your church may not be ready to become a Strategic Sending Church. Instead, your church would be better off focusing for next three to five years on being a great Missionary Care Sending Church. In the next article we will discuss what being a Missionary Care Sending Church looks like.

Mike Ironside is Missions Pastor at Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa. He has served on staff with Cornerstone since 2006 in varying roles from college ministry to pastoral staff to being an overseas missionary sent from Cornerstone for 2 years. Mike is the Director of Cohorts for the Upstream Collective. He also serves as chairman of the board for Campus to Campus, a missions organization dedicated to getting US college students connected to church planting movements amongst college students worldwide.


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