Friday, June 5, 2015

In Defense of Second-Class Missionaries

Imagine what it would look like for an American church to hire their staff with the same priorities that they chose missionaries to financially support.

First of all, a Children's Pastor would definitely be out.  Not strategic enough; he's only supporting the children of believers.  Youth Pastor?  Also out, unless he targets neighborhood kids.

How about a Music Pastor?  Or Pastoral Counselor?  Nope.  Those are just a support roles.  Not enough front-line ministry.

Administrative Pastor?  Receptionist?  Good heavens.  We could never dream of paying someone for those kind of inconsequential support roles.

How about a Preaching Pastor?  Well.....that's if-y, but he probably doesn't make the cut either.  After all, he's only feeding the Body.  Most of the time, he's not actually reaching the lost.

So that pretty much leaves only the positions of Community Outreach Pastor or Evangelist.  Yet how many American churches even have those paid positions?

I'm not suggesting that churches go about firing two-thirds of their staff.  I just want to point out a bit of a double-standard.

Recently, a friend told me, Oh, I could never consider taking a position at Haven of Peace Academy.  I know my church would never take me on for a support role.  

And from a current teacher at HOPAC, We love what we do at HOPAC, but we feel like our supporters just want to see pictures of the street kids ministry, even though that only takes up two hours of our week.

And from another teacher when hosting a short-term team:  The team gets most excited about the ministry to the poor kids.  They don't seem to understand the importance of reaching HOPAC kids.

Let me introduce you to the class system among missionaries.

Who is on the A-List?  Well, that would be the Church Planters.  Among unreached people groups gives you A+ status.  Pastoral Trainers and Bible Translators might be able to squeak by with an A.

The B-List?  Doctors and other health workers, community development, poverty alleviation, ESL workers.

The C-List?  Administrators, missionary member care, MK teachers, or anyone else considered "support."

This is definitely not our imagination, and any missionary I know will confirm it.  When trying to raise support for our years at Haven of Peace Academy, we called and sent information packets to over 200 churches in California.  We heard back from two.  Churches told us, over and over again, Sorry, but that ministry doesn't fit into our strategy.  

When our ministry changed to Pastoral Training, we had churches calling us.  It was nice.  But frankly, kind of frustrating.

We didn't switch ministries so that we would become more popular with churches.  We switched because that's where God was leading us.  But the truth is, we don't consider Pastoral Training to be any more strategic, or any more exciting, than Haven of Peace Academy.  

HOPAC is training the next generation of Tanzania's leaders in a biblical worldview.  Over 50% of HOPAC's students are Tanzanian, most from influential families.

Perhaps equally, or even more important, HOPAC is enabling missions in Tanzania. Young Life and SIL/Wycliffe have established their East African headquarters in Dar because of HOPAC!  Dozens of other organizations are able to minister here as well.

Oh come on, I can hear you saying.  Can't all those families just homeschool?  Yes, if they had to.  A lot of missionary families don't have another choice.  But imagine trying to homeschool your kids, and simultaneously, become fluent in another language, and learn to drive, shop, cook, clean, pay bills, play, and rest in an entirely different way.  Without any homeschool groups or co-ops or craft stores.  Sound fun?

Look at it this way.  You can either financially support a missionary mom to (possibly reluctantly) homeschool her four kids, or you can financially support a missionary teacher (who's called to it) to teach 25.  It's not like the mom is going to sit on her hands all day.  She'll be right out there working in ministry.

I'm particularly passionate about MK education, but I could say the same things for all the other so-called "support" roles in missions.  I just wrote my last three posts about the often harsh realities of life overseas.  Yet when Christians stand up and say, I'm called to missionary care!  I'm called to teach MK's!  I'm called to missions administration!, the churches say, Well, sorry, you don't fit in our strategy.  We'd rather get behind the exciting church planters and the pastoral trainers.  Except, we expect them to do it without all the other people they need to be successful.

I sit on the board of governors at Haven of Peace Academy.  At almost every meeting, we bang our heads against the wall, asking ourselves, How are we going to get enough teachers?  Every year, it's a problem.  Every year, we pray and plead and try to get more creative with recruitment.

But you want to know the reality?  Churches are just not as interested in supporting teachers. Heck, even missions organizations are not as interested in supporting teachers.

Listen, I'm all about strategy in missions.  But can we expand our idea of what strategy means?  Missionaries, as an extension of the Church, must function as the Body of Christ.  Could the American Church function by only hiring evangelists?  I realize that missions has different goals--we are working ourselves out of a job; we are doing everything we can to replace ourselves with national believers.  But to get there, we need the Body of Christ.

We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.  (Romans 12)

The legs can't do anything without the arms and fingers and neck.  So go out today and find your nearest missionary accountant or counselor or MK teacher.  Remind them they are never second-class.

For the next school year, HOPAC is still looking for an Operations Manager, an Elementary Teacher, a P.E. teacher, a Librarian, and a Special Needs Teacher.

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