Mobilizing GCOWE’s 200,000 New Missionaries
Training Implications Adopting a "Secular" Model from Our Backyard to Reach the Frontiers
From Ben's GCOWE Journal: It's day three in Seoul at the Global Consultation on World Evangelization. One form of sleep deprivation (jet lag) has been substituted for another (long hours). Today is a transition as we move from opening plenary sessions to working meetings. Approximately 300 of us from over 100 countries convene for the Mobilizing New Missionaries track.
The track's chairman, George Verwer, the ever-enthusiastic leader of Operation Mobilization, and the track's coordinator, Pari Rickard, YWAM's frontier missions point man, jolted us with a wake-up call this morning: Pre-GCOWE meetings resulted in the establishment of a goal to mobilize 200,000 new missionaries by the year 2000.
Verwer alerted us, however, not to get bogged down in the efficacy of a goal or the specificity of a number. The ensuing discussions by the track's delegates recognized that the goal is both captivating and challenging.
Captivating: It Can Be Done! It's a world-wide goal, reflecting missionaries coming from the church around the globe. It's an ambitious goal, doubling the current number of missionaries. It's an arbitrary goal, providing 20 new missionaries for each unreached people group. It's a do-able goal, recruiting just .00033% of all Bible believing Christians. That's just one out of every 3,000 believers.
On the surface, the goal--ten times the number of missionaries produced by the Student Volunteer Movement--is captivating. The echo from the declaration quoted on opening day could still be sensed during Verwer's announcement. "It can be done. It must be done. It will be done."
Then it happened. Someone injected a strong dose of reality. A delegate raised his hand and stated what several in the room were thinking: mobilizing 200,000 new missionaries requires training 200,000 new missionaries.
What are the training implications for achieving this goal? Let's say, arbitrarily, (and this wasn't discussed thoroughly at GCOWE) that the USA would take responsibility for 50,000 new missionaries or 25% of the goal. This would require doubling our current mission force. Could we train 50,000 over the next five years? Can we even train 10,000 new missionaries.
Challenging: It Can Be Done? The GCOWE goal is challenging because mobilizing and training are interdependent. There is the pitfall of sending without training: missionaries arrive on the field unprepared for the realities of both living in another culture and in sharing the gospel cross-culturally. There is the pitfall of postponing the sending in order to complete the training: missionary candidates sometimes fall aside by spending protracted time in the classroom or arrive at an age when it's more difficult to learn a new language. Mobilizing significant numbers of new missionaries requires having a relevant training infrastructure.
As currently structured, however, the missions departments of Bible colleges, Christian colleges, other training centers, and seminaries may be incapable--because of their instructional design--to enroll such an influx of new missionaries.
Why? An estimated source of 100,000 potential missionaries are adults 25 or older who made a missions decision at some point in their life, but lack one often-required credential for appointment by mission agencies: a college degree or a year of Bible. The current missions training infrastructure, however, is designed primarily for students to "go back to college" either by moving to a campus, by commuting to an extension center, or by taking correspondence courses.
But most of these missions-minded adults can't "go back to college" in the traditional way. And it's probably not even a good idea.
Unlike recent high school graduates, these adults just can't pack the car and drive away to college. They have jobs. They have families. Does it make sense to give up income and take on student debt, leave their future source of prayer and financial support, and divorce themselves from established ministry in their home church?
Doubling our missions force is challenging because mission agencies haven't yet encouraged the changing of the training infrastructure. The agencies have their respective educational standards--from requiring no training at all to requiring a Master of Divinity degree-- but they leave it to the institutions to train and credential the mission candidates. Yet mobilizing so many new missionaries will require some new thinking by educational institutions as well as mission agencies.
A Secular Model in Our Backyard Most Christian educational institutions are enrollment-driven. With up to 70 to 90% of their budget linked to student numbers, any downward swing in the headcount creates financial troubles. As the number of high school graduates plummeted in the 1980s, Christian colleges, for example, couldn't rely on enrolling the 18 year old freshmen alone. Searching for new students, the 40 million Americans with only two years of college became an enticing constituency.
Initially, Christian colleges began offering evening and weekend classes for adults. Then they opened extension centers. Because the credential of a "diploma" remains helpful in job advancement, Christian colleges took the next step and created degree completion programs. The working adult with two years of college can finish a degree over an 18 month period by going to class one night a week for four hours and studying another 12-16 hours a week at home. These programs are being driven by the schedule and training needs of the customer--the student. Reflecting the needs of the marketplace, degree completion curricula serve primarily the business and human services fields.
Such programs, however, seldom reflect the faith-centered environment experienced on the home campus of the sponsoring Christian colleges. Unlike the students who live on campus, attend chapel, and interact with faculty and students outside the classroom, these adults only show up for class. College administrators (and I used to be one) will admit uneasiness about the "secularization" of their institutions by these degree completion programs whose headcount may rival or supersede that of the main campus and whose revenue contributes significantly to the institution's budget.
What does this have to do with mobilizing new missionaries? A lot.
Take the degree completion program model. Engineer a curriculum for missions. Suddenly, an infrastructure emerges which exists to mobilize and train adults to be the new missionaries. At least one such example exists of such a re-engineered model.
A Borrowed Approach-- One Example Adopting the degree completion model for mobilizing new missionaries involves the partnership of a mission agency, a Christian college, and a curriculum.
An agency. Wycliffe Bible Translators, the world's largest Protestant mission agency, is piloting the opportunity for people to be appointed to do language surveys without a college degree if they can finish the degree on the field. Nevertheless, Wycliffe relies on educational institutions to provide the training.
A college. Two regionally accredited Christian colleges are already adopting a curriculum unique in its design and delivery. The program, entitled World Christian Foundations (WCF), provides 48 semester hours of upper division undergraduate credit. Students must have two years of earned credit and meet the other admission requirements of the respective college.
A curriculum. Design: Instead of presenting each course one at a time under different professors and specialists, this program integrates many disciplines at every step while at the same time employing a consistent missions point of view. The curriculum is divided into four modules of 12 semester units each.
Delivery: While traditional degree completion programs require students to drive to a location to join with fellow students, WCF requires the student to meet weekly with a locally qualified mentor (approved by the participating college). Rather than going to class during the day when it's convenient for the college, the student can pursue studies with a time frame that takes into account work and home commitments. But the mentoring relationship moves the studies beyond the level of correspondence work.
While the WCF curriculum is especially suited for the working adult, it is also geared to those 1) serious about the cause of missions who are not yet clear about God's direction, 2) those called to mission mobilization, 3) those already serving on the field, and 4) those in leadership in national churches who want the best biblical, theological and missiological training without coming to the U.S.
For people who do already have a degree but need training for missions, WCF may be pursued at the graduate level or as a year of Bible. Relocation, loss of income, and student debt are bypassed.
The WCF curriculum is being developed by the Institute of International Studies at the U.S. Center for World Mission. Nevertheless the Center's staff is far more interested in the adoption of a field-based, mentored, and missions point of view approach than the imposition of a specific curriculum.
Mobilizing new missionaries has training implications. Achieving both mobilizing and training, especially when considering the adult missionary candidate, requires some new thinking. However, we need to look no farther than our "backyard" for an approach. WCF is one example of connecting the participants--potential missionary candidates, mission agencies, and educational institutions. This new approach may indeed make it possible to both mobilize and train the 200,000 new missionaries required for "A Church for Every People and the Gospel for Every Person."
An Invitation Through space in Mission Frontiers, readers will be updated about the progress of World Christian Foundations. For more information, see the box on this page. If you have questions, suggestions, or know of other models to help mobilize new missionaries, please contact us.
Ben Sells, the newly appointed director of the World Christian Foundations program, has a Ph.D. in Higher and Adult Education from the University of Missouri, most recently served as a vice president at Southwest Baptist University (Bolivar, Mo.), and taught ESL in China.
For More Information l Students wanting more information? l Colleges interested in adopting the curriculum? l Mission agencies seeking to benefit?
Helping Develop WCF To meet the demand of finishing the curriculum, we need short-term volunteers working in Pasadena or from home to help in research, production, and typesetting.
World Christian Foundations U.S. Center for World Mission 1605 Elizabeth Street Pasadena, CA 91104--2127 Phone: 818-398-2184 FAX: 818-398-2185 E-mail: [email protected]