Jan mentors a missionary candidate at Cross-cultual Ministry Internship training in Belgium. She and her husband were headed to Australia on a work visa related to landscape architecture.
Vocational Ministry Partner Development -- what are we learning about new models of missions deployment?
Missions is changing. That's not new. What's new is the complexity that surrounds change management. That is due in large part to the global nature of missions.
The president of Missio Nexus, Stephen Moore, said in an interview with CT in 2013:
". . . change is no longer the biggest challenge of [missions] leadership; it is the complexity in which change management occurs. Creativity is the most important leadership competency for those responsible for leading a [mission] organization in an increasingly complex world."
I teach a global trends seminars for Leadership in an Interconnected Word training series offered by our Global Training and Development department at Mission to the World. In connection with the global trends training I also do a seminar on innovation. Mission agencies today need to be deeply invested in innovation and fully cognizant of how global trends can either assist or hinder gospel expansion.
One very important trend is the reluctance of the emerging generation demographic in regards to traditional missions deployment. When I say emerging generation, I am using a term that goes beyond the designation that many use for millennials. Young adults in the 18-35 year old age group are increasingly hesitant to follow a traditional path into missions.
They are just as motivated by the gospel to "go global." But they want to go with their vocations intact. Support raising is not on their radar screen nor is it likely to pop up there because someone challenges them to respond to the Great Commission. If they respond, and many would and some do, it is to the idea that they could use their vocation overseas to further the Kingdom of God here on earth.
Even if they did consider support raising there are indications that the same dynamic -- worldview changes in the emerging generation -- would make it harder and harder for them to raise support. In 2016 the Southern Baptist's International Mission Board laid off over 1000 missionaries and staff. The reason that was given was a 210 million dollar overspend of budget in the last five years.
While there are a number of reasons for the lay offs at IMB the fact that they have reduced their missions force steadily since a high of 5600 in 2009 to a present number around 3800 is data than needs careful review. Missions is changing. The church needs creativity and innovation to respond to trends that are causing major shifts in strategic deployment of its missions force.
One thing I do know is that vocational missions has a strategic part to play in restoring depleting or stagnant numbers that are being seen in missions recruiting efforts. How big a part is yet to be seen.
From my point of view, in talking to pastors, lay leaders, church members and particularly young people who are weighing a call to missions -- working overseas full time while doing ministry part time -- or working part time while doing ministry full time -- is an increasingly attractive model.
In talking to missionaries on the field, I have learned that many would welcome colleagues who hold full-time or part-time jobs but are active members of church plants where previously only traditional missionaries have been present as expats. A video that I hosted on our sister website, 18.26network.com, a young lady from the US talks about using fashion design to reach people for Christ in Uganda.
This amazing short testimony to the validity of vocational ministry has, with very little fanfare, been viewed over 1770 times on Facebook and a similar number of times on the 18.26 website itself. People are contacting from around the globe with interest in becoming involved in vocational ministry.
Our next step is to create a network of vocational ministry practitioners and want-to-be practitioners. Our sister website should be a help as we start to develop models of recruitment, training, deployment and service for the vocational ministry global community.
We are learning that we need to be creative in managing complexity -- and that we have much more to learn.
Jud Lamos, February 8, 2017
Jud and Jan Lamos have been in global ministry for over 40 years -- not combined years -- but 40 sequential years together. They have lived in the Middle East, Europe and the Americas and now travel extensively to globalize Mission to the World's vision, values and goals. These blogs add special insight into their lives of service.