(re)member care

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.

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Bryan interacted with missionaries during a recent trip to Europe and said American churches need to realize their vital role of supporting international workers.

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.

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14 Responses to “(re)member care”

  1. Lindsey August 9, 2010 at 3:29 PM #

    Sometimes I just wanted someone to help my mother pay for a plane ticket- a visit from her was often what I needed most!

  2. Kyle Goen August 10, 2010 at 5:08 AM #

    Good stuff. I am going to use this with our team.

  3. Chris August 10, 2010 at 6:06 AM #

    A few thoughts from one of those living overseas.

    1. Pay for their family members to go and visit them if appropriate. Not every family can afford the journey from the States. A visit from mom, dad, a brother or sister, or even a son or daughter can be more encouraging than a team. By paying for their family to visit, you communicate that you care about their actual needs, not just what you think they are missing.

    2. Know their children. If a child was born overseas then she does not think like an American child. I see good intentioned churches from the US thrust overseas children into culture shock by throwing a concentrated piece of America at them. It’s likely that they don’t even know about the things that you think they are missing. Find out what is truly relevant to them.

    3. Help them keep you informed. Not all of us are good at keeping up blogs or newsletters. Regularly phone or email to hear stories. Ask questions about meaningful things. Ask for updates on previous stories.

    We need you to (re)member.

  4. C. Holland August 16, 2010 at 1:51 AM #

    Great ideas all, and I’ve really enjoyed the series on the Sending Church. But how do you communicate these (re)member care ideas when your sending church isn’t communicative with you? We actually do all the communication suggested (blog, monthly e-newsletter, print newsletter, phone calls just to check up and not ask for money), but it’s pretty much a one-way relationship. We had no idea when the church changed denomination and later changed its name!

    It seems like if we sent them this suggestion list it comes across as demanding because of the lack of relationship.

  5. Larry August 16, 2010 at 5:45 AM #

    Thanks for the comments. I am sorry it has taken a while for me to respond. I have been on vacation for a week now and away from internet. It felt great. I highly recommend it. smile.

    I think it is very hard when you are in a one way conversation with your sending church. I wish I had the answer to that question.

    I believe that if one could get an advocate in the church that is not a staff member but has influence with the staff or missions team then I think the advocate can help the worker stay connected and informed. Their role could be to be the contact for the worker both in terms of answering your questions and responding to the requests. They would also proactively stay in touch with you.

    I think this would go a long way but I have not heard of many churches doing this. If you know of some let me know. I think we could learn a lot from them.

  6. Ernie Geeting August 17, 2010 at 9:57 AM #

    I am a mission agency administrator working with missionary appointees during their deputation process. My wife and I also serve stateside in a church planting ministry. I, too, have enjoyed the articles and agree that the missionaries need an advocate. This has inspired me to send these blogs on to the sending churches of those I am working with. I would encourage each of you as missionaries to also “nudge” your field directors to do the same on your behalf.

    I would also be interested in hearing more from your collective insight about how sending churches can be actively involved with their missionary appointees during their deputation process.

  7. Larry August 17, 2010 at 5:11 PM #

    Ernie, great thought on the involvement of sending churches being involved during the deputation process. I totally agree and think that it needs to start early on. As one new field worker told me that it really helps if the person going to the field is relationally connected to the church from the start. I believe if they work with the church during the call process then when they move to the deputation phase they have already created some healthy support from members of their sending church. I think the church being involved in the call stage is paramount.

  8. Kari October 27, 2010 at 6:35 AM #

    Great post, Larry.

    The Skybridge Community reference library has a PDF download of 10 tips for sending churches wanting to support and encourage via the postal system.


  9. Chad December 11, 2010 at 9:56 PM #

    Thanks for the great post! I also agree with Ernie. I am a missions administrator as well and have found it very strategic to include sending churches in the missionary interview process. The end result is that the church feels like they are part of a team led by the missionary they had a role in choosing. This in turn allows the missionary to play a greater part in influencing the church missionally.

  10. Jay February 11, 2011 at 2:17 PM #

    Thanks for the work that you are doing. I agree with the need, but from a practical perspective I think that we need to admit that this would be a new paradim for most churches.

    When staff member leave the church for employment in another church or for missions, most churches wish them well but move their affections to the replacement staff members.

    For several generations most members have understood their responsibility as sending (financially through contributions to an agency) and praying for them occasionally (birthdays or crisis situations).

    As a former Minister of Missions, I discovered that most of the members of my church were fans of missions and not mission supporters (other than sending the money). Even church planting in the States suffers the same disrespect. I don’t see enought practical emphasis on kingdom membership, just church and/or denomination membership. Even churches in the same community seem to compete for the affections and finances of their community.

    I hope that newer generations will change that.

  11. Matthew December 20, 2011 at 4:02 AM #

    This is a great post! Thanks! I agree wholeheartedly with those who suggest paying for family members to visit the missionary on the field! My own parents are retired missionaries. After serving for 30 years on the field themselves without the benefit of a corporate retirement package they do not have the ability to come visit us. While it is great to be able to see them when we are Stateside (about every 3 years) I would LOVE for my folks to be able to visit us here where we serve so they can SEE our lives here. It is just not possible for them to come to Eastern Europe on their fixed income.

    While we are talking about retired missionaries – often churches drop the support of missionaries once they return to the US. After 30 years of service, my folks have only what they were able to squirrel away, plus the little bit that Social Security gives them. If even half of their former supporting churches would continue to support them, it would be a huge blessing. Since a retired missionary in their late 70’s does not offer as much “bang for the buck” as a younger missionary out on the field, these retired workers are often overlooked. They also need to be (re)membered.

    Another possibility would be to help MKs make it home (by which I mean the mission field where their parents are) over the holidays. As kids are sent back to the US for college it often becomes too expensive for them to return to their families for Christmas. It doesn’t have to happen every year, but once during their college experience would be such a treat!

    We have had a “peanut butter of the month” club in the past – someone would sign up to send a care package with peanut butter in it (you can’t buy it where we serve) and that small thing was a huge blessing to us!

    • Natalie December 20, 2011 at 4:56 PM #

      Great ideas, Matthew. Thanks for chiming in!

  12. Dave February 15, 2012 at 2:00 AM #

    I always appreciate member care articles and hurt for the many missionaries who do not receive the level of care that they need to thrive in their ministries. I also appreciated the idea of getting family members supported to visit their loved ones serving on the field. I’m not sure how after all these years I have never been exposed to this felt need and overlooked opportunity to strengthen and encourage missionaries.

    One helpful tool I can refer readers to on the web was designed especially for tutoring believers in the various roles that they can play in helping fulfill the great commission – imcluding serving in the role of a sender. Find it at: http://mac-global.net/nextsteps


  1. Tackling Transitions | the upstream collective - December 13, 2011

    […] support those you send out, this might be a good place to start. As we’ve discussed before, (re)member care is vital to the health and longevity of those whom we send […]

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