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9 Ways to Care for Missionaries

By Laura Dougherty, Mar 28, 2023

Most people aren’t surprised to hear that missionaries face a lot of stress. Support raising, culture shock, ministry pressure, and transitioning from the field to home assignment every few years can feel like climbing Mount Everest while carrying a backpack full of bricks.

This is where the community of the Church can step in and start unloading the bricks.

Here are nine ways to care for missionaries through the many phases of their ministry:

1. Raise a Strong Prayer Base for Them

Missionaries need a lot of prayer warriors. Set up times for small groups, Sunday school classes, or entire congregations to pray with missionaries via a video call. Organize a 24-hour prayer chain when missionaries are launching a new ministry. Encourage each family from your church to pray daily together for a specific missionary family.

2. Network with Potential Prayer and Financial Partners

As new missionaries set out to raise up ministry partners, sending churches often prove to be an invaluable help in connecting with groups of people who the Lord is raising up to be senders.

Consider helping your missionary network with Sunday school classes and small groups in your own church and parachurch ministries connected to your church. Introduce them to your neighbors, friends, local philanthropists, and entrepreneurs.

This will help shoulder the burden missionaries face while raising support. It also further demonstrates to your missionary and others who may be watching that you are a partner in their call and mission.

3. Host a Send-Off Party

A missionary’s final weeks in their home country before departing for the field can be stressful due to the logistics of moving, and yet it is incredibly important for them to have good time with those close to them before they leave.

Sending churches have blessed their missionaries greatly by hosting a send-off party. A party can bless your missionary as it relieves pressure to meet individually with every friend and supporter. This also allows the missionary to invite anyone they wish to see before leaving.

4. Help Them Move

There are many ways to help a missionary juggle the logistics of moving to a different country. Lend a hand in getting their house ready by helping pack, providing childcare while the parents pack, or cleaning their home before or after they move.

Additionally, gifting boxes, suitcases, meals, or restaurant gift cards during the final days before departure are easy ways to take care of their needs while they worry about moving.

5. Maintain Regular Contact

For most churches it’s helpful if there is a dedicated group such as a missions committee, advocacy team, or prayer circle responsible for maintaining communication with the missionary. Assigning this group to regularly call, text, respond to prayer letters, organize, send care packages, and keep up with missionary’s challenges will provide great moral support and alert the church to specific needs. This team should also have a thoughtful response plan should a serious concern arise.

6. Visit Them on the Field

One of the things that makes missionaries feel most cared for is when their own pastor and his wife (or someone in a shepherding role for them) visit—specifically to provide encouragement and learn about their context and lives. It speaks volumes when someone comes to visit without expectations of being a tourist, but genuinely desires to understand and help the missionary.

7. Support Them During Home Assignment

Home assignments can be stressful times of constant travel, speaking engagements, lots of fast food, doctor’s appointments, and attempts to cover bases back on the field from afar. Coming alongside missionaries to care for them physically and emotionally while they are on home assignment truly incarnates the gospel to them in a refreshing way.

Beyond housing and transportation, there are countless ways you can encourage missionaries on home assignment. Take them out to coffee or for a meal. Offer vacation homes. Gift a gym or Costco membership. Invite them to Bible studies or provide professional counseling.

8. Care for Their Family Members

A missionary couple’s ability to continue serving through middle-age and beyond often depends on setting up a support system for their older kids and aging parents. Caring for their aging parents or serving as a home away from home for their college kids are substantial ways to show love to missionaries and can keep them on the field.

9. Help Them Reassimilate Into U.S. Culture

When the Lord leads missionaries to conclude their time serving internationally, the adjustment back to their home country can be a very difficult experience. For some it is even more trying than the initial adjustment to life on the field.

Help ease the transition by asking what their needs are before they get home. Keep asking during their first weeks home and throughout their first couple years home.

Additional ways to help include finding ways to they can serve and be appreciated in your church, helping them connect socially, and offering pastoral counseling.

Missionaries need discipleship, care, and connection to the body of Christ as much as any other Christian. Even though most of this care happens from afar, creating a pipeline of gospel love and support will encourage and strengthen our missionaries so that they can turn around and show that care to the people in their field.

While sending agencies play a very important role in fulfilling the Great Commission and may attempt to fill the missionary care role when necessary, the local church can be much better equipped to care for and spiritually nurture a missionary through the many phases of their ministry. Caring well for your missionary will not only bless them, but also play a key role in advancing the gospel of Christ.

This article was adapted from a section of the resource “Creatively Caring for Your Missionaries” by Laura Dougherty. Adaptation by Chelsea Rollman.

Laura Dougherty
Laura Dougherty, along with her husband, Derek, and two children, served in church-planting with MTW’s team in Cusco, Peru from 2016-2021 helping to plant a local church. Laura and Derek now serve with MTW’s learning team in training and development for new missionaries. They are passionate about helping others grow in their walk with the Lord and preparedness for ministry through group learning and interchange. Visit their missionary profile to learn more about their ministry. 
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