Missionaries Should Communicate—and Churches Should Demand It

On our last missionary furlough I spoke with dozens of pastors and church leaders about their churches’ support for missionaries. In difficult economic times most churches were reducing their budgets. Without exception, every single church cutting support to missionaries told me they were going to eliminate support for “the missionary we have been supporting for years, but we just don’t hear from anymore.”

Eliminating support for non-communicative missionaries is an wonderful idea, for two reasons: (1) churches must be good stewards of the resources they have been given, and throwing money at a missionary who is not a partner with their church is foolish, and (2) missionaries must learn the importance of communicating with the partners in their ministry.

Act Like a Team

Missionaries, you have been called to leave your home and family and culture to go to far-off lands and serve in the name of Christ. That is a beautiful calling, and you should embrace it. The individuals who stay home and pray for your efforts and write checks to support your work are equally called by God to play their role. God has called the missionary to go, and God has also called the supporters to remain home and make missions work possible. The calling is equal. Senders and goers are a team. Act like it.

I have met too many missionaries who view their supporters as a hurdle they must overcome before they can get onto the mission field and do what God has called them to do. When these missionaries are raising their financial support they say all the right things—“partner with me,” “join the team” and “accept God’s calling.” But, as soon as their support is raised they forget about the team with whom God has surrounded them.

As Christians we are responsible to lift up our fellow believers and make it easier for them to glorify God (Deuteronomy 22:4, Proverbs 27:17, Galatians 6:1-5). Working together to advance God’s plan for the world requires prayers, givers, and goers. A major part of our responsibility as goers is to provide the prayers and the givers with everything they need to better pray for us and the people we serve. If supporters of missionaries don’t know what to pray for, missionaries have not done their job.

Use Technology

Fellow missionaries have told me, “Doing all that communication work takes time away from ministry.” They miss the point. Communicating God’s glory and telling the world all the wonderful things he is doing in far-off lands is not a burden; it is part of your ministry. “Let them shout from the top of the mountains” (Isaiah 42:11).

Communication is not difficult, expensive, or time-consuming. Most Majority World countries have internet access and smartphones. Social media resources (like Blogger, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, and so on) are free and easy to use.  Most entry-level digital cameras have both photo and also video capability, as do most smartphones. Websites can manage your newsletter database or send out personalized postcards and “thank you” notes. If indeed missionaries are doing wonderful work, they should shout it from the cyber-mountaintops. There are very few excuses to be a poor communicator in this day and age.

It is not difficult for missionaries to communicate with their supporters. Write a couple blog posts a week, take a picture every day, send out a 140-character tweet, and e-mail a short, picture-filled newsletter once a month. If missionaries even communicated that much, supporters would feel like they are part of the ministry. When you share the stories of your work with the people who have committed to pray for and support you, then you are helping them to fulfill the Great Commission.

What It Looks Like

In our ministry in Honduras we know some supporters don’t subscribe to our tweets, or watch our videos, or even open our e-mailed newsletters. That is fine. But we also know many diligent readers, and they want more information. They want to pray specific prayers for Antonio, they want to see Calisto’s face, and they want to know my wife is feeling better. They want to be connected. Communication is not intrusive or burdensome. If people don’t have time or simply don’t want to read about your ministry, they can delete, unfriend, or save the message for later. But if missionaries aren’t sending out regular communication, they are not giving their supporters the choice to get more involved.

Churches and individual partners, you need to insist the missionaries you support are communicating with you. You are just as much a part of that ministry as the missionary in the field. Get passionate about your calling towards missions. Demand regular communication from your missionaries, but also take the initiative. Check in on them. Tell them you pray for them. Prove to them you’ve been reading their reports. Let them know their communication efforts are not in vain. Take your calling seriously.

Missions is a partnership. Missionaries and prayers and givers have all been called by God to join together in the expansion of his glory. Your mission team has many members who combine their talents to glorify God in the world. When missionaries communicate what God is doing through the combined efforts of our team, the One who called us all gets the glory.

  • Pingback: Some Sound, Simple Advice For You Tech Bloggers - Best Home Business PERIOD ยป Best Home Business PERIOD()

  • http://mandimiller.net Mandi

    This article is so right. But I would also like to add that such a partnership should go both ways. As a missionary myself it can be very discouraging when we go through such effort to stay in communication with churches (email newsletters, physical newsletters, blog posts, facebook, twitter) and yet find out some of our supporting churches have no clue what we are doing. Recently, we came home for the holidays and it was no secret. Most people knew we were coming but there were still people (even after we had been home for a few weeks) who were very surprised to see us and hear about our ministry because they literally had not read a single thing from us all year.

    Missionaries should do a much better job staying in touch with churches and churches should seek an actual partnership with their missionaries.

    • JRJ

      Thanks for your response, Mandi. Mike’s article is spot-on, and your comment echoes my sentiment. The most frustrating thing I regularly hear from supporters (churches and individuals) is that they want more than just a paycheck relationship, which in and of itself I naturally want as well. But when we make return trips to the US, the quality of those relationships really shows.

      We spend thousands of dollars flying our family overseas, traveling thousands of miles over the course of nearly 30 hours only to be pulled in every direction from people who won’t drive 1-2 hours just to see us, expecting us to be the ones to make the drive in a borrowed car when we’ve nearly forgotten how to drive. It’s an ugly “business”, being a missionary.

      And what makes it worse is when your original sending church changes staff and volunteers so often that any semblance of partnership is incredibly difficult. And we’re asked nearly every year – How can we make our relationship more personal? When churches are driven by pragmatism, relationships with missionaries will also be driven that way.

      I’m grateful to the Lord for a couple of churches who go out of their way to welcome us back, inviting us to speak and making it clear that their donations/support are based on the grace of the gospel, not on the performance of the missionary.

      I totally get the necessity of good stewardship, but it seems to me that “good stewardship” is far too often an excuse for poor management. In the circles I’ve seen, few churches conduct their relationships with missionaries based on the gospel and instead base it on mutual giving and taking.

    • Mike P.


      You are spot on. I had similar experiences when we last went on furlough.

      Read another article I wrote on that exact topic. It is called “What I Want For All Missionaries” and gets directly to the point you made:


      Thank you for serving our Father.

      In Christ,

      • http://mandimiller.net Mandi

        I’ll go read it now! Thank you!

  • http://www.midlandjack.blogspot.com Jack Hager

    Thanks so much for this! I have been “on support” as a home missionary for over three decades and have been asked to train/encourage people raising support for perhaps twenty years. The concept of communication is the thing I harp on.
    Too often I hear, “I’m too busy…”, and my somewhat non-feeling reply is, “Cool, stay that way and pretty soon you’ll have plenty of time because your support will dry up and you’ll be out of vocational ministry.” Sure, we need to share the praises, but also the prayer requests; and with electronic communication it is so easy to ask supporters to pray for specific things in a timely way. It is “just” polite…and necessary…and our proper response to our supporters investment in us.

    • Mike P.


      I have taught communications classes to other missionaries every time I teach the class I get one or two people who raise their hand and exclaim that they strongly disagree with my insistence on communication. I respond with, “You don’t have to agree, you just have to know that communication is the ONLY way your supporters can compare you to other ministries and they must be good stewards with the money they send out.” It is not about the money, it is about understanding that missionaries and supporters are a team assembled by God to do his work. Lone Rangers won’t get far in Christian ministry.

      Thanks for your years of service.

      In Christ,

  • Kathy

    This is great for most cases but a lot of missionaries today are in “creative access regions” where communication must be done carefully, where blogs and Facebook can reveal things that should not be public. Here’s where a service like Constant Contact can be used well.

  • Pingback: We labor together! « Gospel on Campus()

  • Scott

    I understand the “busy” excuse. It is hard to make the time to communicate. But I also know that I desperately need folks praying for the ministry that we are involved with. It is an investment to communicate with my supporters – but one that pays eternal dividends.
    Oh, and when I hear back from folks that they are praying – IT MAKES MY DAY!

  • Nick

    After spending the last two years in Central Asia and recently coming home for the first time, I can attest to the tremendous importance of the missionary-supporter relationship. In particular, we were very involved with a strong believing family, and the father/husband (James) was jailed for his faith, leaving his wife with four teenage kids and no source of income. Whenever James had a court date coming up, all the workers in our city would send out prayer requests to their supporters all over America and the world, and the effect, especially for James and his wife, was incredible. They would often comment on how they could literally feel all the prayers that were being offered on their behalf, and I’m so grateful for the peace it has brought them throughout their trials.
    It’s so vital that missionaries remember that prayer moves the heart and hand of God, and cutting off communication with supporters is cutting yourself off from the prayers that are so necessary for your ministry. And for those that support missionaries, when they send updates, please respond. Even just a one-line response like “We’re praying for you” or “Thanks for your work for the kingdom” makes a world of difference.

  • http://Www.thedalylife.wordpress.com Sean daly

    Thanks for this, as my wife and I are in the support raising stage, we see the importance of communication and haven’t even moved yet.

  • Pingback: Missionaries Should Communicate—and Churches Should Demand It()

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

    You left out one very important group of people in this “partnership”: the brothers and sisters in Christ on the mission field, the church in the native country.

    One of the goals of missionaries should be linking the sending churches with the receiving churches.

  • Craig H Robinson

    Amen! Amen! Amen!

  • Tom

    A few concerns….1) some missionaries serve in countries where there is little to no internet reception, the bandwidth will not support Skype or upload video communications. 2) churches with a staff, even a small one handle communication with maybe 25-50 missionaries, but missionaries with no staff and not much spare time often have over 100 churches and supporters to make sure get the email updates, actually open newsletters, and get through to on the phone. it is possible but not always easy, you are right it is a partnership but churches must do their diligence in finding out why communication is lacking before they start eliminating support.

  • Pingback: Church And Technology.ca's good reads, week 4 2013Church and Technology.ca()

  • Sarah

    I agree that missionaries need to help their team know how to pray. I also agree with other posters that it is a two-way relationship. I served overseas for a year after college, and sent monthly newsletters to my support team. I often felt like they were going out into thin air, though, because I never heard anything back, except from my mom who probably lived by the computer waiting for my updates during that year. It was easy to feel Iike people weren’t interested or just couldn’t relate, or that it was just one of many unread emails in their inbox. I LOVED and was so encouraged when my missions pastor would Skype me once or twice a month (even though I came from a very large church) and ask me how things were going, as well as update me on church matters.

    Also, I know that depending on the location, 21st century communication can be difficult. Internet connections can be hard to come by, or can be expensive. The earliest missionaries were able to build and maintain true support teams with occasional handwritten letters, and I think those of us living in a culture where many people feel entitled and addicted to INSTANT responses should be understanding and extend grace to those navigating life and challenges in a foreign culture.

  • Al Stewart

    We had a church pastor write to say they were cutting off support because they hadn’t heard from us for 3 years. Really. We had sent copies of correspondence to 3 different people in that church — including missions director. It never got any farther than their desk/waste basket. Told the pastor. Church doubled support after that. … Communication is not all the missionaries fault.

  • Pingback: Team Elswick » “act like a team”()