Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on Church and Missions. Hi. This is episode seven of Missions on Point. We're gonna talk about putting the previous two episodes together in a practical way. What is the role of the local church? What is the role of the sending missions agency and how do those two interface? We're gonna talk about partnership between the local church and the mission sending agency. To be honest, if you haven't listened to the previous two episodes, you might wanna go back and do that before coming back to listen to this one.

A written memo of understanding 

I feel pretty strongly about the local church having a written memo of understanding or letter of partnership or partnership agreement document before they send their person to join that mission to go out to the field. There are a few simple reasons for that.

One is that the person actually belongs to the church. The missionary candidate arises out of a local church, doesn't arrive out of a vacuum.  The local church ends up picking up the pieces if there's any problems anyway, so that ought to be recognized. The local church needs to have an ongoing role and is not just turning over their person to the mission agency like passing a baton. The missionary represents the church and is an extension of that church's ministry onto the field, and I'm speaking of the sending church throughout this episode, not just any supporting church.

The missionary represents the church and is an extension of that church's ministry onto the field

Another reason is, as you've heard on missions on point before, the mission agency's role is to be supportive, a facilitator, a channel, a helper to the local church. Therefore, they need to have this understanding of what partnership looks like, who does what, when, and what authority the local church has, not just at the very beginning, but throughout the missionary's career.

Typically, when a missionary candidate joins a mission, they sign documents that give over all kinds of authority and responsibility and confidentiality to the mission agency and leave the church out. That's why I want this document to be negotiated and arrived at and signed before the missionary candidate signs on the dotted line to become a member of that mission agency. It's a lot harder to negotiate those terms afterward. We'll get to understanding terms of partnership and what that means, but even before going there, I would like the missionary candidate to sign a waiver of confidentiality with their local church. In other words, give the local church leadership, at least the missions leadership, the elders of the church, the right to see whatever is in their personnel file with no withheld confidentiality. The mission agency may disagree with that, but they actually enter into similar kinds of relationships with third parties who serve their mission in the area of mental or physical or medical health.

A partnership agreement

So it shouldn't be that big a deal for the local church to have that right as well. So let's talk about what kinds of things might fall under a partnership agreement, and there's a long list. I'll give you the list in short here, but we'll talk more specifically how we focus that list a little bit. It has to do with areas of concern of the local church for their missionary, which include prayer and care, finances, relationship to the church leaders, and how the church leaders may relate to them on the field communication strategy, methodology even. Is it compatible with the local church?  What about responsibility for furlough or home assignment housing and transportation and ongoing checkup on doctrinal integrity? This also involves areas of concern like policy and field allocation decisions, team formation on the field and the team dynamic, the training and personal development of their missionary.

Of course, shepherding in every area, spiritual, physical, medical, mental, emotional, marital, family, financial. What kind of partnerships are forged on the field? What is the role of the local church in decision making for that missionary, particularly if it's a large change in their allocation, their ministry, their strategy, their relationships. What about conflict management? What about personal and ministry security? These kind of issues all focus on how their missionary is treated and dealt with and how it harmonizes with what the church's goal and vision is for that missionary's ministry. So let's review in a little bit more detail areas that should be covered in some form or fashion in a partnership agreement. The first has to do with policy, and that is the local church needs to understand and agree to the general policies of the mission agency and how they handle their missionaries and how decisions are made, how team assignments are made and so forth.

The local church needs to understand and agree to the general policies of the mission agency 

So generally accepting the policies means that you've looked at those policies, you understand what they are, and you're willing to sign off on that. In general, as the field authority for your missionary, secondary is choices of field. The church wants to be a part of that discussion, particularly if there's a new allocation different than what was originally set out. The identification of team members is another area of concern. We want team members to be compatible. In fact, one of the major reasons that missionaries return home from the field is because of incompatibility among team members, and the church has a stake in that. So the church needs to be involved in the discussion if their missionary has any kind of leadership role or choices about who is on their team or what team they join. In other area is that of team leadership. Obviously, the church would want the team leader, whether it's their missionary or somebody else to be compatible and understand the church's special role in shepherding and guidance for their team member.

Pre-field development

A big role that the church has even bigger than the mission agency has is in pre-field development. One of the major factors for attrition on the field is a wrong expectation of a new missionary coming to the field. That is, they haven't been really trained well enough to understand the skills required to do the ministry they're in and the challenges of living in a cross-cultural environment. So better pre-field training, which sometimes the mission agency addresses, at least in some ways is still a concern of the local church, and if I'm in the local church, I want my missionary to have proven ministry skills because of their activity and cooperation and participation in ministries in the local church before they ever leave. A huge area is member care and how that's done. Typically, a mission agency, if the local church wants to have this kind of partnership agreement, would want the field people that are gonna receive that missionary to also understand the local church's agreement and sign off on it.

Member care is huge. It is not just sending notes of encouragement or having a Skype phone call. It probably means field visits. It certainly means getting beneath the surface with the missionary that is asking questions that may seem a little bit intrusive about their life and their family dynamic and what's going on in the field. Their relationships, and of course their ministry. Missionary care is huge. Mission agencies tend to call it member care. Their role is more in crisis management member care. That is when somebody blows a gasket or something dramatic or drastic happens or something catastrophic occurs in their life, then the mission steps in and says, oh, we wanna provide some counseling or insist that you have some counseling or try to work through this, but they still don't have the long term relational commitment that the sending church has to maintain that person's emotional, spiritual, relational health and staying for the long term on the field.

Too many times I've seen this backfire both ways against the mission or against the local church because of taking too strong a stand one way or the other. The mission says, this is our area. You don't mettle with it. The local church says, this is our guy. We insist such. And so there's not the relational communication that ought to take place because of a partnership agreement where everybody knows each other on a first name basis and can communicate their concerns and actually arrive together at sort of a team decision with regard to the outcomes for this particular issue or concern in the missionaries life. A whole other area has to do with strategic ministry decisions. Sometimes missions make or encourage their missionaries to make decisions about strategy and methodology that are just not compatible with the local church's stance or biblically, I would say. So the local church may need to kind of rein it in and say, wait a minute, let's evaluate this from a better perspective and see if we can do something better.

Both sides need to learn

It may mean some learning on both sides, but certainly you don't want your missionary to just follow whatever fad happens to be current on their field or in the world without evaluating it. Another very significant milestone issue is the potential for permanent return of a team member to the home country that is your missionary is either asked to leave or finds a milestone point at which it's time for them to leave, or they must leave because of avoidable attrition. Or the home church even gets involved in bringing a missionary home because of failing to meet benchmarks of what they're supposed to be doing on the field or how they're supposed to be doing it. Those concerns absolutely need to be part of a mutual discussion between the mission agency and the local church as well as the missionary, obviously, because they impact that missionary's career, if you will, whether it comes at the end of the career or somewhere in the middle or somewhere at the beginning, and people need to be on the same page with that in order to help the missionary adjust back home when they do get back home.

Those concerns absolutely need to be part of a mutual discussion between the mission agency and the local church as well as the missionary, obviously, because they impact that missionary's career

Conflict Management

We've mentioned it as overlapping some of the previous areas, but conflict management needs some attention in the partnership agreement in order to have an understanding of sort of who calls the final shot on this, in what situation or how do we discuss it in such a way that we come to one mind about whatever decisions have to do with conflict management. And again, I've seen this explode on the field both to the fault of the mission agency sometimes, and to the fault of the local church sometimes taking their missionary side instead of really understanding the issues at hand. Obviously, the local church is gonna be interested in the missionary's character and spirituality and needs a good local person from the mission agency to validate and verify that, not just accept the missionaries word for it. There needs to be an understanding about security and confidentiality.

Waiver of confidentiality

The missionaries should sign a waiver of confidentiality to let their church leaders know before there's ever an issue which they would want to withhold, and there finally needs to be something said about termination of the partnership agreement.  If you have nobody on the field, then obviously the partnership agreement would terminate. If there's some major problem and it's really not working out, that needs to be addressed with some frequency every year, every two years have a checkup between the local church advocate and the mission agency advocate for that missionary to find out, are we still on track? Are we still working together? Do we have a partnership in this? There are actually sample outlines of partnership agreements available in the here to their book Here to There: How to Get to Your Mission Field published by Propempo, as well as on the website. If you do a search for it, you'll find it.

Local church - mission agency partnership really requires a lot more in depth study, but we're out of time for today. I hope that you'll leave a comment or email us. Let us help you with this. Look on the website for more resources. Hey, thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. We trust that you'll find more resources and help on the website,

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