The following five areas, when strong and stable, have been proven correlate with length of service for field missionaries.
Large high retention mission agencies that have given weight to the following items have missionaries who, on the average, have more years of service with the agency according to a study coordinated by the World Evangelical Alliance.
Length of service in missions is related to the following top 5 factors:
1. marital contentment-
a healthy marriage is the primary glue that holds a missionary family together. If the marriage is not healthy then the missionary will ultimately not be successful.
2. previous ministry experience in a local church-
serving in the local church helps a potential missionary understand the under belly of Christian ministry and how to deal in working with a wide variety of personality types, managing conflict resolution, and understanding team dynamics and sacrificial service.
3. annual performance/ministry reviews-
missionaries need a realistic assessment of their progress. They not only need to see that they are progressing, but they also need encouragement from senior leaders that their work matters.
Reviews for missionaries must take into account time periods for cultural and language adjustments as well as field realities concerning what constitutes faithfulness in a certain context.
4. documented and adequate procedures for handling complaints-
missionaries need pressure release values that help them navigate complaints without fear of losing support or fear of retribution by senior leaders. Otherwise they might choose to suffer in silence and this can give way to bitterness.
5. missionaries’ commitment to their ministry-
a missionary has to seriously count the cost for the type of ministry they are setting out to do before they begin to do it. They must have the ability to dig deep when the going gets tough and “wrestle with God” in prayer in order to make it through various stages of ups and downs that inevitably will come, what Seth Godin calls “The Dip.”
However, it must be said that there are still times for what Henry Cloud calls “Necessary Endings.” God is sovereign and He can and does move families on to other places.
All of these areas and more are critical, especially considering what it takes to get a whole family into long term missions. The cost, both financially and to the work on the field, makes the stakes high. Supporters and local church Pastors can play a significant role in helping whole families stay in long term missions work through their support, encouragement, and engagement beyond what the particular agency does or doesn’t do.
See the full report here.