Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions.

Thanks for listening to episode 136 of Missions on Point. We're in the middle of a series on Your Church Mission's handbook, helping you to review, revise, or write your church mission's manual, your church mission's handbook. This is number eight of the series, and we're going to talk about missions team composition. Which may not seem like a very volatile issue, and yet, if you don't address it, can create some tension in the missions team and in the church. All of the principles that we've used in this, Your Church Mission's handbook series are actually applicable to other ministries of the church as well. It has to do with good communication, planning, division of the work that's necessary, and delegation of that work to good quality people who are qualified, or at least trainable, to do the specific work of missions ministry, which in itself is a specialized function in the realm of ministries.

It has its own vocabulary, its own scope, it's international, it's cross-cultural, it involves specialized training for those who are doing it on the field, and even at home. Now, let's talk about the various tensions and issues related to composition of the missions team. First is small church versus large church. What difference does that make? Well, it makes a world of difference. Obviously, if you have a smaller church, what do I mean by that? Probably 250 and less might be considered a small church. Many small churches that I deal with are less than 100. Presumably, if you have a smaller church, communication is easier because there's not as many people involved. You have less people involved on the missions team itself, and less having to do with logistics, administration, etc. If you have a large church, you may have someone on staff with the pastoral staff of the church that is assigned, at least partly, to be the leader for missions, like a missions pastor.

If you have a very large church, you probably have a full-time missions pastor with an administrative staff behind them that are paid by the church to do the work of missions team and missions ministry functions. I think it's ideal even in a small church that you have at least three persons at minimum on the team, and preferably not just one couple that is husband and wife plus one other. Especially when the team is small, it's good to have an odd number sort of to break the tie for any kind of voting or decision making that takes place. Whether it's a small church with a small missions team or a large church with a larger missions team, it's always wise to make sure that everybody agrees with and has signed off on the basic biblical basis, scope of authority and definitions included in the mission's handbook.

Even good spirited people with good experience and perhaps even generosity in their heart toward missions can come from very different backgrounds and understanding of missions, and you must have this as one of the requirements of your composition. People have read and talked about and understood the basic parameters and framework that they're working within in your church in missions. It's not to say that other ideas from other places might not be valid, but it's not valid at the moment for your church. They have to agree to work within that framework.

For a larger church, I recommend having something like a tiered system of involvement in the mission's team. Mission team members don't have to be that many, even in the largest church, probably not more than 19 or 20 people total, including whatever staff people you have. But under them, in different departments or segments of ministry, like we've talked about in structure in the previous episode, they may have associates or helpers or people that plug in just for that ministry under them, and they're not directly on the missions team itself.

The easiest example is, say you have an annual missions celebration event or at missions conference, you need a lot of people hands-on deck at the time of the conference and leading up to it for planning, preparation and all the things that take place there. But they don't need to be on the missions team and make decisions on a day-to-day basis regarding policy and missionaries and counseling and finances. The event's sub-team just needs to recruit worker bees to help them in the missions conference time.

Similarly, calendar specific and intensive time might be taken by people who work alongside and with the short term missions ministry. Most churches would not want every mission's advocate to be a part of the missions team. Others serving in finance or communication or prayer or education might have specific roles to help but might not be a part of the mission's team.

Second interesting issue regarding composition is should you choose individuals or couples? I have preferred and recommend couples simply because especially if they have children and a lot of activities going on with young children or school-aged children, one or the other of them might not be able to come. But you have them both on the team, one or the other can inform the one that was missing about what's going on, and they're all in the loop and they're all ready to go when it comes time to put their hands to the work of missions. Many churches just don't think that way about couples being on ministry teams or ministry assignments, and that's okay. Most churches work with individuals who are elected, selected, nominated, appointed in whatever process they have, and it works out just fine.

If you do choose to use couples, it means that you'll probably have more people named as missions team members than you would otherwise, simply because they're not all functioning all at the same time for all the meetings and work. Another interesting perspective on composition is should you use people that are representative of different ministries or ages or affinity groups within the church, versus specific interest or experience in missions? Missions teams that have the opportunity to have a retired missionary on their team have unique advantages for insight into missions work and missionary life, particularly if that missionary's experience on the field was a healthy positive one.

I like the idea of having people on the missions team who wanted to go into missions and never made it. If they're otherwise qualified, they have a unique perspective on the whole process of becoming a missionary and maybe even going to the field and staying for some time before returning. Having them come alongside by coaching and assisting missionary candidates in the process is a unique experience that they have, and they could help other people with in God's purposes for his glory.

On the other hand, be careful because if they have burnout because of that experience, they may not be the best candidate to be helpful to others until they've grown and changed and renewed their heart on those issues. Another angle on composition is whether missions team members should be "permanent" or on a rotating term limit as most churches would do for their ministry committees or leadership teams. There are benefits to continuity, but there are also benefits to getting new people trained and oriented because everyone that you train for the missions team becomes a great missions advocate throughout their span of life and service in the church. They're also great benefits to having a rotating term limit so that people don't get burnout and the new ones coming in provide fresh blood and perspective and insight from their particular personality and experience and point of view.

In any case, I think it is a really good practice to have an annual performance checkup between the missions team leader and the missions team member, with the possibility of opting out. If life has gotten too complicated, if they're not able to attend meetings as they should, if somehow their ministry priorities have changed to other things, they need to be given a gracious opportunity to opt out and step away from the team, and then recruit someone else to fill their shoes. One person on the team, and this is almost a given for most churches, should be a pastor or elder representative on the team. They become the major conduit of communication and approval for missions team decisions. They also add unique insight from the leadership of the church overall in the direction of the church, with regard to mission team plans and principles moving into the future vision of missions for the church.

Most churches that have a designated missions pastor, whether it's part-time or full-time, don't have the missions pastor as the chairman of the missions team or the designated leader of the missions team meetings. Although the pastor is the paid position, it is an executive position, meaning they implement and execute the decisions and goals of the missions team that are under the authority and approval of the elders overall. This leads to the final thing on my list with regard to composition, and that is who's going to be the team leader? I really think it should not be the designated missions pastor, but it should be approved by the elders.

In other words, it's not just up for a popular vote within the team. The missions team may have a preference or even a couple of preferences with regard to who the team leader would be, but it needs to fit the church and it needs to be approved by the elders so that there is this sense of confidence from the leaders of the church in the leadership of the missions team. Though it may be assumed, I do want to say that the leader of the missions team really needs to be elder or at least deacon qualified, biblically, to lead this team. There are so many personal and spiritual aspects of the work going on that it needs to be someone who has shown and proven themselves to be adequate in dealing with people and serving the church and having biblical spiritual ends in mind as they lead.

If your church has a missions pastor, certainly the mission's pastor and the missions team leader or chairman need to have a great relationship, a good chemistry and communication. Now, let's talk a little bit about how many team members you might need. I said my minimum is three, I think that's workable. And the maximum may be 19 to 20 on the actual team, and each of them have certain responsibilities for roles and practical ministry areas within the team for sub-teams or task forces. We talked about this in the previous episode for education, communication, prayer, finance, mission advocates, personnel events, short-term missions and leadership and administration.

My off-the-cuff projection for the number of ministry team members that there ought to be probably would be two for every 100 in attendance. I'm talking about minimums here. It could be more than that and probably should and would be more than that naturally. But two for every 100 in attendance means if you have 200 people attending on Sunday mornings, then you would have at least four people on the missions team, and I prefer an odd number for practical reasons. So five. If you had 500 people in attendance, you would have at least 10 on the missions team. If you had 1,000 people in attendance, you would have 20, and that's at the limit of what I suggest is workable as a working group within the ministries of the church.

One of the great things about paid missions staff for the church's missions ministries is those people are more or less full-time, hands-on on missions, and they can multiply the amount of work in administration, logistics, communication, all of that that must take place in a larger church for missions, rather than being dependent on very busy laypeople who also have work and family and life outside of church. I'm not saying that church staff people don't have a life, but you know what I mean. Beyond the number of people that are actually on the missions team, I've mentioned before, a lot of these sub-teams need people who are workers for that sub-team or for that event, for that specific purpose. And those people really need to be named and on an actual roster that's checked up on by the missions team members that are managing those areas of missions ministry.

So, in a smaller church, it would not be unusual to have a relatively small missions team of say five or six people. They have a list of 25 or 30 other people that get involved for specific cases and needs. In a large church, it would not be unusual to have 100 names of people that have agreed to work in different areas of missions ministry over the course of a year's cycle. Your church may decide who gets to be nominated or elected or appointed into the missions team through a standard sort of process with an annual business meeting, that kind of thing. Or your church may be one of those that nominations and appointments are made whenever they're needed at any time during the year, without a specific congregational vote.

Whatever the case of how they are actually put into place, you need to make sure that everyone understands the rationale and the qualifications for why specific people may be put into place, and have a legitimate orientation and training program for new members. Like I said earlier, one of the great benefits of having many people cycle through the missions team over a long period of time is everyone understands missions better, and everyone is an advocate for the missions ministries of the church, the missionaries that you support, and the work of the missions team.

So. Go for it. Get the best people you can. Study well, know your job really well for the special ministry of the church, begin to be used as the managers and missions mobilizers of the Lord, for your church's missions ministries, for his glory.

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our website at and We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God, be glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus, forever and ever. Amen.

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