How To Prepare to be a Missionary
How do you prepare?
When you consider what a missionary is up against, it can be pretty daunting. Cultural differences cause the people to whom you reach out to think completely differently than you. In addition, Satan has captured and enslaved them for generations. Many of them are fully committed to maintaining the spiritual status quo. So, how do you prepare for all that?
First of all, relax. You can't be prepared enough to accomplish what God alone can do. God calls you to be a learner, to work hard, to grow, and to be willing to be used by Him. He will work through you! Good preparation, though, will help you be ready for all He wants to do through you.
Your spiritual life.
This is the core preparation. Unless God works, nothing of any substance will happen. Only spiritual vitality will produce spiritual fruit. Key focus points are a growing dependence on God, growing spiritual disciplines, growing biblical understanding, and a spiritual world view.
The best spiritual preparation is being mentored . Find a spiritually mature person who is active in ministry and who can disciple you in these areas. Spend time with him or her. Be fully transparent. Ask questions. Listen and implement their advice.
Your personal growth.
You will not change simply by flying to the other side of the world. That will just add a lot more challenges and complications. Continual personal growth is critical for your ministry. Key strengths to develop are confidence in your identity in Christ, skill in initiating and developing relationships, and experience in teamwork.
The best personal preparation is a mentoring relationship. A spiritually mature individual with whom you can be transparent will help you see yourself in ways you can't by yourself. A mentor will help you think through specific steps you can take to grow in these areas.
Your relationships and networks.
God is not calling you to go into ministry alone. He is also calling a team to join you. Start now to develop those partnering networks. Strengthen relationships with your immediate and extended family. If there were struggles in the past, as much as is possible, seek to resolve the conflicts and build healthier patterns. Seek friends who are committed to the Great Commission as well. Make sure that you attend your sending church regularly and get involved in small groups and ministries. Contact us at Encompass World Partners. We can coach you through your preparation and open doors for you. As God leads you to a specific people group, get to know the missionaries and leaders from that area. They can help you gain perspective on missionary life, as well as insight into the culture in which you will be serving.
Your ministry skills.
God has gifted you for ministry within the Body. But He expects us to sharpen our skills. Experiment with different ministries. God may reveal new gifts that you didn't know you had . Get involved in your church’s ministries. Not only will you be learning new skills, you'll be demonstrating your readiness for cross-cultural ministry to your sending church. Focus on relational opportunities rather than structured programs. In pioneer areas, you won't have the programs you're used to. Pursue an internship with Encompass.
Your knowledge base.
A good knowledge base is essential for active ministry. Most people interested in missions complete a college degree. Not only will you learn much about the world and gain skills you can use, the college experience will give you many opportunities for informal ministry and interpersonal skill development.
What is a good major for someone pursuing missions? It depends on the type of ministry for which you are gifted. Majors in Bible, ministry, languages, or cross-cultural studies are all a good match. Majors in education, teaching English as a second language, or business provide skills to use on the mission field. Most college programs provide ample opportunity for electives to add study of cross-cultural issues or world religions and possibly even of the people group you intend to reach.
Beware of the debt trap. Encompass can help those who have an average level of student debt. Yet it is easy to develop a large amount of educational debt or consumer debt while pursuing a college degree. However, every year we talk with students who graduate with minimal or no debt, often without significant personal or family resources. Pursue all the financial aid you can find. Work while in school. Live frugally. Keep focused on a goal of minimizing debt, so you have the freedom to pursue wherever God may call you.
For most people, the next step after a college degree is to gain experience on the field. By going into ministry for two to three years, you will gain a better understanding of your gifts and abilities and where education would help you develop further. You can focus a possible masters program in specific areas that best fit your needs.
Many Encompass missionaries are pursuing masters or other additional training while on the job. They find the additional training provides some of the resources and tools for them to be even more effective in ministry. All Encompass missionaries pursue lifelong learning through formal and informal training.