What responsibility do we have for missionary counseling?

The need for missionary counseling generally refers to some crisis situation. However, the larger context of counseling in biblical terms is much more. Biblical counseling is discipleship, admonition, training, and rebuke. It is simply applying biblical principles, wisdom, and theological truths about God and the Gospel to everyday life. Hopefully your counseling role began long before your missionary first went out to the field. If you have accepted your church is significant shepherding role, then you will have been involved continuously in counseling your missionary family.

But let’s turn to that crisis situation. Due to legal restrictions and IRS regulations, mission agencies are rarely able to take responsibility for long-term rehabilitation of a missionary with crisis marital, emotional, medical, or other overtly sinful behavioral patterns. Missionaries resign, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes under duress. Mission agencies come to a point at which they are no longer legally able to give tax-deductible receipts for donations designated for missionary or ministry which is unable to fulfill its functions in the mission’s authorized purpose. So, typically, the mission agency may notify the home church that the missionary is now your problem.

Of course, the way your church handles this crisis may be quite different than other churches. It depends a lot on what your church’s view of and capacity for counseling is. How your church views the path of spiritual discipline and restoration plays its part. Sympathetically, the home church wants to have some responsibility for resettling the missionary family and getting them to be independent and productive members in the community.

No matter which path you choose it can become a costly drain on resources, both financial, time, and personnel. The best church models that we have seen quickly develop a game plan and a point a task force or a person to be the liaison for achieving the goals of counseling or reintegration as the case may be. This is the point at which the churches policy or program with respect to a fallen staff member may come into play.

Even if your church is not the sending or home church of the missionary meeting crisis intervention, when you first find out you should seek to discover if your supported missionary is receiving this kind of care or not. You may be able to help the home church do what they ought to do. Alternately, your church may offer to come alongside and assist in the process with resources or expertise that might help. Your missionary will definitely appreciate and be encouraged by your interest in their case.

 

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