Going the Distance: Missionary Retention

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missiographic_MissionaryRetention-thumb.jpg The paradigms around sending a cross-cultural missionary for the long haul are changing dramatically. Now more than ever it is important to understand how to retain those who are being sent cross-culturally. As the costs to send skyrocket and as the personal costs to stay also rise, agencies, churches and personal supporters need to be intentional and in touch with how to support their missionaries most effectively.


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Personal Reflection
Where do you fit in the cycle of being on mission? If you support a missionary, have you ever considered how you can help keep them out on the field longer? Look at some of these factors in long-term retention and ask yourself how you can help the missionaries you have committed to support to be the ones who are able to stay engaged in mission long-term. If you are reading this as a missionary, look at the various factors that drive retention and identify the ones that are most significant to you. How is your field team and agency doing in supporting you in these areas? What can you do to help increase retention in your organization from where you sit?

Engaging the Church
As a church, do you think about the long-term sustainability of the missionaries you send? The agency they go with have a critical role, but you have a role in retention as well. Are you encouraging training and are you providing holistic support of your missionaries as a church? Are you asking your missionaries how they are doing and what issues might keep them from being able to stay on the field long-term? Consider some new touch points with your missionaries that would allow you to have a better feel about how they are doing in the marathon of cross-cultural service.

Organizational Application
Much of the task of retention lies with the mission agency or specific field leadership. But most of our attention is focused on mobilization of new workers. Have you ever done an audit to consider the true cost of sending a worker cross-culturally (Contact GMI about our assessment tool to help with this audit.) How often do you listen to your staff to understand the issues that are driving retention? (Consider doing GMI’s ENGAGE Field Worker Engagement Survey to listen to your field staff this year www.gmi.org/engage.) The most important thing is that you take the retention of your field staff seriously and look at intentional ways to increase retention. As you look at the info in this Missiographic, what are two or three easy steps you could take to help your field staff stay engaged with you longer?

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1 Johnstone, Patrick, Future of the Global Church, (IVP, 2011) Figure 8.5, p. 227
2 Hay, Rob (ed.), Worth Keeping, (World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission, William Carey Library, 2007). Updated data obtained 2014
3 Van Meter, Jim, US Report of Findings on Missionary Retention (ReMAP2 study, Dec. 2003)
4 Hay, Rob (ed.), Worth Keeping, (World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission, 2007), p. 71
5 Worth Keeping, p. 119.
6 Engage! Study Executive Summary, (GMI, June 2009), p. 2
7 Worth Keeping, p. 119
8 Worth Keeping, pp. 149-150
9 Engage! Study Executive Summary, p. 5
10 Worth Keeping, pp. 181
11 Worth Keeping, pp. 39

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