When you are engaging in missions with various partners, it is important to think strategically & to maximize long-term ministry by asking the right questions. Here is a list of questions to start you off:
1. People on the Ground – Is there an ongoing ministry presence on the ground by church planters or missionaries? Will the ministry continue & develop when my volunteer team returns home?
2. Strategy – What is the overall strategy the missionaries or church planters have? How do volunteer teams fit into that strategy?
3. Security – Are there health, safety or security issues that we need to be prepared for before taking a team? If there are security issues, do the contacts on the ground have a crisis plan in place?
4. Reproducibility – Is the strategy reproducible? Are the evangelism efforts more random than strategic? Is the ministry focused only upon physical needs, or does it accompany an embedded spiritual ministry?
5. Financial Accountability – There needs to be clear accountability of funds, and financials need to be available for partners to see. Who is in charge of the money? Is it one individual, and does that individual have accountability? Or is there a board or committee of leadership?
6. Avoid Dependency – Does the long-term strategy include self-sufficiency? Once your money is gone, will the ministry be also? There is danger in creating a dependency that actually prevents growth and indigenous church planting when it is completely funded by foreigners or outside entities.
7. References – Get references. What other churches or entities have worked with this ministry? Contact them & ask lots of questions. How long have they worked together? What fruit have they seen from the ministry?
I strongly recommend ministry relationships with Southern Baptist agencies, specifically the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board. They are excellent at having strategies, financial accountability, and security plans in place. The Southern Baptist missional strategy and the Cooperative Program (which is the financial strategy of sending missionaries around the world) is actually the reason that I became a Southern Baptist. I came from a non-denominational background, and I was theologically lined up with the Southern Baptists. But, when I heard about the Cooperative Program and how Southern Baptists cooperate together to send 4,000+ missionaries around the world, I decided I wanted to be a part of that! I thought this cooperative financial strategy of supporting missionaries was genius. Of course, there is no perfect method, strategy or ministry. But, the effectiveness and overall excellence in missional strategy of the Southern Baptists won my heart. Thus, I am now a Jesus-lovin’, Gen-X, rocker chic, Southern Baptist Girl.