Our drive as church leaders must be to instill a passion for proclaiming Christ to the nations into the DNA of our churches.
We want every member to find and fulfill their role in the Great Commission, challenging the myth that missions is only for the elite.
But how does a leader move disciples beyond temporary excitement toward the positive, repeated, missional actions that create a missions culture within a church?
My observations have been confirmed time after time: the church members most involved in missions become those most excited about missions. Engagement in missions drives excitement about missions.
If you want your church to engage in and be excited about missions, be encouraged: you can create a church culture that infuses missions into every facet of your ministry. Consider these 10 guidelines we have learned through our years in ministry.
1. Capitalize on Relationships
Missions, at its core, is all about relationship. We can only accomplish Jesus’ command to make disciples in the context of a relationship between a disciple maker and those being discipled—to bring them into a deeper relationship with God. This begins in the local church. As we “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12), we teach them to take what they have learned within the church walls and help them find the best means to carry it to the lost world outside.
Since we are engaged in a relational task, the best way to create a missions culture is by asking, Who? God has granted spiritual gifts to every believer, not only for use in a specific local church but for developing his global body. Who in your church is gifted and passionate about missions? Every church has a unique set of members, contacts, partnerships, and history ordained by God. As you look for your church’s niche in missions, examine the people or organizations with whom God has already connected you, both inside and outside your church. Then, capitalize on those existing relationships.
You can, of course, expand beyond your current connections. Proactively seek missionaries and organizations that align with your church’s goals and begin a relationship with them. Make sure to keep the number of partners at a level that allows you to develop and maintain a deep relationship with each one.
Collaboration can be beneficial for meeting logistical needs your church may not be equipped to handle. Partner with an organization like ABWE to provide your missionaries with opportunities, training, and resources.
2. Establish a Clearly Articulated Goal
Every journey begins by determining a destination and charting a course. To ensure that your church’s missions efforts are effective, you will want to establish a clearly articulated goal to focus your ministry. Determine a vision based on Matthew 28:18-20. As you consider Christ’s command, identify specific global needs that your church is equipped to meet. Refine these ideas into an articulated goal, ensuring it is clear, understandable, and measurable. It should be achievable and able to be celebrated when you meet it.
Resist the temptation to make your goal either too broad to be achievable—i.e., We aim to reach the world for Christ—or so limited that it will exclude your church’s built-in relationships—i.e., We only send church planters to unreached, unengaged people groups in restricted-access countries.
Even after establishing a clearly articulated goal, you must navigate the tension between the goal and the relationships in your church. In my church, several people approached us with creative ideas for serving missionally through a camp ministry that did not directly align with our clearly articulated goal. We adjusted, viewing our relationships as divinely appointed opportunities.
Once your church has a clearly articulated goal, order your church activities, events, meetings, and budget priorities to reflect your vision. Identify and eliminate any extraneous programs that distract from your goal. Develop a stewardship mindset to help your congregation understand and embrace these changes—not only in finances but with time and personnel. God has given the church everything it has; it is not ours. Therefore, give generously and freely, using all resources to advance Christ’s kingdom.
3. Reflect Every Generation in Your Church
Every person, at every age, has a significant role to play in the Great Commission. Please do not leave anyone out!
Integrating missions into all areas of your church is essential to creating a deeply rooted missions culture, including preschool children, school-age children, youth, young adults, singles, married couples, divorcees, new parents, empty nesters, and retirees. Introduce every age group and demographic to ways to be involved through prayer, sending, supporting, or going. Creatively engage each age group.
4. Involve All Age Groups in Your Missions Team/Committee
Create a deep bench for your missions committee or task force. We often picture missions committees as functioning like small, formal committees seated around a conference table—but why not go bigger?
Invite church members from all age groups to participate in your committee. Try including two elementary-age children, two teens, two college students, and more adults from various life stages. Your entire committee need not meet at the same time; you can have subgroups that oversee distinct aspects of your missions ministry. You may invite adults with business backgrounds to serve on a budget or personnel subgroup, while children could participate in an event subgroup. Kids can give input into what they want to do in the church. Even if their ideas do not come to fruition, including them gets them thinking and engaged in missions from a highly impressionable age. Creating teams with a wide slice of your congregation increases ownership and involvement.
5. Preach the Great Commission
Pastor, teaching about missions is vital. Strive to integrate mission references into various sermons, not just during a missions emphasis Sunday. Educate your congregation on the command of missions (Matthew 28:18-20), the value of missions, and the believer’s obligation to participate (Ephesians 4:12).
The Holy Spirit prompts and convicts through his Word, so focus on biblical passages concerning missions while remembering the power of story to connect with your listeners. Accounts of pioneers like Hudson Taylor, Adoniram Judson, and Amy Carmichael have inspired Christians for generations. Powerful biographies and stories of transformed lives—from your congregation and missionaries—are powerful tools to reveal what God is doing today through ordinary people.
6. Instruct in Personal Evangelism and Discipleship
Whether you are training your church members to reach people across the parking lot or the world, they must know how to share the gospel and disciple new believers. Make discussing, teaching, and modeling evangelism and discipleship a regular practice in your church.
Select your approach strategically. Find or develop a reproducible discipleship process that can also be used cross-culturally. Believers who know how to share their faith and disciple others will grow passionate to do so—and this passion often extends to reaching those in cross-cultural contexts.
7. Make Every Meeting a Prayer Meeting
Churches should build a biblical culture of missions on a culture of prayer. Christ instructed us to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38), so we must prioritize prayer in every church meeting.
Keeping an updated prayer list for missionaries and ministries worldwide can be a helpful reminder to the congregation. Try praying for your current missionaries by memory, asking those in attendance to pray for each missionary as their name comes to mind. One person may remember a missionary, someone else remembers another, and together, you will likely be able to pray for everyone. This approach more deeply engages the mind and heart.
8. Develop a Short-Term Missions Program
Provide opportunities for your congregation to engage the nations through short-term trips. Through first-hand experience on the field, church members will experience the needs, struggles, and joys of cross-cultural ministry, all while meeting the needs of their ministry partners.
Short-term trips are essential for church leadership. Plan regular visits to your missionaries, deepening your relationship with them as you witness their lives and ministry overseas. Model relationship building with missionaries to your congregation at home.
9. Keep Missions Visible to Your Congregation
Do not allow missions to become a second-class ministry relegated to the background. Create a communication hub to post updates on your missionaries and missions ministry. Use it to disseminate crucial information on mission opportunities. This could be a physical location in your church, like a kiosk or bulletin board, a page on your church’s website, or a Facebook group.
Schedule regular missions emphasis weekends, inviting your missionaries to visit and focusing your messages on teaching and training the congregation in missions. Include specific opportunities for giving, going, serving, and prayer.
10. Celebrate Well
Few churches take time to celebrate what God is doing in missions, but joy is a vital part of creating culture. Celebrate reaching milestones in your clearly defined goal. Hold a banquet when you or your missionaries meet your objective. Take the time to publicly rejoice and praise God for his gracious work among the nations.
Creating a biblical culture of missions within your church is not easy, but it is well worth the effort to see your church passionately and actively carrying the gospel throughout the world. May God bless you as you lead your church into his harvest.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Focus on the Family on May 29, 2023. Used with permission.