Missionary Training

11 Essential Topics for Missions Training

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Written by Shyann Swearingen

As the popularity of missions continues to increase, so does the need to understand it. Its crucial to know important topics before entering the field. Which topics are necessary to teach and how do we teach them to future missionaries?

What topics should you cover in missions training? The key topics missionaries need to be taught are Bible translation, worldviews, how to build support, theology, the history of missions, social justice, how to make disciples, hermeneutics, language learning, team leadership, and maintaining healthy relationships.

As someone who is currently pursuing missions by attending a missionary college, I have been taught many important topics regarding missions that I want to share with others.

These 11 topics are crucial for missionary training.

1) Bible Translation

As missionaries who are being sent to take the word to where it’s not, it is of most importance that we have knowledge of the Bible. Bible translation courses should be used to teach future missionaries how to translate the Bible, while also increasing their knowledge of it.

How to teach this:

The first step to teach this is discussing the importance of Bible translation. You want to get your student’s attention right off the bat and get them excited about learning about Bible translation.

Next, you want to decide what Bible translation you’ll be using for the course. This will differ depending on the language you’re focusing on. Once you’ve decided on the version you want to use choose a book of the Bible.

For your first book, you will want to start with smaller books of the Bible like Philemon, Jude, and Obadiah. This will help your students to get started while also not being too overwhelmed by the process.

During your class, you should also discuss the key themes of the book you’re translating, discuss the context, and the main idea of the book.

2) Worldviews

Our worldviews are the lenses through which we view the world around us. These views are influenced by the culture you grew up in and what you have been influenced by.

As future missionaries, it is paramount that we are aware of the different worldviews throughout the country. In specific the country you feel called to.

How to teach this:

For this class, you want to ensure that you discuss surface-level culture and deep level culture. After you discuss these views in general, you will also want to discuss them related to specific countries/ people groups.

After discussing the two different levels of culture go further into worldviews. Have books ready and available for students to take home and read that are about their people group.

The final topic I recommend discussing related to worldviews is apologetics. Apologetics is the skill of being able to defend your belief.

Once learning about this your students will be able to connect the two different topics and be able to brainstorm the best way to apply both.

3) How To Build Financial Support

Knowing how to build financial support is a crucial skill for missionaries.

If you do not know how to effectively build support as a missionary, then you will be unsuccessful at being a long-term missionary.

How to teach this:

When teaching on this topic you want to discuss the best ways to build support before going into the field, how to continue to build them when on the field, and how to best use your furloughs.

You can’t enter the field without support. Give ideas and specific steps for students to follow.

Discuss the different ways to build support and the necessary tools for building support. During the course give them practical applications, so that they leave your course feeling confident in building support.

After going over the above discuss budgeting. Budgeting does not easily come to everyone and is an important skill to have on the field. Discuss how to set up a budget, and how to keep to it.

4) Theology

In order to be an efficient missionary, you must have a firm grip on theology. If you do not have a firm understanding of theology and its different components then you will not be able to help others have a firm understanding.

How to teach this:

For this class, you should spend a portion of it discussing the origins of theology and where our theology of Christians derives from.

This will solidify your student’s understanding of Christians belief. Then students will be able to convey this in future evangelism.

When teaching theology you want to make sure you are teaching from a theology textbook to help guide you and keep you from getting to off-topic. I recommend using a systematic theology textbook.

Teaching theology may be overwhelming at first because of all of the different components, but to help you I’ve compiled a list of the most important ones to teach before entering the missions field.

  • Theology proper
  • Theology of salvation
  • Discuss justification
  • Theology of humanity

Teaching this class will not only benefit your students, but I guarantee that after this class will help you deepen your understanding of all these topics.

5) History Of Missions

As inspiring missionaries having knowledge of how missions have grown over the years and how it began helps encourage us by reassuring what we’re doing matters.

Having knowledge of missions also allows us to see what hasn’t worked in the past as well as what we need to improve.

In one of my current classes titled intro to missions, we are using a book called Perspectives.

Perspectives discuss a wide variety of topics regarding missions and the history of it. It is a large book, so I recommend splitting it up into sections to help your students really sink into the material.

You will also want to teach about how our God is a missio dei God. To dig deep into this concept use scripture to back it up.

You will want to use the covenant made to Abraham, the book of Mathew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts. Each of these books refers to the great commission.

Here are some other topics you will want to hit when teaching this topic are:

  • Contextualization
  • Syncretism
  • The importance of the Church and kingdom of God
  • Suffering and persecution and how Christians are affected by it.
  • Modality and sodality

When going through these topics make sure you always go back to the Bible and directly connect each sub topic to the missions field

6) Social Justice

Our God is just and cares about these matters, so we need to also. Though this may not be your main area of focus as a missionary it is important to have an understanding of social justice, how it’s biblical, and all of the matters that are affecting people globally.

When teaching this class you need to ensure you teach it from a biblical perspective.

During class discussions I recommend have specific topics to discuss and an end time so that discussions stay calm and focused.

Some passages from the Bible that go into this topic are Isaiah 1, Isaiah 58, Jeremiah 22, Amos 5, Micah 6, Mathew 25, and Luke 4. Use these passages to show that our God cares about the well-being of His children and we are commanded to also.

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 1:17

This verse confirms that we should care about the well being of others, and be willing to help them whenever possible.

To dive deeper into this book I recommend the book Helping without hurting. This book discusses how to if we do not help effectively we can end up hurting those we’re trying to help – click here to learn more about the book.

7) How To Make Disciples

We are to go and make disciples, so we must have an understanding of how to. We don’t want to go into the nations lead others to Christ, but rather create followers of Christ who seek Him fully.

To teach this class I recommend reading through the gospels. This will help your students see Jesus’ model for discipleship, and how we can apply it when making disciples.

Give specific steps for when making disciples, and examples of how to help some grow as a disciple.

Discuss the stages of a followers of Christ, and how to evaluate that in someone else. This is important because it helps the mentor know where to have them start in discipleship, and target current goals.

My final suggestion for teaching this topic is having each student make their own discipleship plan. A discipleship plan is a tool you can use with steps that help others grow in discipleship.

Each one will end up being changed for each individual person they move towards becoming a disciple.

8) Hermeneutics

Hermeneutics is a tool belt that holds many skills to help you deepen your understanding of the Bible.

As missionaries we want to help those we lead to Christ to be able to understand the Bible, so we must first have an understanding of it ourselves.

When teaching this class you should use a textbook to help your students deepen their understanding even further on how to dissect the Bible.

A great textbook that discusses hermeneutics is How to Read the Bible for all it’s Worth by Gordon D. Fee, and Douglas Stuart.

This book walks the reader on how to better understand the Bible without overcomplicating it.

Go into how to do an inductive Bible study, and the tools that are used in Hermeneutics. Spend some time discussing how to find the historical and literary context of a book from the Bible.

Go into the different types of observations, and then discuss the importance of application steps.

You should also include Bible charting in your course. As a college student who has currently completed four charts on different books of the Bible, learning how to chart is a great tool.

Charting is something that if taught well, helps students apply all of the tools taught during your class and grow in their understanding of God’s word.

Charting is something they can also bring to the field and teach to others.

9) Language Learning

Though we can connect with others beyond language, not knowing the language your people group uses will create barriers for you as a missionary.

In order to learn a language you must first know how to learn a language. You will want to teach skills of how to learn a language.

You will want to go through a list of which parts of the language they need to learn first and the steps in learning a language.

After going over the basics you want to teach them how to apply these skills to the country they will be moving to.

Spend some time discussing the culture and how you can pair the culture with language.

10) Team Leadership

Every team needs a leader, and on the mission field, there are several opportunities for leadership. The leader sets the tone for the entire team, so it’s important to learn how to be a great leader before leading a team.

Spend some time discussing what a leader looks like. What traits they possess, and what skills are necessary for a leader. After go over each skill, and how to grow in each one.

Give specific action steps for growth and application steps for your students to apply.

Here’s a list of some skills/ topics to discuss in your class:

  • Clear communication
  • Organizational skills
  • How to delegate your team
  • How to properly facilitate without overstepping
  • How to negotiate
  • How to be fair with each member
  • The balance between truth and love

Spend some time discussing mentorship, and the importance of having healthy relationships with each individual member of your team.

You want each student to leave feeling confident in their leadership skills and feel ready to lead a team. To make sure they feel this way give them ways to practice their leadership in class.

11) Maintaining Healthy Relationships

On the missions field, you are consistently surrounded by people. When conflict arises on the mission field you can’t just get on a plane and leave. This is why it’s crucial to know how to build and maintain healthy relationships in the field.

To teach how to maintain healthy relationships on the missions field you want to first talk about the importance of unity for us as followers of Christ.

We are not meant to be separate, but to instead work as one body aiming towards the same goal.

You should use excerpts from the Bible for each one of your teachings so that it reflects that all relationships should have Christ at the center.

Conflict will happen in every relationship we have, but even more so when on the field. It is important to discuss how to best deal with conflict when it occurs, and the negative effects it has when it is not resolved.

Point them back to how Jesus dealt with conflict when it occurred, and how we can model that on the field.

Relationships should be selfless rather than selfish, so make sure that you discuss how to achieve this in relationships with others.

Have your students journal on their own personal experiences with both healthy and unhealthy relationships, and write down ways to grow.

Each of these topics should be centered around the missions field, and give specific ways for the students to apply them once they are on the field.

I recommend doing your own research on each topic before teaching them, and to see if there are any other items you feel are important for each topic.

Keep the Bible and Christ at the center of your teaching.

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