In the next phase of the pipeline we are looking to move our members from US Senders or Potential Goers to Committed Goers. US Senders are a great end in and of themselves. Those who are reaching out to internationals, mobilizing others to the nations, on boards with missions organizations, etc., are fulfilling the Great Commission without moving cross culturally. This is a real destination for people in your church. Potential Goers are those that would like to be assessed to see whether they should go overseas.
Committed Goers are those that have been assessed by your church and the sending agency and are cleared to be sent overseas. As you seek to move your church members into this phase of the sending pipeline, here are some questions to ask as you develop programs to move members from US Senders or Potential Goers to Committed Goers:
How will you observe their readiness, potential, and calling?
How will you assess/interview them? What role will their sending agency play in this?
How will you work through their personal development plan?
1. How will you observe their readiness, potential, and calling?
In this phase, a potential sent one’s leadership within the church is especially important. Other church leaders should be able to observe these members engaging in missional living and cross-cultural missions. Their capacity to excel at these things is a key marker of whether or not they should go overseas.
We find that one of the best areas to observe potential goers is through their ministry in the church, especially ministry to internationals or refugees. In doing this you will truly be able to see if they are qualified and gifted for cross-cultural ministry. For more on international ministry check out: “Developing an International Ministry.”
But more important is observing their spiritual and emotional health and helping them to self-assess their areas of strength and areas of growth. Nothing will tank a person, a team, or the work more than lack of character in a team member. The following is a list of Qualities for Overseas Goers. This is explained in more detail in “Characteristics of Qualified Sent-Ones.”
Spiritual Health - Character, Life with God, Purity, Humility, Fruits of the Spirit, Repentant Trajectory, Flexibility, Grit, Self-Drive, Ability to Suffer, Faithfulness
Emotional Health - Examining Heart Motivations, Processing Past, Responses to Stress, Criticism & Suffering, Security in Christ, Self-awareness, Living in Limits
Relational Health - Health of Relationships with Friends, Family, Neighbors, and Co-workers; Relational Warmth
Ministry Skills - Clarity of Calling, Sowing Broadly, Intentionality in Discipleship, Cross-cultural Fluency, Discernment of Personal Spiritual Gifts, Faithfulness
Personal Health - Getting enough Sleep, Exercise, Eating Healthy, Financial Stability, Basic Organizational Skills
We want to see at minimum a trajectory towards these areas of health. You don’t have to have arrived in all these areas, but you do need to be on the path. The converse qualities, however, must be worked through prior to going overseas in the context of your church.
Spiritual Un-Health - Lack of Character, Lack of Life with God, Unrepentant Trajectory, Inflexible, Needs Hand-holding, Unable to Suffer, Flaky
Emotional Un-Health - Lack of Self-awareness, Insecurity, Defensiveness, Lack of Teachability, Extreme Anxiety and Depression, Living Beyond Limits
Relational Un-Health - Awkwardness beyond Quirkiness, Bitterness, Codependent Relationships, Lack of Close Friends, Relationally Cold
Ministry Un-Health - Unclear Internal & External Calling, Lack of Evangelistic Fervor, Inability to Cross Cultural Barriers, Unaware of Spiritual Gifts
Personal Un-Health - Unhealthy Eating Habits, Sleep Habits, and Exercise Habits; Overspending, High College or Consumer Debt, Unable to Execute Organization
I often walk through this with potential overseas goers and ask them to self-assess 2-3 things in the green lights and yellow lights categories. These qualities would be important for vocational missionaries as well as job-takers with any organization.
Beyond this, our church also has a licensed counselor do an Enneagram assessment with all our potential sent ones. This helps them to become more self-aware of their sin tendencies and adds to their personal development plan some specific areas of growth that are tailored to their personality. The Enneagram is especially helpful in giving people self-awareness of the areas of unhealth and health in their personality. What’s different about the Enneagram is that while it categorizes people, it helps them understand that you can be in the category in an unhealthy way and a healthy way. It encourages you in practical ways to move from unhealthy to health while valuing who you are as a person.
"One of the best areas to observe potential goers is through their ministry in the church, especially ministry to internationals or refugees."
We also do a language assessment with our people to help them gauge their ability to learn language and their learning style. Rarely does this assessment cause us to tell someone not to go overseas, but it can be a helpful part of the checklist if we are on the fence about someone going overseas or not. We share these ideas as they go to the field to help people learn language in a way that makes sense in the country they are in and for their specific personality.
One final area that we have potential goers work through is the area of emotional health. If you were to breakdown a healthy person, you would consider five areas:
Physical Health - Are they taking care of themselves by eating in moderation, getting enough sleep, and a reasonable amount of physical activity?
Spiritual Health - Are they spending time with the Lord through his Word and prayer?
Relational Health - Are they in good standing with their community?
Ministry Skills (Intellectual Health) - Are they competent to learn and execute the tasks put before them?
Emotional Health - Are the underlying motivations of their heart pure? How well have they processed their past? How well do they process their current emotions and make decisions with healthy and godly motivations?
The first four areas of health are pretty easy to discern when talking with potential goers. The last one can be difficult to discern. A key resource we use is Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. In his book Scazzero says, “emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable. It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature...Emotional underdevelopment, however, is not so obvious when we first meet people. Over time, as we become involved with them, that reality becomes readily apparent.” (20)
As we all know, team health is one of the key reasons sent ones stay on the field or leave the field. One way that we help others work through team dynamics is by having them take the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Personal Assessment as they work through the sending process.
Another way that we’ve begun to assess our potential goers is by creating a context at least one year prior to going overseas in which they are a part of an 8-week Missional Community. In this 8-week Missional Community we:
Read a chapter a week and discuss Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.
Read a chapter a week and discuss Spiritual Multiplication in the Real World by Bob McNabb.
Pray together for an hour a week.
Keep one another accountable for going out and sharing the gospel with internationals.
Inviting international unbelievers to weekly group gatherings that start as informal hangouts and move towards formal group Bible studies called “Family Groups.”
These groups give us the opportunity to observe & develop potential goers’ emotional health and their ability to make disciples cross-culturally. We developed these groups based on interactions with Austin Stone Church in Austin, Texas, who conduct these groups for a year, and Launch Global, an organization that works with churches specifically to mobilize and develop missionaries in churches.
2. How will you assess/interview them formally? What role will their sending agency play in this?
Observation and working through personal development plans answer this question. However, it can be very helpful to do actual interviews with Potential Goers. Often sending agency applications and interviews can be sufficient for this. Finding organizations that allow the missions leader to be vitally involved in the assessment process is a great asset. Their assessment tools and areas of feedback can play a key role.
I have found the assistance of sending agencies to: 1) provide critical feedback on areas of growth they see as they work through the application; 2) give psychiatric evaluations of our people to make sure there are not underlying mental issues that we were unaware of; and 3) help gauge their ability to deal with stress overseas.
3. How will you work through their personal development plan?
This might be the most important thing a sending church can do: create a Personal Development Plan (PDP) and follow-through with it with a mentor. As a Potential Goer works towards becoming a Committed Goer, they should meet with a mentor to discuss areas of growth in their lives. We ask each Potential Goer to choose someone that they believe will ask them the hard questions and not let them get away with easy answers. This may be someone they currently have relationships with, but is often someone who is a more distant friend or recommended connection. We’re not necessarily looking for former missionaries, but great disciple-makers.
Personal development plans should be pretty simple: 1) What are areas of growth (Character, Ministry, Relational, and Personal)? 2) What are the SMART goals needed to accomplish these plans Stateside and abroad? (SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.)
We share the personal development plans with the goer, their mentor, the church missions leader, and the field. This allows for the potential goer to be well known amongst those who will interact with them to assess and develop them at home and abroad.
We add one specific thing to the PDPs to help the goer’s team leader or supervisor know how to help the goer stay emotionally healthy. We do this by having the goer work with their mentor on putting together a list of:
What Triggers Stress for Me
Symptoms of My Stress
My Root Idolatries and/or Emotional Unhealthy Root Issues
Ways to Help Me in Stress
This helps the team leaders or supervisors help watch out for stress in the life of the goer and help them with it. It also helps the goer to become self-aware enough to recognize stress, look at its root causes and work through it.
See Writing a Personal Development Plan for more on Personal Development Plans.
In our last article, we’ll cover how to move Committed Goers along the sending pipeline to Sent.
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.