When developing a global missions strategy and leading a local church in sending efforts, it is critical that a ministry staff and elder team work together. As overseers, elders will guide the church toward partnerships and commitments that align with the church’s vision and mission. They will often be responsible for discerning how best to direct the church’s resources toward significant global works that support discipleship and help the church carry out the Great Commission. At the same time, ministry staff will participate in much of this work as well: developing relationships with mission partners, organizing trips, creating budgets, developing strategy, and inspiring and inviting church members to be part of global sending. Most importantly, everyone must seek to model a missional life that follows Jesus into the world.
Hardly anyone would deny that churches and leaders have their work cut out for them in these efforts. Though it won’t be easy, churches must ask how all of this can happen with alignment and intention so that it contributes positively to the church’s culture and commitment to the nations. In my own experience working with staff and elders, I have found that it takes ongoing communication, intentional collaboration, and a shared commitment to a biblical vision. Additionally, it can be beneficial to begin slowly and do less, especially when a church is laying its foundations for global mission work.
We took our time discerning how best to steward resources, how to be strategic with partnerships, and figuring out what just felt right with the culture and vision of the church.
When my sending church—where I previously served on staff—desired to grow in a strategic focus on global missions, we began with the vision the elders had set in place. We were a local church that was “for the gospel and for the city.” This began with an unapologetic commitment to reach our city of Tallahassee, FL, with the gospel through the local church. We then shifted our focus up and outward and landed on another city: London, UK. As a church plant that had matured into a self-sustaining establishment, we decided we would support pioneering church planting work in a global city where the nations have come. It seems like this was all fairly seamless looking back, but there were many stops and starts. We took our time discerning how best to steward resources, how to be strategic with partnerships, and figuring out what just felt right with the culture and vision of the church.
Throughout the process, our elders and staff worked together in practical ways. The executive team was invited to attend elders meetings and share findings from our research and conversations, and everyone discussed and prayed about possibilities. When we took short-term vision trips, at least one staff member and one elder went along. Our elders entrusted our staff with leading the way in making recommendations on missional partnerships, while guiding us by asking good questions, receiving input and feedback, and lending wisdom and discernment in decision-making. As we developed a focus on London, we ended up sending three couples as missionaries to other global cities. The elders supported this growing focus on sending and church planting in global cities by speaking to it on Sundays and at members' meetings, going on short-term trips, and becoming more familiar with the opportunities set before the church.
Elders and staff see the ministries of the church from different viewpoints, and rightly so. When developing a focus or strategy for global missions, ongoing communication and a commitment to unity around a common vision are essential values. When the work begins and more practical issues arise, these values continue to guide everyone along. Our church faced challenges like caring for missionaries in crisis, organizational shifts as staff were sent and received back, and the important ongoing challenge of keeping global missions in front of people as we educated the church toward a greater heart for the nations. Through all of these works, elders and staff played key roles. Elders served as more than just a removed board who received updates; they personally communicated with Sent Ones, contributed financially to partnerships, led prayer times, oversaw significant resource allocations, and generated ideas for how our church could advocate for missionaries and disciple more people to be sent. Our staff appreciated this level of involvement, where mutual trust allowed everyone to labor together in complementary ways.
When developing a focus or strategy for global missions, ongoing communication and a commitment to unity around a common vision are essential values.
And what about when conflict arises or the work doesn’t move along as seamlessly as it could? During these times, guiding values put into action—like communication and collaboration—become all the more important. I remember when we were moving slowly toward a national partnership for collegiate ministry that would allow us to mobilize lots of university students to be sent to church plants around the U.S. The vision was so compelling, and the invitation was there; the ball was in our court, and yet, it took time. The elders led with diligence to understand what exactly this strategic move would mean for our ministries locally as they engaged with people and churches associated with this movement called The Salt Company. They again invited the Executive Team and college staff to speak into these decisions. They prayed, traveled, held discussions, and made it so that when our church moved forward to join the Salt Network, everyone had been heard and our leadership was united around this exciting step.
There are many ways that staff and elders can work together well to see their churches grow in their involvement with global missions, but in my experience, everything rises and falls on communication and collaboration. Holding all of this together is a unified belief in David’s words in Psalm 86:
All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.
For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
you alone are God.
Psalm 86:9–10 NIV
When everyone desires to see this vision—the nations worshiping before the Lord in glory—become a reality, it’s a bit easier to submit to the guidance of the Spirit and to trust one another through the process. Starting small and working from a posture of dependence can lead to real momentum. A unity between ministry staff and church elders allows for God-honoring, healthy partnerships to develop both locally and globally, and the Church is strengthened for it.
Ashlyn lives in London, UK, where she serves with her local church, Redeemer Queen's Park, overseeing local discipleship groups as well as missions partnerships between the U.S. and the U.K. She also works for the Alliance for Transatlantic Theological Training (AT3) as the Director of Operations. Ashlyn is originally from Tallahassee, Florida, where she served on staff at City Church Tallahassee for over ten years. She is a graduate of Florida State University and completed seminary courses at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, where she hopes to return as a student one day.