top of page

Questions for Evaluating On-Field Partners

My parents did a great job of teaching me how to work at a young age. In fourth grade I had an after-school paper route. (For those of you who don’t know what a paper route is, it’s delivering newspapers. For those who don’t know what a newspaper is, go look it up). I’d ride around on my Huffy through my small town delivering newspapers. It was a great job for a fourth grader. Even at this time in life, though, I began to learn that the people you work with can make or break your job.


Fast forward to my adult life and to the missions field, where I had the privilege of having a good team with a healthy culture. All around me, however, I saw colleagues leaving the field because of poor relationships within the team. I had known that team conflict was one of the number one reasons people left the field early—I just hadn’t experienced it. It was truly shocking.

There is no substitute for getting in the location you want to send missionaries to and around the teams you want to partner with.

When I became a missions pastor, I wanted to buck the trend of people leaving because of team conflict and place them on healthy teams on which they would last. By God’s grace, I was able to see a lot of people stay beyond their first term. This took a lot of prayer, and it also took a lot of time. I made lists of questions for missions organizations and lists of questions for missions teams. I continually added to that list as I learned about important aspects of a sending church, the missions organization, and the missions team. For the first couple of years we sent very few people, but we explored partnerships over video calls and, most importantly, through overseas trips.


I found through this process that there is no substitute for getting in the location you want to send missionaries to and around the teams you want to partner with. You can do all the video calls that you want and all the research about the country, the culture, and the people group you intend to reach. But until you land on the ground, see the sites, and smell the smells, until you are walking the streets or sitting in the homes of the on-field partners, you won’t truly be able to sense where God is leading your church and that missionary.


On almost every vision trip I have taken, I have tried to hit at least three different on-field partners. Pragmatically, it’s cheaper, but it also allows one to have comparisons for each partner. Going into each trip, I always have a favorite partner. I think, “This is going to be the one.” About two out of every three trips, I end up coming back wanting to partner with a different on-field team than I had originally thought. I’m so thankful for those trips and what we were able to see and learn through them.

Do the hard work of finding the right partners on this side of the ocean for the health and success of the missionaries you send.

As you go into your video calls and your vision trips, you might be wondering what to ask. I put together a list of questions for missions organizations and on-field partners that I have gathered and utilized over the eight years I was a missions pastor. I put them into the following categories:

  1. Church Empowerment

  2. Theological Alignment

  3. Vision

  4. Values

  5. Strategy

  6. Team and Supervisory Structure

  7. Successes and Failures

I put these questions into a couple of resources. As you look through these resources and the lists of questions, not every question will be necessary to ask in your situation. However, at some point, I have asked every question to a missions organization or an on-field team member, and every question has a story behind why I asked it. Take a look at the lists. Make them your own. Go on trips to visit partners and ask them these questions. Do the hard work of finding the right partners on this side of the ocean for the health and success of the missionaries you send.


Members can find these two resources on the file share at:


Non-Members can find these two resources at:


Not a member of Upstream? Join for $10/month or $110/year at www.theupstreamcollective.org/join.

 

Mike Ironside is the International Program Manager for Reliant Mission. Prior to that Mike was the Missions Pastor at Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa, for eight years, where he got to experience the ins and outs of being a sending church. He served on staff with Cornerstone 2006 to 2022 in varying roles–from college ministry to pastoral staff to being an overseas missionary sent from Cornerstone for two years. Mike is the Director of Content for the Upstream Collective. Mike, his wife, Emily, and their four kids continue to live in Ames, IA, and serve at Cornerstone.

Commenti


bottom of page