Mobilizing Workers for the 21st Century
Weslyan World Missions takes steps to bridge the burning passion for mission and career service.
Jesus was a minister and a mentor. He was also a mobilizer. In Matthew 9:38, He asks His disciples to pray to "the Lord of the harvest ... to send out workers." We, too, can do that. God can use our focused prayers to target radical disciples who can change the world. Mobilizers are merely human links in God's process of calling people to go love others in His name.
As Director of Mobilization for Wesleyan World Missions, I am continually looking for effective ways to mobilize men and women for cross-cultural ministry. But our focus is not on big numbers. We want to send people who are willing to be trained and stretched for ultimate effectiveness. That means developing close connections with church-related colleges, local churches and districts, as well as individuals.
Of course, as a denominational mission agency, we have an advantage. We have an automatic "in" with the leadership of our denominational schools and local churches. We are able to disseminate information efficiently through our quarterly missions magazine, Wesleyan World. Our web site keeps an updated list of current opportunities and needs that is sent promptly to all who inquire about possibilities for ministry. Each college has a "campus rep" or "missionary-in-residence" who interacts with students on behalf of Wesleyan World Missions. This "saturation approach" is helping us build relationships that foster mobilization.
I'm convinced that if we want long-term missionaries, we have to be totally committed to a short-term program.
Our approach to mobilization is relational. We challenge local church pastors to get to know their people, mentoring those who have a heart for ministry, and connecting them with us. Campus representatives develop relationships with students, take them on overseas ministry trips, and keep them informed about the needs of the world. We promote a team concept for our office. Each member of our mobilization team is trained and prepared to respond promptly to any request. We have found that it is easier for missionaries to develop working relationships on-site if they have had a positive experience building a working relationship with our office.
Weslyan World Mission uses a "funnel concept" of mobilization that is centered on helping people discover what God is doing--so they can join Him. We are committed to getting to know the person--their gifts, their strengths, their abilities, their weaknesses--and then trying to connect them with the needs of a field. Our matching process links candidates with a particular missionary who could benefit from their skill while serving as a mentor and encourager. We attempt to communicate our interest in the lives of prospective candidates--regardless of whether or not they serve overseas with Wesleyan World Mission. After a direction is chosen, we pray and guide them through the process of discerning God's plan.
It all begins with the initial inquiry. Whatever the question, we make it a priority to respond promptly. Each request is seen as an opportunity to build trust.
Next, we introduce different types of opportunities and see what happens. We have found that our two-week volunteers often become prospects for our two-month, one-year or two-year programs. Each additional commitment gives depth to our relationship. Many of the short-term workers go on to become longer-term or career missionaries--the desired end of the "funnel."
We have recently launched a brand-new internship program. In the past, we required candidates to have at least two years of experience in ministry before they could go overseas. Some people married spouses who did not share their passion for missions. Others began a new line of work that would capture their affection. Rather than letting them lose their attraction to mission in these interim years, we thought, "Why don't we give them some experience with us?"
Our two-month summer internship specifically targets college students, assessing their experience and discerning whether or not career missions is the right direction. If it is, the intern will return to the States to raise funds in preparation for language school and long-term missionary service.
Growing: Trends in Short-Term and Career Appointments at Wesleyan World Missions:
Source: Mobilization Office, Wesleyan World Missions, 1999
It is our hope that by the time those people are on the field as career missionaries they will be the "cream of the crop." They will have already established healthy relationships with the home office and fellow mission workers--and their expectations are based on real-life experience. Weslyan World Mission believes the heavier up-front commitment in training and development will decrease the rate of attrition. To help with financial burdens that can delay mission service, a student loan repayment program has been created. This helps remove a hurdle for students who feel they could never pay off their educational debts on a missionary salary. With the assistance program they are more likely to seriously consider overseas ministry.
So much has changed from previous generations. I picture pioneer missionaries "packing their belongings in their coffins," so to speak, because they were aware of the likelihood that they would probably die overseas. Today the world is smaller: E-mail, cell phones, and airplanes have a way of shrinking oceans. Opportunities are everywhere. Short-term ministry appeals to today's "fast-food" appetites where a two-week commitment somehow sounds a whole lot better than a year. Our affluent society makes it possible for many young adults to spend $1,000 to travel somewhere for short-term ministry.
I'm convinced that if we want long-term missionaries, we have to be totally committed to a short-term program. That has been proven by the fact that fields who have an aggressive short-term program are the ones getting career missionaries right now. We have to look at short-term experiences as part of the "funnel" that intentionally directs people to the needs of the world and what they can do to make a difference.
As laborers for the harvest, it is quite easy to think that we are responsible for raising up workers for the Harvest. But the Lord is sure to remind us He is the One who raises up people. It's not something we do, but something He does. Our number one job is to cooperate with God, to rely on Him to show us who He's raising up.
Leaders in mobilization can be compared to a forest ranger standing in his lookout tower, peering through his binoculars across the horizon--looking for smoke or other indicators of fire. Similarly, mobilizers must keep a keen eye open for people who have a burning passion for mission. As mobilizers, it is our joy and privilege to encourage them and, ultimately, stand behind them as they are sent for some type of Great Commission work. Viewing mobilization from this perspective can change the way workers in mobilization view life and ministry in the 21st century.