Missionary Care Policy

Missionary Care Policy

Missionary Care Policy

Hills Bible Church (HBC) is a body of believers dedicated to making disciples of Christ. This is articulated in our Vision Statement:

HBC exists to glorify God by making, maturing, and multiplying disciples of Jesus Christ in our local communities and to the least reached peoples of the earth.

The work of missions is crucial to carrying out this vision in full, to include ‘the least reached peoples of the earth’.

We believe that the local church is the best place for making and maturing disciples, where people can find biblical teaching, encouragement, exhortation, communal worship, and all other means of grace.

The missionary is in unique situation by being simultaneously connected to two churches – a local church and their sending church. On the field they are engaged in work to strengthen or plant a church, so are fully engrained in that church and accountable to it. But they remain a part of their sending church, which maintains a level of authority, accountability, and support. Upholding this connection to the sending church is especially important when the missionary has been sent to a location without a strong local church. The realities of distance, isolation, and culture present unique challenges to the missionary, and the sending church needs to provide spiritual and pastoral support, where the local church may be ill-equipped to do so. Therefore, it is important for HBC to have a strong relationship with our missionaries, to ensure they are properly cared for and can thrive in the ministry.

Our Mission statement contains four elements. It is to see believers:

  • KNOW God’s Word
  • LIVE by God’s Word
  • COMMIT to God’s Work
  • IMPACT God’s World

The oversees missionary is the one most directly Impacting God’s wider world, but their impact will be stilted if they neglect the first three elements of Knowing, Living, and Committing. The role of HBC in this is to enable, support, and encourage the missionary in Knowing and Living by God’s Word, and remaining Committed to God’s work – both as they are preparing to go, and throughout their service, that their Impact may be fruitful and faithful. This is an effort undertaken by the wider church body, led by the Pastoral Team.

Categories of Missionary

Hills Bible Church is associated with four ‘categories’ of missionary, according to two classifications:

Sent or Supported

Sent missionaries are members of HBC, and HBC is their official sending church. Supported missionaries are ones we pray for and support financially from the church budget, but they have a different sending church.

Local or International

Local missionaries are those serving in Melbourne or other major cities in Australia. International is self-explanatory, but may also include remote Australia.

So the four categories are:

  • Sent-Local
  • Sent-International
  • Supported-Local
  • Supported-International

The Missionary Care Policy focusses mainly on Sent-International, though elements are applicable to all categories. Certain aspects may be altered or removed, or additions made on a case-by-case basis due to the inherent variability of mission work.

Biblical Principles

The New Testament shows a consistent pattern of supporting those engaged in ministry, and sending them on in the work. Paul and Barnabas are commissioned by the Antiochan church with fasting, praying, and laying on of hands (Acts 13:3). John exhorts the church to send the workers ‘in a manner worthy of God’ (3 John 6). This means we are to strive for excellence in how we send and care for missionaries, in honour and recognition of their calling and sacrifice. To do so means they are not forgotten or sent as a once-off action, but we become ‘fellow workers for the truth’ with them (v. 8), implying an ongoing working relationship. This idea is further expressed in 1 Tim 5:17-18, where those labouring in the gospel are to be regarded with double honour and compensated well for their efforts.

The occasion for Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians was a monetary gift that they had sent him (4:18). It also describes how they partnered with one another through prayer (1:3-5) and sent visitors to bring gifts, news, and encouragement (2:19-25). They had a loving and caring relationship (1:7; 2:26-30; 4:10, 14), where the support of the Philippian church increased their own spiritual fruit (4:16). The New Testament clearly teaches the rich mutual benefits of sending well and ongoing care.

Ultimately, the purpose is to fulfil the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20), and to do it well, that the nations may glorify God (Psalm 117), so both missionary and sender may receive the commendation ‘well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matt 25:21).

Sending

The primary purpose of this policy is on caring for those already sent, but the first stage of caring well is sending well, so it is worth briefly addressing.

Discernment

The Elders need to be discerning and discriminatory about who is sent. Some criteria are:

  • An active covenant member of the church
  • Should be currently serving at HBC in some capacity
  • A mature disciple of Christ
  • Has proven ability to grow through tests and trials
  • Gifted to fulfil their intended role on the field
  • Meets the qualifications for elders or deacons, depending on their role

Financial & Material Support

The missionary will generally receive a promised allocation from the church budget prior to departure, as well as sponsorship from individuals in the church.

The missionary can also bring other material needs to the church.

Engagement with Missionary Organisation

If the missionary is going with a third-party organisation (e.g. Pioneers, SIM), that will be in conversation with the pastors, to help with discernment of an appropriate organisation, and clarifying the roles and expectations of each party.

Preparation & Ministry Partnership

HBC will assist the missionary in the Ministry Partnership phase by:

  • Publicly announcing and endorsing the missionary in the Sunday service(s)
  • Making introductions for the missionary to visit individuals and Life Groups
  • Maintaining a regular mention in the bulletin
  • Ensuring prayer updates are included in monthly prayer meetings
  • Providing pastoral care as needed
  • Providing/organising other material help as needed

Recommended Books & Podcasts

  • Missions Talk Podcast by 9Marks
  • John Piper, Let the Nations be Glad
  • Courtney Anderson, To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson
  • John Paton, Autobiography

Care on the Field

Prayer

Prayer provides a vital connection between HBC and our missionaries. It is a time to bring requests and thanksgiving to God (Phil 4:6). Our God is the one who is powerful and enables the work, making it bear fruit (1 Cor 3:6-7). So prayer is one of the most powerful ways we can be engaged.

To facilitate continual prayer for our missionaries:

  • Newsletters and Updates will be published in the Bulletin
  • Where appropriate, prayer requests can also be mentioned in the Sunday announcements
  • Missionaries are included in the Pastoral Prayer for Church and Nation
  • Missionaries will be specifically prayed for in monthly prayer meetings
    • Approximately half the prayer time will be on missions
    • Each month will have a focus on a specific missionary or location
  • Prayer for our missionaries will be incorporated into the annual Missions Conference

Financial Giving

Missionaries are workers for the gospel who have sacrificed much, including employment opportunities in Australia. Most need to raise ongoing financial support to cover all or some of their material needs. The worker is worth their wages, so HBC will assist in this, especially for those Sent by us.

  • At least 10% of HBC’s budget is set aside for Missions, divided among various missionaries and mission projects
  • The division is at the discretion of the Elders, according to the work and needs of each
  • Missionaries in the Sent-International category are to be prioritised
  • Where missionaries are sent with a third-party organisation, their budget is usually arranged in consultation with the organisation
  • Church members are encouraged to prayerfully consider ways they could be financially supporting missions, especially when we have a missionary on Deputation or Home Assignment

Advocacy Team

To ensure constant contact between the missionary and HBC, the missionary shall establish an advocacy team before departing. This team will enable a more frequent and informal mode of communication than newsletters.

Team Details:

  • 4-8 members, with a designated leader
  • Commit to one ‘term’ (approx. 2-4 years; including the Home Assignment period at the conclusion of the term)
  • Mature friends of the missionary, chosen by them
  • Good communicators, who know how to ask discerning questions Roles and Responsibilities:
  • Actively and regularly pray for the missionary
  • Aim to be in regular two-way communication
    • i.e. Be in a group chat with the missionary that is active at least once a week
    • Sending prayer points (both ways), verses, songs, words of encouragement
  • Advocate for the missionary in the church
    • Convey prayer requests for announcements, bulletin, prayer meetings
    • The team will lead the missions spot at prayer meeting, on behalf of the missionary, approx. twice a year
    • Relay material/practical needs, especially for Home Assignment
  • Do ongoing, regular Pastoral Care & Support
  • Send Care Packages a few times a year (if practicable)
  • Initiate/Recommend for short-term trips to the Pastoral Team
  • Celebrate special occasions (e.g. birthdays, Christmas) with messages/calls/gifts
  • See the Appendices for more information

Short-Term Trips

For mutual benefit and encouragement, HBC will aim to visit our Sent-International missionaries once every 3-4 years. The goal of these trips is discipleship, encouragement, and for us to see with our own eyes how the missionary is doing, that we may better pray for, support, and guide them. It therefore needs to be long enough to get an informed view of the actual condition of the missionary, their church and ministry, and their personal/family life and relationships. About 5-7 days is appropriate. While some sight-seeing will inevitably happen, the purpose and focus is on the missionary and their work.

The size and make-up of the team will be as follows:

  • 3-8 Let the missionary dictate the number. They know what is logistically feasible in their location
  • At least one pastor or staff member
  • At least one member of the Advocacy Team (or other mature, discerning friend of the missionary)
  • Church members who are exploring missions
  • Others who may be a genuine help

Home Assignment

Missionaries normally are on ‘terms’ of 2-4 years, and visit their home country and home church for an extended period at the conclusion of each term.

Home Assignment has a number of important goals:

  • Rest & Recuperation
  • Pastoral Care
  • Reconnecting with sending church, as well as other partner churches and individuals
  • Visiting family and friends
  • ‘Topping up’ financial support
  • Discernment of future ministry direction
  • It can also include practical things like shopping and medical/mental/spiritual check- ups

HBC, led by the Pastors and Advocacy Team, will support the missionary in their physical and spiritual needs while on Home Assignment. Often the cost of living is much greater, providing financial strain, and there are many stresses related to reverse culture-shock, concerns about ministry while absent, changes in church and friendships, and much more. Methods of support will include pastoral care, promotion in the church, and assistance with organising accommodation and transportation.

Pastoral Care

Missionaries have distinct pastoral care needs, and often are in locations or situations where those needs are unable to be met by those around them. The Advocacy Team will be engaging in continual pastoral care, but where more specific or serious needs arise, the Pastoral Team will be available.

 

Appendix A – Advocacy Team Training

The Advocacy Team is a highly significant contributor to the long-term health and fruitfulness of the missionary. As such, it is important that they know what they are committing to, the amount of commitment required, and that they are well-equipped to fulfil the role. To achieve this, one of the Pastors will lead a short Equip class series for the Team. The missionary can attend if desired, but it’s not necessary, except where stated.

The class can be tailored to the specific situation, the following is a possible schedule covering the main points.

  • Week 1: ‘Why Missions’
    • Discuss the biblical basis for missions
    • A history of missions
    • The need for ongoing mission work today
    • The goal is to develop the Team’s heart for mission work, that they may understand and share the motivations behind the missionary
  • Week 2: ‘Actual Care, Effective Prayer’
    • The specific issues and difficulties missionaries face
    • Biblical Counselling Basics
    • How to ask the hard questions
    • How to pray effectively
    • How to genuinely care for and help the missionary in difficult times
    • This may need two sessions to cover adequately
  • Week 3: ‘Culture’
    • The missionary A look at the culture and history of the location where the missionary is serving
    • Especially on the spiritual/faith make-up and history
    • Understanding how that affects the missionary’s work and what opposition they may face
    • Tie into the previous session, with more specific action
  • Week 4: ‘Roles & Responsibilities’
    • The missionary needs to attend this session
    • Go through the Missionary Care Policy, especially the section on Roles & Responsibilities of the Advocacy Team
    • Turning the theory into practical
    • Discuss the level of commitment required, and the need for the Team to be active and pro-active.’
      • Especially in terms of the regular communication e. via WhatsApp group
      • Set realistic expectations on both sides, with input from the missionary on their communication style, and what kind of things they will find helpful
      • So as to avoid disappointment, or it becoming burdensome
    • Discuss what action steps can be taken now to get the Team active and working. What practical assists are needed in the immediate future, up until the missionary is established on the field.
  • Week 5: ‘Prayer’
      • Run by the Team Leader
      • Putting into action all that has been discussed, and the ‘launch’ of the Team
      • Spend the Equip hour praying for the missionary and their work

Appendix B – Advocacy Team Meetings & Review

The consistent communication can be done on a relatively individual level, but the Advocacy Team still needs to function as a team. To achieve this, they will meet up regularly.

  • Directed by the Team Leader
  • Approximately every two months
  • During the Equip hour, or one of the two Services, so as not to add another item to the calendar
  • Pray together
  • Discuss practical matters and how they can fulfil them (e.g. organise a Care Package or prepare for Home Assignment)

It is also important, especially as things are starting out, for the team and its functioning to be reviewed. This will happen at 6 months and 12 months in, and every 12 months thereafter.

  • Led by the Team Leader and a member of the Pastoral Team
  • How discuss how the group is functioning
    • Are there any concerns?
    • How is engagement and communication going with the missionary?
    • How is engagement and communication going with HBC?
    • Is it fitting and appropriate for its purpose?
    • Are there any changes needed?
  • At 12 months, discuss the possibility of a short-term visit

View or download this policy here

Updated: 5 June 2024