Rectify Misconceptions About Forming Mission Teams


1.  Should we pray for more workers with particular gifts?

Jesus commanded His followers to pray to raise up workers. However, it would be a mistake to presume that most of those will come from the West. Rather most workers will arise from among the local people. You will guide and coach them as they do the same, in turn, for new workers.

Of the five kinds of workers, apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, two are key in church planting: apostles who plant churches, and shepherds who lead them. Missionaries must be prepared to coach both.

2.  What are the advantages and inconveniences of having a small (e.g., three members) over a large team (e.g., six members)?

Studies of international teams show the optimal team size is about six persons, of which no more than two are expatriates. As soon as there are more than two expatriates, they form a culture “block” that increasingly lures nationals into foreign methods and practices. Furthermore, once a church forms, a foreigner will often start to pastor it and will no longer want his colleagues interfering in it.

A North American team should evaluate its structures and activities annually, and reform the team, or form new teams, according to needs, gifting, and personalities. A team of five or more North Americans will spend far too much time on team-building activities and smoothing ruffled feathers, time that could be better invested in building local fellowships that should be free of missionary team domination sooner than later.

A missionary team is not necessarily more effective in launching a church planting movement than only one or two workers that have a vision for multiplying small, indigenous fellowships with few resources. The most productive teams allow members freedom to try new methods, and they do not criticize members that achieve better results.

3.  What are the effects on team dynamics when members include both women and men, couples and singles, or ordained and not ordained? What would be an optimal ratio?

Studies show that, across many nations, the higher the workers’ qualifications, the less likely they are to multiply churches. Highly educated workers prefer academics, formal education, intellectually challenging discussions, and a one-way transmission of truth that quashes normal communication.

Many church planting movements have started where only one expatriate couple integrated a social welfare project with their evangelism and leader training.

The gender and marital status of foreigners probably says more about their credibility than their ability. The Apostle Paul said good things in his letters about the couples, single men and single women who were his co-workers at various times.


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