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Posts Tagged ‘mission planning’

When our team went to Germany in 1971, we carried with us a written twenty-year plan, describing what we were going to do, how we were going to do it, and when we would accomplish it. This strategic plan was the product of our coursework at Harding, input from our guiding professor, and the impressions that we gathered from our four-day visit to Germany—before we had even selected Germany as our future mission site!

Our plan was not ill-conceived, it was prematurely conceived! We did not yet know the language, so we did not know the people. We had met two or three workers in Germany, but we did know who was wise  or whose work was effective. We did not even know if we were visiting growing or dying congregations there.

I know missionaries who strategically planned on getting jobs in their new country, only to discover when they arrived that local law would not allow them as foreigners to obtain work permits. I know of missionaries who planned on doing house churches, only to learn that apartments are too small and large gatherings are not allowed in private buildings. I know missionaries who have selected a site for a new church plant without even knowing that there was another congregation already there!

And churches have sent all of these missionaries! With support and oversight! What’s wrong with this picture??

I’d like to suggest that the problem is not with making a plan! No, I believe in strategic planning—well, with flexible strategic planning!  But I suspect that most mission plans are done prematurely, that is, before enough experience and information has been gathered to even produce a written draft, much less a concrete plan.

And yet, I would suggest that the vast majority of those wanting to be missionaries have a plan in their hands that is premature.  Why is this?

The answer to this question begins to touch on the core of many problems:  Anyone wanting to be a missionary has to have a concrete plan in order to convince one or more congregations to agree to support their work!  (I think they might get oversight without a plan, but not support—which says what about this process????)

So just think about the preposterousness of creating a mission plan based on what will sell to our congregations!  Imagine with me some of the more “critical” bases that would need to be covered:

  • Plan for a field that is popular right now. (In the 90s, you could get support to any country of the former Soviet bloc, but now the results are not as exciting, so better try China!
  • Plan for a field where the cost of living is low. You can forget getting support to a country where the cost of living is higher than the U.S.
  • Plan for a field where you can establish a self-supporting congregation within five years. Churches do not want long strategic plans.
  • Plan for a field that is accessible to the supporting church. Plane rides should neither be expensive or overnight!  Churches should be able to send their teenagers in the summer.
  • Plans should include some kind of humanitarian effort or community involvement because these are always successful and are great emotional touch points for future reporting.
  • Don’t project building projects or home purchases for long-term works. You don’t know which American mission committees are for them or against them.
  • Try to have something new in your plan that other missionaries in your field are not doing! Mission committees have heard all the old ideas before. (Think about that for a moment!)
  • Plan to use the latest method that is currently being promoted, Use current buzz words! This will let potential supporters know that you have done your homework.

Conclusions

Good plans are essential, but good plans will be made with the integrity and efficacy of the mission work itself in mind, not for the promotional benefits!

I’ve said twice already that most plans are made prematurely.  I want to suggest in the next post that planning belongs to the time of preparation and is, in fact, part of the preparation—and that one of the biggest, most radical changes that we need to make in churches of Christ is in how future missionaries are prepared.

This series is generating lots of comments. Many current and former missionaries are jumping into the conversation—which is just great!  Be sure and take time to read what these people with firsthand experience are saying! 

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