The other day I had a conversation with a couple of good friends and IMB Member Care consultants, Jeff Whitfield and Andy Martin, about the role of the sending church. Agencies such as the IMB use the term “member care” to identify how they seek the overall well-being of their workers.
As I have said before,
“Churches should also function in the roles of helping, praying and caring for, encouraging, holding accountable, providing resources for and being strategically involved with their missionaries. They should not simply turn this over to the sending agencies.”
Jeff, Andy and I, with later input from my wife, came up with what we would like to call (re)member care.
We started talking about tangible things a church can do to (re)member those who have been sent out from its body. I hope you can refer to these ideas and brainstorm some of your own as you, with fellow church members, remember the workers you have sent out.
1. Find ways to partner with the workers in their strategy. This could be fulfilled in a lot of different ways, but find opportunities to partner with the ones sent from your church. When they sense their work is larger than themselves and their home church is with them in ministry, it does something HUGE for their morale. Unfortunately, if this is not the case, it has the reverse effect on their spirit.
2. Send a small group to visit the workers. These church members can pray with, listen to and talk with the missionaries in their environment, not to mention see and participate in their ministry. Then the travelers can report back to their church. The visiting group doesn’t have to be huge; even sending a family can be a great way to do this.
3. Have a designated advocate who keeps the worker connected to the church. All too often this role falls on a missions staff member or the pastor, who becomes too busy to be able to truly participate in the life of the sent. Often, if no one is tasked to do this role, then people within the church rarely remember. Missions is something everyone can participate in with a church; it is not for a select group of people on the field or at home. Caring for a worker on the field is one way a church can broaden opportunities for mission involvement among its members.
4. Keep the workers’ prayer requests in front of the people of the church.
5. Send a care package. Granted, this is not a new idea, and happens quite a bit, but I always hear of workers who rarely–if ever–have received a box in the mail. Perhaps you can ask your workers about what favorite American items they miss the most.
6. In the days of Facebook and e-mails, an actual letter sent the old fashioned way is so fun to receive.
7. Do something special for their kids—do not forget about the kids. Sure, they have a pretty cool life being able to live cross-culturally, learn a different language and partake in unique experiences. However, they also miss seeing their cousins and grandparents and coming across other things kids often and easily can do in the States.
8. Keep in touch with their parents and family members in the America and offer to help them out as needed. I think this is extremely important. By not being present at home, often workers are unable to help their own families in times of need. It is good when a church can check in on the workers’ parents from time to time.
9. Give books, CDs and iTunes gift certificates. Maybe I am reaching here, but this is a pretty cool idea. Some times a good book in English or music does something for the soul living in a foreign culture.
10. When workers do come back to the States for furlough or to live there again, invite them over for a meal. Ask them questions about their ministry and their life overseas. Continue to pray for them. Help them as they transition and be aware of reverse culture shock as they re-enter the American culture.
Now it’s your turn—leave a comment with some of your own ideas of (re)member care.
Written by Larry McCrary. Larry and his family have lived in Europe since 2001, and have been involved in church planting both in the United States and in Europe. Larry is co-founder of The Upstream Collective, and is passionate about seeing the church think and act as a missionary both in its community and internationally. Larry blogs and tweets as part of an effort to influence the conversation of missions.