In my Sensing God’s Direction post, I suggested that one of the first steps your should take, after God has birthed a dream in your spirit, concerning short term missions (or any ministry involvement for that matter), is to talk about it with your pastor.
I can’t express how much of a benefit it has been, to have my pastor both completely informed of and involved in, the application process, the progress of preparations and the communication of my burden. In my mind, the value of your pastor’s role cannot be underestimated.
10 Reasons to involve your pastor:
- His Responsibility: Your pastor is accountable to God for the way he takes care of you, one of the sheep that God has entrusted to his care. For this reason, no major ministry-related decisions of any kind should be made without consulting him. If your desire is truly from God, chances are your pastor will not be surprised and will be glad to help you put feet to the dream.
- Objective 3rd party: Your pastor is a great person to identify errors or omissions that could weaken your application. In my case, there was a contextual issue which, had I not qualified it, could’ve incited doubts or led to unnecessary questions in the minds of the men evaluating my application. He brought it to my attention and with the addition of a single paragraph, the occasion for confusion was alleviated.
- Points of doctrine: Sometimes statements can be made which can come across to someone who doesn’t know you well, as representing an error in doctrine. In 1989, while still in the Baptist church, I was being interviewed for a missions opportunity and responded something along the lines that “the Holy Ghost was a tool through which God…..” I forget the rest, but a poor choice of words raised a major red flag, which, in the absence of clarification, could’ve killed my interview.
- Organizational knowledge: Your pastor can provide insight into the normal workings of the departments or individuals on an organizational level: what things need to happen before something else can occur for example.
- Pitfall experience: If your pastor has been around for any amount of time, he has likely seen applications (whether for short term missions, district appointments, or others) that have done very well and others that have fallen flat on their face…. or even fell on “deaf ears” because evaluators were missing key details. He can help you to not be another case of pitfall.
- Approaching other ministers: Whether you have a formal ministry position or not, your pastor can be a great help in leveraging support, and/or contact, with other ministers, both in and beyond your district. Some pastors, because of ministerial ethics, will not be comfortable approaching you directly (or being approached by you), without first going through your pastor. They want to make sure everything is OK and above board – and this is a wonderful safe-guard. See this note from my pastor, which went out to all ministers in my district before I even thought about contacting them. It establishes that we have worked hand in hand on this project and invites them to contact me directly or to go through him.
- Impact on the local church: Whatever the outcome of your application, there will be implications on the local church, moreso of course, if you end up going on short term missions for a time. No pastor wants to be surprised about personnel or staffing changes, nor do they want to be surprised about the timeline. They have to work with remaining staff to ensure the smoothest possible transition and minimize any void left by your absence.
- No lone rangers: There have been, in the past, somewhere between the north and south poles, lone rangers. These are people who, to escape a negative situation – whether personally, interpersonally or at a church level – take off to the mission field. Perhaps they feel they will “finally” be able to “have a (recognized) ministry”. far away, where no one knows them. In the long run… lone rangers generally do not benefit the foreign field, nor do they represent the home church or the kingdom of God well. You do not want to risk being associated with, or perceived to be, a lone ranger. Work with your pastor!
- Home church advantage: You want to benefit from the full support of your home church in the following areas and your pastor is key to them all:
- financial support: unforeseen circumstances may require extra funding. If you have worked with your pastor throughout the process, he will be more inclined to bail you out with a cheerful and willing heart.
- prayer support: No one knows your strengths (and weaknesses) like your home church. They are among the most equipped and the most inclined to stand by you in prayer.
- moral support: There will be days when a care-package from home will be a welcomed treat. Chances are that someone in your home church spearheaded that effort.
- ministry support: Times will arise when a word of advice or insight will make the difference in a make-or-break situation. Keep the line of communication open with those who know you best.
- He’s still your pastor: Just because you may find yourself on the other side of the world, does not mean that a father in the faith ceases to be your pastor. Your leadership structure may change, but your pastor should always be able to speak into your life or ministry.
If you begin your short term missions journey walking in step with your pastor, there’s a good chance that you’ll benefit from his wisdom and resources throughout the entire process. Your overall experience will be greatly improved and the kingdom of God (both in your life and in your missions experience) will be advanced.
Can you think of other ways in which you’d benefit from including your pastor in the process right from the get-go? I’d love to hear them.