Our family of six arrived at our first missionary assignment in Spain in the heat of summer. Our four children ranged from 9-16 years old. We thought we were in for the adventure of a lifetime. We loved the people of Spain and had a burden to reach them with the gospel and to train godly men in ministry. We did not realize that we were not prepared to biblically handle the pressures and issues that we were to face in our home, in the Spanish culture and in ministry. Our term was cut short, in spite of our burden, our vision, our desire and our commitment to God. We became one of the statistics of missionary attrition, in large part because we were not sufficiently prepared before being sent.
Few churches are well-equipped or ready to prepare missionaries for effective service. “Churches that want to run their own missionary society will find it hard to prepare missionaries themselves” (Lane 2000, 31). For this reason, the leadership of Faith Global Missions (FGM) began investigating the topic of missionary Pre-Field Orientation and Training (PFOT). I am writing this series of articles to help missionary candidates and sending churches have a better understanding of what it means to prepare men and women for cross-cultural missionary ministry.
I serve as the pastor of global outreach at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN. Two of my primary responsibilities are to oversee the international missions ministries of the church and to oversee its affiliated mission agency, Faith Global Missions (FGM). Those responsibilities have caused me to spend many hours researching missionary attrition, health and effectiveness, especially in connection with pre-field training.
Both religious and secular experts agree that there is a significant need for pre-departure or pre-field training for those being assigned to work internationally. Pre-departure training is costly, but plays an important role in facilitating success in cross-cultural work thereby reducing attrition, which usually takes place in the first term. (Blocher 2004; Blocher and Lewis 1997, 113–14; Dipple 1997, 217–18; Ghafoor 2011, 337–8; Lindquist 1982; Taylor 1997, 14). Missionary attrition usually takes place in the first term (Lindquist 1982).
In January I wrote an article entitled The Cost of Missionary Support Raising. In it, I laid out the real cost associated with missionary support-raising. The cost of living in other countries is often higher than in the United States and missionaries are often required to pay high taxes in the country where they serve.
In this series of articles I would like to briefly introduce four key areas: Missionary Attrition, Missionary Retention and Missionary Competency and Missionary Spiritual Formation.
Bloecher, Detlef, and Jonathan Lewis. 1997. “Further findings in the research data.” In Too valuable to lose: exploring the causes and cures of missionary attrition, edited by William D. Taylor, 105–25. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.
Bloecher, Detlef. 2004. “Training builds missionaries up – lessons from ReMAP II.” https://www.dmgint.de/files/cto_layout/img/red/downloads/PDFs/englisch/missionary_training_s_22104.pdf.
Lane, Dennis. 2000. Tuning God’s new instruments. Springfield, MO: Life Publishers International.
Lindquist, Stanley E. 1982. “Prediction of success in overseas adjustment.” Journal of Psychology and Christianity 1 (2): 22–25.
Taylor, William D. , ed. 1997. Too valuable to lose : exploring the causes and cures of missionary attrition. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.