The Team Sending Church is a church that endeavors to send a group or groups of people to one or more areas as a church-based team to accomplish a specific missionary task. Churches who want to accomplish this goal are marked by a desire to be highly involved in the assessment, development, sending, and oversight of people on the field. While they may partner with an organization for financial purposes, they want to be highly involved in the process of putting teams together and shepherding them on the field. Some desire such high involvement that they send people directly from their church.
Team sending churches send teams to specific places for specific types of ministry that closely align with their strategy. The church’s membership clearly knows the vision and strategy of the global missions department. The cross-cultural sent ones are of the highest quality.
"Team sending churches send teams to specific places for specific types of ministry that closely align with their strategy."
A church like this will likely have over one thousand members and have at least one full-time staff member whose focus is solely on global missions. Missions leaders at these churches have cultivated high buy-in from their leadership and their members towards global missions sending. They involve other members of the staff in the assessment, development, sending, and oversight of members of a field team. The amount of interaction the church has with those on the field is high, interacting with the team leader or agency supervisor on a very regular basis. The church has a strong sense of responsibility for their sent-ones on the field.
Team Sending Church Vision
A Team Sending Church’s high level vision would include sending a certain amount of teams cross-culturally or potentially even seeing a movement among people groups or cities. This vision and strategy should be very tight and exclusive. Team Sending Churches support anyone sent from their church by creating a tiered system of focus and funding. The highest tier will be for their church-based teams for whom they double or triple their focus and funding in comparison to others they have sent.
The vision of the church-based teams is very clear and well-known. Thus, when potential sent ones come to the church to be sent, they already have had a vision cast for them as to what they will be doing overseas on the church-based team. Putting teams together from a church that has a clear focus and vision is much easier than trying to convince everyone on the team to come together over an ambiguous vision.
A church desiring to be a Team Sending Church should already have some on-field partnerships to which they are looking to send teams. These churches also should have some sent ones that have been sent from their church and put on teams with success.
Team-based sending churches should not simply be a response to missionary failures that flow from team dynamics (although this can be part of the motivation). They should first make sure they have evaluated whether they can send healthy members out as missionaries from their church. Team-Sending Churches should also be seeing success in caring for their missionaries that they currently have on the field. Oftentimes, when churches begin the team-based strategy, they begin to ignore their sent ones who are not on teams. Continuing to love and care for those sent out from their church, while starting the endeavor of a team-based approach is crucial.
Team Sending Church Challenges
Team Sending Churches are rare because the barriers to forming teams for overseas work and sending them synchronously are high. To create a team you need: common vision, an agreed-upon place, complementary gifts, team chemistry, everyone needs to qualify with the sending agency, everyone needs to sell their house, get married, not get married, have or not have children all at the right time. Not to mention the natural struggles of health and other circumstances in life. A lot is working against church based teams going synchronously.
In light of these factors, Team Sending Churches will benefit from focusing on a few global missions endeavors and even fewer sending agencies. While this at face value might feel like ignoring unique giftings or callings from specific team members, it’s not. Throughout this process, great team-based churches aren’t trying to fit square pegs in round holes. Rather, they are shepherding people to grasp the vision and helping those who do not grasp the vision be placed in other arenas.
"Team Sending Churches will benefit from focusing on a few global missions endeavors and even fewer sending agencies."
Working with a few sending agencies that you know will work with your timing and will be open to your voice about who should go and who shouldn’t is crucial. Getting through the sending agency is often where church-based teams break down. Lack of communication or understanding of the agency’s requirements gets many sent ones red-lighted far into the process after there has been much dreaming and vision cast to them and possibly even to the church.
Another thing to consider in church-based teams is an openness to staggering those sent out. Getting life circumstances (ending jobs, having children, selling a house, etc.) to perfectly line up rarely works. If you don’t at least have an openness to staggering team members, your expectations will likely be let down.
Becoming a Team Sending Church
Since the vision and strategy have a tight, laser-like focus, the team of people who are making decisions for global missions should be small. This team can include the missions leader, executive pastor, and maybe one or two elders. A traditional missions committee would not be very fruitful in a vision like this because this vision is harder to execute with too many chiefs.
However, while a vision and strategy could be more difficult to govern from a traditional missions committee, cultivating a global leadership team that takes ownership of aspects of the execution of global missions would be highly valuable. Short-term trips, prayer meetings, strategy, missions classes, etc. would all be blessed by a highly involved team of lay leaders from this church. This is important, because in this church global missions could quickly become more about the execution of a great global missions strategy than involving the entire church in global missions vision.
If you are reading this article and you're thinking, “I love this, but we are not even close to becoming this type of church,” don’t sweat it. I wanted to start off this series with what I hope to be a future vision that you could have as a church. Be the church God is calling you to be today.
In the next articles we will walk through what it means to be other types of sending churches. For now, set your sights for the next five to ten years on being this type of church and look for ways to grow into becoming a Team Sending Church by creating global awareness, developing a great sending pipeline, and focusing more and more efforts on your best overseas partners.
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.