1) What do we need to think about as we try to get more of our church involved in what God is doing in the world?
- A lot depends on two factors: the size of the church, and the current level of involvement. As you look through the information that follows, parts of it will be more, or less, helpful to you, depending on those two factors. Regardless, you should be able to learn from these FAQs and adapt them to fit your situation.
- You also need to consider what your mission engagement is all about. Is it considered an integral part of the overall discipleship of your people? Is it seen as a separate program that people are asked to support? For a larger church, are you trying to support a lot of different things, or go in depth on fewer? ECO’s approach is to see the local church as the key place for global engagement, as part of God’s call for his people to go into the world locally and globally for the sake of the kingdom—think about these questions in terms of how they help you do that.
- Realize that getting a congregation more involved often comes down to getting individuals more involved. Thus the information in the questions that follow is focused on getting individuals involved, who can then be part of getting other individuals involved!
2) How can vision trips help get people involved?
- One of the best ways to get people involved is to take, or send, them on a vision trip (not the same as a “work” trip!). If your church has the size and resources, you might be able to have enough people from your own church for a trip. (See the Short Term Mission FAQS for more information.)
- Anotherpossibility,regardlessofyoursize,istoutilizethevisiontripsledbyour partners Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship and The Outreach Foundation. You can send one or two people from your church with them on trips they are already planning. They can also help you determine where it makes sense for you to be engaged. One of the trips each leads annually will be to their focus area for ECO churches.
- Make sure your pastor and key mission people are part of the trips at some time.
- Tell stories! When individuals or short term teams return, host story telling events. Have one in your church building. Ask people to host their own event in their home. This broadens the group that will hear about what God did. Make videos and post them on your webpage.
- Continue building relationships through ongoing trips to the same place year by year.
3) What are other ways to get people involved?
- Host your missionaries and/or international partners and have them meet with mission committees, adult and youth Sunday School classes, and home groups, besides speaking from the pulpit. Have them in a public area of the church building for a reception on Sunday morning.
- Develop a focused communication strategy- bulletin blurbs, newsletter articles, slides in worship, prayer from the pulpit during prayers for the people, etc.
- Have Sunday School classes or small groups adopt international partners or missionaries for prayer support. ￼￼￼￼
- See if there are immigrant families in your area who are similar to, or the same as, the ethnic background of your global connections. Develop ministry to these people locally as well as globally.
- Get help, and learn from, experienced people. Staff from our partners The Outreach Foundation and Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship work with congregations all the time to help them develop ways that can work in their context. ECO is developing a network of Presbytery Global Advocates to facilitate the exchange of ideas and information between Presbyteries and between churches; ECO Director of Global Engagement Rev. Jen Haddox can connect you with your Presbytery’s advocate.
- Let The Antioch Partners connect you to a missionary your church can support. They can also provide training in how you can be part of the member care for the missionary.
- The Antioch Partners can also connect with business people from your church, to help them see how they can use their skills and experience in ways that advance the kingdom—either by moving to another culture or by helping those who have.
- Help people understand the variety of roles they can play for the sake of the Kingdom besides going as a missionary: pray for various parts of kingdom efforts (the most important way you can help), send people, help with publicity, relate to missionaries or international partners and provide logistical support when they visit, and many more!
- Provide a “handle” — give people specific, small ways they can be involved in a mission relationship or project.
4) What if my church is small and struggling—how can we be involved?
- Start with small involvement. Get suggestions from Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship and The Outreach Foundation of small projects you can connect to.
- Think of some specific ways you can ask people to be involved (see above) that fit your circumstances.
- Get newsletters from a missionary and pray for them. If you can’t support them regularly, pick some ministry project need that they mention and help with that.
5) We are a new church—where do we fit into all this?
- Don’t wait until you “can afford” to get involved—build in global mission as a necessary part of your missional involvement from the beginning. In this area of ministry as in all others, budgets speak louder than words!
- See all of the above for ideas and adapt to your situation.
6) How do we get people involved when we are supporting so many different things?
- Begin to develop focus by picking only one or two mission efforts that you see as strategic, and which lend themselves to involvement in ways mentioned above in #1 and #2.
- Begin to communicate regularly about these, and mention ways people can be involved.
- Consider developing fewer, more strategic ways to be involved and go deeper in those. Connect the dots. So many times we have isolated activities that don’t relate to one another. ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼
- Don’t do something just because it is a good idea. If doesn’t connect to something else, it is a one-hit-wonder. E.g., when a short term team goes somewhere, make sure that when they return they have the opportunity to connect that to a people group, or refugees, or outreach locally. Assure that budgeted funding connects to those you serve, and make sure the team knows this.
- If you do a special offering, connect that to a Short Term team, then tell the congregation about it. Connect visits to funding and teams—no one-off or isolated activities and experiences. Interpret and connect the dots.
7) How can we make our involvement more effective and build on success to get others involved?
- Develop lay leadership. The odds are that a team of people will reach others better than one, formal leader. This also builds ownership, relationship, buy in, passion, etc. You want all of these to be in place beyond a formal staff person or appointed committee.
- Set up systems that encourage input and ownership. Give the responsibility for discerning and stewarding of financial resources to those who are closest to the mission and have the relationships. E.g., sometimes a mission team is appointed but has never visited or met those who are funded. A team who have actually visited the people involved in mission can better discern and make recommendations than formal leaders who have never been there, met the people etc. Having said this, going on a trip is not the only criteria. But it really helps people engage if they are allowed to think critically about what they see and who they meet, then make decisions.