I received a good question from Missions Catalyst e-Magazine. Shane Bennett writes,
So, how have you seen short-termers transformed into long-termers? I’m thinking of good examples in which sharp people end up in significant, well-fitting roles. I’m imagining non-manipulative methods in which people are invited to recognize their gifts, are provided with proper stepping stones to long-term commitment, and are shepherded into a successful cross-cultural career.
This is an excellent question and one that a lot of missions agencies (including Fellowship International Ministries) have discussed often. If you have any ideas or experience in this, please let me know. Do you know someone who went from short term missions to career missions? If so, how did that transition occur? Can we discover a pattern or a means for greater impact that would encourage people towards a long term investment in international ministry? If you have any ideas, drop me a line via the form below.
One concern that I have is that the strong cultural emphasis on individualism in our churches mitigates against the possibility of a communal decision to appoint someone to missions. We have personal decisions, a personal walk with Christ, personal devotions and a personal calling to ministry. When pastors decide to move on they make a personal decision and then involve the church in the process. All major decisions are personal, and while professional advice is often sought, communal involvement in personal decision making (job, spouse, education, etc.) is unusual. I am not opposed to this system; it is a reflection of our cultural orientation and comfort zone because, as Canadians, we are quite reserved about having direct involvement in those aspects of other people’s lives considered "personal".
However, the downside of this is the reticence we have to provide others with direction and insight for a calling into cross-cultural ministry. As churches we give general invitations, but rarely identify individuals as capable of international service and challenge them in that direction. Perhaps this lack of input in people’s lives keeps them unaware of their potential to serve God in missions. The general sense in that anyone can go on a STM trip, but in our context it feels presumptuous to take the initiative in proposing a career in missions for someone else.
Do you agree with this assessment or are there other, more important factors?