In part 6 of his series, Mark points out the chronic problem of poor planning –
I know missionaries who strategically planned on getting jobs in their new country, only to discover when they arrived that local law would not allow them as foreigners to obtain work permits. I know of missionaries who planned on doing house churches, only to learn that apartments are too small and large gatherings are not allowed in private buildings. I know missionaries who have selected a site for a new church plant without even knowing that there was another congregation already there!
And churches have sent all of these missionaries! With support and oversight! What’s wrong with this picture??
How do we prevent such poor plans? In part 7 of the series, Mark points out that mission training in the Churches of Christ is very ad hoc.
What this means is
- only an extremely small percentage of our fellowship has access to the training. (The figures I remember are that less than 10% of college-aged students within our fellowship attend Christian colleges.)
- the training is usually bundled with other academic requirements
- the training is very costly
- the training is scheduled and paced according to academic requirements which have little to do with greatest access or the most productive use of time.
As with the selection process, we need to move the part of the preparation that is classroom-oriented off of the campuses and into the congregations! Why shouldn’t all available avenues be used to offer training to all of those surfacing with the desire to do foreign missions in our churches?
Hmm … How on earth would congregations that often struggle to have enough teachers for Sunday school classes train future missionaries?
Let’s begin a project of capturing our best mission teachers teaching their best mission classes, making it available through DVD and/or webinars or any other way to make the excellent classroom instruction accessible to non-students, to state university Christians, to working families, to retiring Christians–why not to anyone seriously wanting to prepare to do mission work?
That’s entirely doable. Some universities are already doing this sort of thing, but to my knowledge, not in the field of missions. Another alternative would be distance learning, that is, teaching over the Internet rather than requiring students to be on campus.
One of the problems with the current system is that the incredible resources of our universities are aimed almost entirely at students seeking a four-year or graduate degree. That’s how the world’s universities work, too, but the church’s mission is more than education.
Why not offer courses and certifications that have nothing to do with accreditation and such like? Why not compete with the schools of preaching by offering certifications in missions that have nothing to do with the world’s notion of education? You don’t need courses in English literature and art appreciation to be a missionary in Malawi.
Secondly, I would suggest that we shift to a much stronger apprenticeship model. … To become truly skilled, nothing substitutes for workplace, real-time experiences. As I mentioned earlier, doctors have 2-7 years of “apprenticing.” …
And I would suggest a standard practice among us of no less than two years be devoted to a preparatory apprenticeship, one that would include intensive language study and daily work at the side of the master missionary before a new missionary launches out independently.
Interesting … It works for doctors and in many other fields. Even school teachers must have a semester of student teaching to get a degree. And not a few prospective teachers change majors when they find out what school teaching really entails!
In the Churches of Christ, it would be much easier for a missionary to raise funds if he or she has been through an internship of some sort and has a recommendation from missionaries in the field.