Missions agencies are Christian organizations that help missionaries quickly get on the field.
They provide much of the training, accountability, resources, and on-field guidance for missionaries to be effective in various areas of ministry while also giving advice on how to maneuver life overseas and make disciples.
Every missions agency is going to look different in how they interact with the missionary. In this blog, we will look over the key traits that you want to look for in a missions agency and how they can equip you in being effective on the mission field.
How Does a Missions Agency Help a Missionary Get on the Field?
There are two ends of the spectrum when it comes to what role a missions agency can play in the life of a goer.
One role acts as an employer. Missions agencies who are employers will have already determined countries, ministry opportunities, and time commitments that they can present to future missionaries to apply for.
By hiring the missionary, the missions agency is able to get to know the person and see if they are a good fit for joining the long-term team on the field. Once hired, the missionary will go through the process of training, raising funds, being equipped with resources, and prepared mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally for moving overseas to a foreign country.
Generally, this type of missions agency isn’t for everyone, as some missionaries have a distinct calling to a people group or a ministry field overseas. However, there are missions agencies that encourage their missionaries to find a ministry they are passionate about and pursue it on the mission field or will have recommendations for how to pioneer a new ministry.
The employer agencies work well with large teams of people working together to complete a common goal or an extensive communal project, such as building a church or teaching English to children in public schools.
The Service Provider
The second role a missions agency can provide is financial service for processing incoming donations from supporters while also keeping track of how much money the missionary has to live on.
This makes finances less stressful and easily accessible to the future missionary. These type of missions agencies can also provide counsel to the missionary on how to raise funds, grow their contact list, and keep building relationships with their partners.
There is only one downside to a service provider agency who only grants financial services. The missionary may eventually lack in spiritual development and accountability in ministry if they are not consistently being kept engaged with an outside person who is able to pour into them and challenge their daily walk with Christ.
Service provider agencies work well for both teams and individuals who want to work on any scale of ministry. They are especially useful for those who want to engage with unreached people groups in rural areas or desire to start their own ministry.
How Do I Know Which Type of Missions Agency is for Me?
The answer to finding a great missions agency is that it really depends on you. Both types of missions agencies are important in the life of a missionary, as they will provide some level of guidance and encouragement while on the field.
Consider where you want to go, what type of ministry you are interested in doing, and the vision you have that God has specifically placed within your own heart. Great missions agencies help you carry out the Lord calling that He has put on your life.
It is also recommended to find a missions agency that provides a mix of both an employer and service provider role with values that you are passionate about, rather than trying to find something that sounds good but doesn’t really help get you where you want to go. When considering a missions agency, pray, seek the Lord, and ask Him to lead you where He wants you to be.
Why Should a Missionary Go with a Missions Agency?
Providing Long-Term Vision
The more effective you become as a missionary, the more likely you are going to be attacked by the enemy, and the focus becomes inward instead of upward. You will need people to consistently remind you to fix your eyes on the eternal things and help you remember why you were called to the field in the first place, while also being encouraged to persevere in the task that is set before you.
Christian missions agencies are able to provide a clear vision of what God is doing in the world and invite people to partner with Him in His work.
Going with a missions agency will enable you to partner with a long-term vision and develop an eternal mindset. You may be the goer, but there is a massive group of people who all share in the same vision of seeing every nation, tongue, tribe, and people group come to know Jesus. When each person is dedicated to the vision, using their giftings and spiritual gifts to contribute to the work of another, they form a beautiful picture of how the Church can work together in unity to partner with where God is moving.
By partnering with a missions agency’s vision, you are partnering with God’s heart for community and mentorship in furthering His kingdom.
Missionaries who go with mission sending agencies will have a team of available leaders that are dedicated to different countries, ministry sites, and specific departments within the organization.
Each department will pass on years of experience from previous missionaries so that you can be fully equipped and prepared for an effective missionary lifestyle. Not only will they keep you consistently accountable about your spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional health, but they will help you navigate the difficulties of dealing with conflicts and confrontations on the field. Field leaders will also be able to direct you in financial requirements, ministry goals, resources for member care, and self-care.
Leadership can also provide answers to your questions. As a future missionary going overseas, no doubt you have some questions of your own. Mission agencies have years of experience and can help answer questions such as:
- What is my first step to getting overseas?
- How do I support myself?
- Are people in this country responsive to the gospel?
- Are Christians welcome in this country?
- Is there a Christian church I can attend while overseas?
- How many unreached people groups are in this country?
- How do I best protect myself as a single woman or man living in a city/rural village?
- Are there cultural practices I should be aware of?
- What is the main religion of this nation?
- What ministry opportunities are available for me to work with?
- What missionary lifestyle will I live?
Accountability in Ministry and Finances
When considering a missions agency, there should always be some level of accountability in finances and ministry, as accountability is profoundly important in the life of any person, especially missionaries.
There are some missionaries who would prefer to be sent out from their home church instead of a missions agency because they trust their pastor to provide sound biblical counsel for their ministry overseas. The reality is that he is committed to his own ministry and cannot always be responsible for checking in on you regularly. It is much better to go with a missions agency who has years of experience from missionaries on the field and is prepared for keeping you accountable in ministry repeatedly.
Missionaries will also need guidance on financial requirements for the country they are going to. A person doing ministry in Europe is going to have a much different budget than a person working in indigenous tribes in Nepal. Pastors are not going to give the expert advice in helping you with personal finances. Mission agencies can help with the expectations on monthly support and walk you through the process of raising funds.
Read more on our comparison post on how many people it takes to support a missionary.
Missions agencies can also track your monthly ministry reports and incoming donations, as well as offer advice and support on the mission field. Having your finances go through a mission agency also gives assurance to your supporters and partners that their money is being handled in the right way so that you can remain on the field. Going through a missions agency will also help both future ministry partners and current supporters who are interested in knowing where their money is going and if the missionary is using it properly.
“Missionaries are so eager to get to the field and do the work that they generally are willing to go woefully under-supported. This results in missionaries struggling to survive. It keeps them from effectively doing their ministry and puts a tremendous strain on their family. Sadly, many missionaries leave the field because of financial issues. A missions agency can help guide the missionaries in avoiding such situations.”
– David Peach, writer and missionary
While mission agencies can help take care of legal requirements for income taxes, they can also help you obtain visas into countries that do not grant ministry visas. A missions agency that acts as an employer by hiring you as their employee can help you cross those obstacles by providing paperwork in order to fit government regulations. Missions agencies can also help keep track of all your donations in one place along with deductible tax returns and receipts for your supporters.
“By using a mission agency, the missionary is free to focus more on ministry and less on the obligatory financial accounting that someone else can handle for him.”
Some missionaries may already have degrees in Bible and Theology or Intercultural Ministry and therefore will not need as much training as those who have never gone through a missions course before.
Missions agencies will provide training before you leave for the field and while you are abroad so that you can be well equipped for the task set in front of you. Although, the biggest training event of your life is going to be the hands-on experience of living life on the field.
Most missions agencies will also help prepare you with culturally accepted ways of sharing the gospel that is appropriate to the country and culture you are going to. It is a good idea to study up on what religion inhabits the nation so that you are well prepared with the truth of the gospel. This training will vary depending on the area you are going and whether or not there are high levels of persecution.
If you don’t know what type of ministry you want to work with, you can partner with an established ministry that the missions agency has already built relationships with. Most, if not all missions agencies will provide you with various ministry opportunities and may already have partners in those locations that you can come alongside and work with.
“We also have an understanding that there is not a one size fits all model to missions. Therefore, we don’t have a set way of doing ministry but instead, encourage missionaries to do what works best in the context they are in. This also allows you, with the guidance of field leadership, to pursue your passions and the ministries God has placed on your heart instead of forcing you to serve under a specific model.”
If you do know what type of ministry you are called to or want to try your hand at, missions agencies may be able to provide you with contact information from other organizations within that country that are related to that specific area of ministry. They can also present resources and customized training sessions and coaches for starting up your own field of ministry in that country.
On the mission field, you will be working with a wide variety of people from different backgrounds. Not everyone is going to agree with each other on how ministry ought to be done, and sometimes there needs to be a mediator who comes in from the outside and shows you the value of your team.
Mission agencies will have staff who are dedicated to dealing with conflict and growing healthy friendships between the members of your team. The enemy is going to try to break down relationships and create distrust between them. In order to do ministry well, you need to be able to work well together.
You can’t tell people to love one another if you aren’t loving each other. The people you are going out with are the only image that unreached people groups are going to see of the Church. People within your community are going to be watching how your team treats one another, whether that is out of kindness or frustration. Actions speak louder than words, especially in another culture where language and customs are different. In order to take the Church to where it is not, you have to be the Church.
Missions agencies are there to remind you that in the act of obedience, you’ve got each other. You chose to follow Jesus to that country and these people on your team are also following Jesus to that country. You can serve each other in love as you work alongside each other and develop deeper relationships with the people around you. Through loving your team, people will know the love of Christ by how you honor and respect one another. Without team unity, there can be no effective ministry.
Learning how to care for your team is one of the most valuable pieces of becoming an effective team overseas.
As a missionary, you are going to have different stresses to deal with on the field unlike at home. Member care helps you and your team stay healthy in the long run.
Mission agencies teach missionaries how to care for individual members on their team through prayer, encouragement, and constructive feedback. This may be one of the most important roles a missions agencies can provide for missionaries, as the number one reason missionaries leave the field is because of conflicts on their team.
The Advantage of Going with A Missions Agency
“Successful missions and missionaries are rooted in the church and equipped by an agency.”
– Jordon, member of TEAMS
As mentioned before, missionaries can be sent out from their home church or pastor, but they may not be kept accountable in ministry or finances.
However, numerous missions agencies will partner with your church to help send you out on the missions field. An established missions agency can provide support and help you navigate life in a foreign country while teaching you how to engage with people appropriately in cross-cultural contexts, whereas your church may not be fully able and prepared to do so.
“With an agency, there is a debrief process and someone to make sure you act on what you learned, rather than going back to the same routine. There’s someone to walk with you through reverse culture shock and help your process your experiences, both positive and negative. This level of care and support is invaluable.”
The Downside of Going with a Missions Agency
Missions agencies can paint a pretty picture of what to expect on the mission field. Yet when missionaries get on the field, they are often met with different circumstances and expectations than they were prepared for.
Another downside to going with a missions agency is that you may not always agree with the leadership team. Or, for those who are more independent-minded, it may be harder for them to come under someone else’s leadership. Because of this, some missionaries may want to go through the whole process themselves. Nonetheless, mission agencies will provide great support for those who are going on the field for the first time.
“Before you decide to go overseas independently, think about the rich preparation, accountability and support a mission agency can offer you. Seek the Lord in your going and coming, because going maverick overseas may not be the most fruitful choice in furthering the gospel.”
In conclusion, each missions agency is going to be vastly different, and there may be both good and bad experiences with each one. While we cannot rely on mission agencies to be our only support, they are greatly beneficial for all missionaries to help make the transition from home to the mission field a much smoother process.