Saturday, January 23, 2010

Missionary Training

I received a note from a mission’s leader doing a survey on missionary training.  This was his question:

“If you were sitting in a room with five missionary trainers, what would you ask them?”

No way am I going to ask ONE question.  How about one question for each trainer. 

First - How practical is your missionary training?  Is it just a syllabus or does it actually help missionaries in their spiritual growth, planting the church or communicating the Gospel to non-believers?  Okay, I understand the need to know how to fill out a financial report to the office or how to write a letter to donors, but is that really what they need on the field? Most “training” in mission organizations today is a two-week orientation on how to work within the system.  What does your training do to help people make a difference in another culture? 

Second - How do you measure training effectiveness?  Of course one must also ask, is the training affective or effective?  What is the goal?  Church planting…how many churches planted?  Reaching the unreached…how many home meetings have been established?  Most training is “affective,” i.e. the emotional needs of people (their own spiritual growth, interpersonal relationships, family and marriage seminars).  All good stuff and needed, but is that the only thing that is taught in training?  Effective training is the operational, the task of what we are suppose to be doing on the field (reaching Muslims, Hindu’s, people who live in urban centers, working among tribal’s).  Does your training actually help people know what to do or say when they are working among the unreached?

Third - How truly contextual is the training?  Is your model of church planting, leadership development, appropriate technology, your BAM (business as mission) program relevant to the host culture?  Or, is it just another good idea that worked in one part of the world but doesn’t have relevance anywhere else?  People don’t need “principles” that work everywhere, because, frankly, they don’t.  Muslims in Senegal are not the same as in Turkey.  Training needs to be culturally/contextually specific.

Fourth - What success do you have in convincing people they need training?  People are taught/trained in every professional field in the marketplace, or at least they should be.  How does one convince people going cross-culturally that what they will do is so important they DARE NOT go without preparation?

Fifth - What organization has the best training and why?  The best organization I knew mandated training, focused on the real needs of missionary preparation and made it cost effective for them to get that training.  They’ve lost their way and now it cost more to go to their training than to a seminary for the same course.  Missionaries resist training, primarily, because of two things:  Time and money.  Solve the time/money problem; make the training practical and meaningful, and PERHAPS more people will be willing to be equipped for cross-cultural work (though it will still be a hard sell).

Those are my questions for missionary trainers.  What’s yours?