Supporting churches are an important part of missions. How they perform
their task determines to a significant degree the success of missionaries
among the classes, clans, tribes, tongues, peoples, and nations of the world.
Few churches have had any training for their role as a supporting
congregation. Books, articles, seminars, and workshops to prepare churches
exist (though in limited quantity). For the most part, supporting churches
learn their responsibilities by "trial and error" in the "school of hard
Evaluation of Their Performance by Missionaries
Abilene Christian University
Supporting churches are an important part of missions. How they perform their task determines to a significant degree the success of missionaries among the classes, clans, tribes, tongues, peoples, and nations of the world.
Few churches have had any training for their role as a supporting congregation. Books, articles, seminars, and workshops to prepare churches exist (though in limited quantity). For the most part, supporting churches learn their responsibilities by "trial and error" in the "school of hard knocks."
The underlying question in this research project is: "What opinions do missionaries have regarding the performance of their supporting church?" The data generated by this inquiry are extremely helpful to churches that desire to serve more effectively in the mission of God.
A. Definition of Terms. The pivotal concept in the research question is "supporting church." The missionaries were asked to evaluate the performance of one congregation. Since many missionaries are supported by more than one congregation, the respondents were asked to think of "the church" as the congregation that is their sponsoring church or, if they did not have one, the congregation which supplies the largest portion of their monetary support. It is assumed that the sponsoring congregation, or the church which makes the largest financial investment, will most likely expend the greatest amount of effort in fulfilling its responsibility toward its missionary.
B. Statement of Hypothesis. There are several overriding
assumptions in the project. It is believed that those churches which have
A. Sampling Method. The missionary computer data bank at Abilene Christian University listed 1,019 missionaries, i.e., full time, long term, married or single, male and female workers on the field. Because of the nature of the study, a stratified, random sample was used. The strata, or groups, within the 1,019 population were identified according to the continent of service and gender of the missionary.
The sampling frame chosen from each continent reflected a similar percent which the number of workers in the continent was in relation to the total missionary force in the world (See Figure 1).
|Continent||Number of Missionaries In the Continent||Percent of the Missionaries in the World||Number in the Sample||Percent of the Total Sample|
A. Data Collection Technique.
1. The Instrument. The questionnaire was divided into three sections: background information, committee organization, and performance evaluation (See Appendix A). For the most part, the instrument contains closed-ended questions. This format was chosen for two reasons: it simplified the process of answering the questions as well as tabulating the results. The overriding concern was the ease of responding (though the length of the document was considered in light of overseas postage costs).
2. The Response. The questionnaire was sent to 102 missionaries
by surface and electronic mail on April 12, 1995. Seventy-two instruments
were returned. This is a 70.6% response rate. The percent of male and
female respondents was almost identical:
|Continent||Number of Questionaires Sent||Number of Questionaires Returned||Percent of Returned For Each Continent|
A. Background Information. The missionaries surveyed had been on the field an average of 4.9 years. They were supported by an average of 5.0 churches. Since the majority of the respondents - 62 out of 72 (86.1%) - are supported by more than one church, the respondents were asked how long their sponsoring (or largest monetary supporting) church had supported them. The average was 3.7 years. This indicates that most missionaries must find another sponsoring church every time they are home on furlough! Almost 60% of these churches have less than 499 people attending the Sunday morning worship assembly (See Figure 4).
B. Committee Organization. In order for a congregation to effectively support a missionary - spiritually, psychologically, and financially - one would assume the church had a mission committee. The vast majority did. But one would also assume that these committees were organized, prepared to do the task with which they were entrusted. Of the 60 committees, 38 of them (63.3%) had a meeting once a month, 10 of them (16.7%) got together "as needed" (which usually meant once or twice every six months). Because considerable time elapsed between meetings, it might be assumed a written committee policy and regular meeting notes would help the committee do a better job. However, only 14 of them (23.3%) had a written policy and only 15 of them (25.0%) took notes during their meetings.
C. Performance Evaluation. Given the above profile of the churches' preparation for and involvement in missions, how is their performance evaluated by the missionaries they support? The following discussion measures the organizational, financial, and relational activities of the sponsoring/supporting churches.
1. Organizational Performance. Four variables were compared with each other. Two of the variables received a significant number of "yes" responses and two received a significant number of "no" responses. These variables were then compared with the missionary evaluation of the church's organizational performance. The data reflect a "neutral" attitude among the missionaries regarding the mission organization in their sponsoring/supporting church - 3.1 to 5.0 scale - which is neither a decidedly positive or negative reaction (See Figure 5).
5 Positive 4 3 3.1 2 1 NegativeVariables:
2. Financial Performance. Three financial variables were compared with one another. All three of these received a strong "no" response. These variables were also compared with the missionary evaluation of the church's financial performance. The data indicate that the missionaries had a solidly "positive" attitude - 4.2 on a 5.0 scale - toward the financial performance of their sponsoring/supporting churches (See Figure 6).
5 Positive 4 4.2 3 2 1 NegativeVariables:
3. Relational Performance. Five relational variables were compared with each other. Four out of the five of them were given a strong "no" response. These variables were also compared with the missionary evaluation of the church's relational performance. The data shows a correspondingly "negative" attitude - 1.8 on a 5.0 scale - among the missionaries regarding their relational ties with their sponsoring/supporting churches (See Figure 7).
5 Positive 4 3 2 1.8 1 NegativeVariables:
These distressingly negative comments seem to be a direct outgrowth of weak relational ties between sponsoring/supporting churches and their missionaries. A closer analysis of the data reveals this weakness. The amount of contact originated by the churches with their missionaries is shockingly low. The respondents were asked, "Does the church stay in touch with you? Yes or No. If Yes,' how often?" They felt the church was rather insensitive (See Figure 8).
|Once a Year||23.4%|
|Four Times a Year||31.2%|
|Twelve Times a Year||28.6%|
|More Than Twelve||5.7%|
This research report reflects the opinions of missionaries toward the performance of their sponsoring/supporting churches. Whether right or wrong, they felt there was room for the churches to improve in all three areas studied: organizational, financial, and relational performance in missions.
1. The missionaries were most positive in their evaluation of the financial performance of their sponsoring/supporting churches. They repeatedly expressed gratitude for the monetary support they received. Nevertheless, close to half of the missionaries were in countries where economic upheaval was devastating the buying power of the dollar. Churches should pay their missionaries each month according to the market value of the dollar in the host country. They should also provide retirement for those who have committed their lives to spreading the message of salvation.
2. The missionaries were as a whole neutral regarding the sponsoring/supporting churches' organizational preparation for mission. Though most of the churches had mission committees, very few of them had a current, written mission policy, few took notes during their committee meetings, half of the committees met less than once a month, and most did not read material or attend seminars to improve their effectiveness. These deficiencies must and can be remedied. The level of the churches' commitment to mission will likely be reflected in the thoroughness of their organizational preparation.
3. The missionaries were most concerned about the lack of relational ties the sponsoring/supporting churches had with them. This is unfortunate and unnecessary. Families with sons and daughters in the military overseas make it a point to stay in touch. The men and women in the missionary trenches are in hand-to-hand combat with the forces of evil. They need communication from home every bit as much as our military personnel. It is shocking how little contact the majority of sponsoring/supporting churches have with their missionaries on the field. Rarely do they visit. Occasionally they use e-mail. Sometimes they write or call. Though the churches live in the twentieth century of fantastic communication potential, they operate, for the most part, with their missionaries overseas as if it was the nineteenth century (in terms of communication practices).
The corrections suggested herein require little or no money. The improvement of sponsoring/supporting church performance is a matter of heart the sensitivity of the churches to do unto the missionaries what they would like the missionaries to do unto them.
Missionaries are generally a conscientious group of folks. They want kind, consistent, and wise backing from their sponsoring/supporting churches. Churches are generally a committed body of people. They want to faithfully discharge their mission stewardship. This report has emphasized those areas where missionaries think churches can improve their performance as sponsoring/supporting churches. It is hoped this effort is helpful. May none of us be content with mediocrity. May all of us work together for the advance of the kingdom, for the glory of our God.