Having real-life missionaries as a part of your mission celebration is important. People relate most to people. Time and time again the testimonies of missionaries shows that meeting and connecting with real-life missionaries while they were young had a major impact on their calling to the mission field. The involvement of missionaries in your celebration puts flesh and blood to the commitments and priorities of world missions. Their stories of life and ministry on the mission field give an added dimension to whatever missions presentations take place.
Even smaller churches find it useful to adjust their missions event schedule to enable the presence of one (or more) of their supported missionaries. Though we view missions to be of such priority that we would encourage you and your church to have a missions emphasis or celebration event even if your missionaries could not participate, it’s worth a delay or adjustment in your schedule to focus on a missionary presence with you. Some churches shape a missions emphasis event weekend around the timing of a missionary visit. So the presence of their missionary drives the calendar date and timing of that churches event. Larger churches, or churches which have a regular pattern of missions priorities, find it most useful to have their missions event at around the same time each year. Those churches encourage their missionaries to plan to be involved at that time in the calendar. So the missionaries adjust their home assignment or furlough schedule in such a way that they can be present and participating in their supporting church’s missions event.
Remember that missionaries typically have a limited amount of time and availability during their home assignment or furlough. During their time “at home” they have to take care of lots of personal business, medical and dental concerns, educational responsibilities, mission agency requirements, perhaps required training or credentialing for their work on the field, perhaps responsibility for training and orientation of new missionary candidates. They may already have a schedule developed for them by their mission agency to represent and recruit for their mission. So it is of utmost importance that the missions team in your church communicate realistic expectations as far in advance as possible directly to the missionary. In order to do so, the missions team must find out what the home assignment or furlough schedules of your missionaries are.
Invite them to be participants as soon as you know their schedule coincides with the projected time of the church’s missions event. Let them know as soon as possible what their respective responsibilities and opportunities might be. Are you going to have them address the children’s Sunday school class? Youth group? Have a Q&A session with the men? The ladies? Will your missionary speak from the platform on a Sunday morning? Or, do you have an invited main speaker that will take care of the messages of the main sessions?
Don’t forget to care for the missionaries logistics and hospitality. An invitation to participate in your church’s missions event presumes that you will take care of the expense to get them there and house them and take care of their meals and other needs while they are with you. If you invite a missionary to come directly from the field to your missions event, your missions conference budget may need to take care of that cost.
Having one of your supported missionaries at your missions conference is a special opportunity to “get beneath the surface” with them at every level. Make sure that you allow for opportunity for the missions team (and possibly those in the congregation who have a special connection to them) to find out how they’re doing in their marriage, their family, their health needs, their spiritual walk with the Lord, their emotional stability, the relationships on the field, etc. it’s a wonderful time to minister to them and provide counsel and resources to meet their needs in so many ways more than just providing financial support. Pray for them publicly and privately. Let them know their loved. Doing so will ensure that they are eager to participate in your missions conference every time they are able to do so.
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