Missio Dei: A Journal of Missional Theology and Praxis 8, no. 1 (Winter–Spring 2017)

done_all Peer Reviewed Article

Missionary Care among US Churches of Christ: A Comparative Study of Supporting Churches and Missionary Responses

Becky Holton and Dale Hawley

This research effort explores specifically how and what Churches of Christ are doing in the important area of missionary care and how that care is perceived by the missionaries they are caring for. We asked (1) churches what they are doing/have done to care for their missionaries, and we asked (2) missionaries for their perceptions about how they are/were cared for by their supporting churches. Utilizing two separate surveys (one each for missionaries and churches) both qualitative and quantitative data were collected. The missionary survey assessed communication between missionaries and sponsoring churches, field visits, financial support, and overall satisfaction with missionary care. The church survey mirrored the missionary survey, addressing similar content areas but adding some additional items regarding missionary care. The response rate, especially for the church respondents, was significantly low, so the results can only be generalized for practical purposes. The results indicated that missionaries are, overall, positive about the care they receive, and churches, overall, view the care they provide in a positive light. However a majority of the responding churches indicated they would like to learn more about missionary care.

We have both always loved missionaries. As a child, I (Becky) recall several times our congregation would “send out” missionaries to take the Good News to faraway lands. I would think about them often and wonder how they were and eagerly scan the bulletin board near the church office each week on the off chance that a missionary might have hand-written a blue aerogram letter for the elders and church to read. On rare occasions, one of the missionaries might visit our congregation when they were back in the States, usually to raise money or because there was a death in their family. These dedicated and sweet people would usually share photographs or slides (precursors of all things digital!) regarding their mission. And then they would leave. I hardly ever saw them again. I remember the Sunday it was announced that one of our missionaries, with whom I had a friendship, had been killed in a motorcycle accident. I was heartbroken. That was the last time I recall hearing anything about him. His parents attended our church. They eventually quit coming. And many, many years later, I still feel sad and confused about that significant event in so many lives, including mine.

Apparently, back in the day, missionaries had to care for themselves. They were expected to deal with hardships, violence, scant resources, trauma, problems with their children’s education, financial restrictions, sickness, relationship problems, cultural adjustment, language acquisition, corruption, and little support (spiritual, emotional, or financial) as they diligently labored to teach other people groups about the Savior. After all, they had answered a call, and the Lord “would take care of everything,” right? Many of these stellar disciples of Jesus made it. Many did not.

Somewhere along the way business organizations with international corporate divisions discovered that successful expatriation assignments required a lot more groundwork than “promoting” an employee to an overseas assignment with little or no preparation. It is common knowledge that high attrition rates for overseas assignments plagued many large corporations. Almost all of these organizations now realize the need for preparation, training, and support for their expat employees and their families and have developed programs and initiatives to address these significant concerns.

Christian business employees who had experienced (or observed results of) the challenges of cross-cultural adjustment, short-term mission workers who journeyed to other cultures to provide temporary missionary help, international travelers (due to the increased ease of global excursions), along with returning missionaries who were wounded, traumatized, and often doubting their calling all contributed to an eye-opening realization of many within Churches of Christ for the need for better support and care of missionaries. Other church organizations and missionary agencies were discovering (or had already discovered) a similar awareness. There was a poignant awakening to the fact that missionary work is innately stressful and oftentimes treacherous. Larry and Lois Dodds, well-known missionary care specialists and providers, one a medical doctor and the other a psychologist, stated from their research and experience:

Anyone who chooses a role in ministry across cultures compounds the hazards almost geometrically. In addition to the hazards of ministry itself, going cross-cultural means adding layer upon layer of complexity. One steps out of one’s own context, exchanging it for a whole new set of struggles and challenges. Change of culture brings with it changes of language, value systems, climate, geography, social systems, role definitions and a host of other life elements. Usually a life of ministry across cultures places one in a position to experience perpetually high levels of stress, as almost everything in one’s self and one’s life must adapt to new realities.1

Research projects and studies supported the Doddses’ assertions, demonstrating that effective missionary care decreases missionary attrition rates and improves the quality of life for missionaries.2

Among Churches of Christ, several para-church organizations and missionary care specialists began to raise questions about how to address ways to support and care for missionaries. They sought to find ways to educate churches on the importance of advocacy for their missionaries on the field. Many churches heeded the call, stepped up to the plate, and formulated new ways to support, understand, and love their missionaries. They developed ways to be proactive “middle-persons” for their missionaries serving in other countries and locations. Mission committees realized that unique services were necessary in providing for their missionaries. Best care practices were initiated with a helpful and insightful selection process, followed by pre-field development and training, on-field support of the missionaries and their children, crisis care, and reentry shepherding and protection. It seems that churches have come a long way in learning how to care for their missionaries.

Or have they? Even though much has been written regarding effective missionary care strategies and best care practices, there appears to be an absence of research examining the way missionaries actually perceive and experience missionary care services that may be available to them.

There appears to be an absence of research examining the way missionaries actually...experience missionary care.

Consequently, the intended purpose of this article’s research efforts was to determine just that. Our purpose has been to explore how and what churches are doing specifically in the important area of missionary care and how that care is perceived by the missionaries they are caring for. So we asked (1) churches what they are doing/have done to care for their missionaries, and we asked (2) missionaries for their perceptions about how they are/were cared for by their supporting churches. It is hoped that the results of this research will assist our church fellowship in discovering (1) areas where we are doing well and caring appropriately for missionaries; (2) gaps in our care that indicate necessary growth for the benefit of missionary workers; and (3) helpful and practical ideas, suggestions, and resources that might serve as a catalyst for churches who would like to increase care and support for their missionaries.

Method

The authors prepared two separate surveys (one each for missionaries and churches, see Appendix). Items for the missionary survey were based on an exploratory questionnaire completed by 25 missionaries associated with Churches of Christ. This survey assessed communication between missionaries and sponsoring churches, field visits, financial support, and overall satisfaction with missionary care. The church survey mirrored the missionary survey, addressing similar content areas but adding some additional items regarding missionary care.

Using Survey Monkey, surveys were emailed to 800 former and current missionaries and 1,057 Churches of Christ. The missionary emails were acquired from a database kept by the missions department at Harding University. Since there was not one available, a Church of Christ congregation email list was constructed using several different resources and lists. Both surveys were electronically mailed in November, 2015. A reminder to complete the survey was sent two weeks later. Of the 800 emails sent to missionaries, 460 were opened; 82 responded for a response rate of 18%. Of the 1,057 emails sent to churches, 556 were opened; 45 responded for a response rate of 8%.

Results

Missionary Survey

Eighty-two missionaries responded to the survey. Most were male (n = 52) but 18 females also completed the survey (12 respondents did not reply to this item). Participants ranged in age from 29 to 72, with an average age of 45. They reported being on the field for an average of 14.3 years (range: 1–47). While this survey focused only on the activities of sponsoring churches, missionaries in this survey indicated they also received financial support from an average of three additional congregations and nine individuals.

Overall, missionaries in the survey were positive about the level of care they received from their sponsoring churches. Two-thirds (67%) rated their care as “great” or “good” while only 14% indicated care was “sub-par” or “terrible” (see Appendix 3 for a summary of many of the results described in this section).

About half (52%) of missionaries indicated their sponsoring churches contacted them on a monthly basis. Fifteen percent reported churches contacted them more frequently (once a week) but a third said their churches contacted them only 1–2 times per year or never. Missionaries were much less likely to reach out to their sponsoring churches. Sixty percent reported they reached out to their sponsors 1–2 times per year and 17% indicated they never did. Nearly half (48%) indicated their main contact at the sponsoring church was a specially appointed liaison, followed by a mission committee chair (21%) or an elder (14%). Churches appear to be concerned both about the work and how missionaries are faring on a personal basis. Forty percent of missionaries reported that the focus of their conversations with sponsoring churches was about evenly split between their work and their personal lives, while another 38% suggested greater emphasis was placed on their personal well-being than on their work.

Churches use a variety of ways to stay in touch with their missionaries. By far the most common means of communication identified (97%) was email. This was followed by visits to the field (48%), Skype (42%), and phone calls (27%). These avenues for communicating seem to work well. When asked to rank order their effectiveness, missionaries ranked them in a similar order, with phone calls being seen as slightly more effective than Skype.

The importance of field visits as a way to stay in touch was borne out in several items focusing on this issue. The majority of missionaries (61%) reported they received a field visit from someone in the home congregation at least every three years, with 20% indicating they received yearly visits. One in six (17%), however, said they never received such a visit, and, when asked for feedback on what would improve field visits, nine respondents indicated it would be helpful if they were more regular. Like their overall communication, visits tend to focus on both the work and the missionary. Sixty-two percent reported there was an even emphasis on work and personal well-being in field visits. Another 24% indicated that visits tended to be mostly about the work but that some attention was given to the missionary as well. In a section in which open-ended comments were invited, several missionaries observed that visits that did not focus on evaluating the work but on learning about what the missionaries did and gave attention to their personal and spiritual well-being were particularly helpful. Field visits seemed to be positive experiences for the most part. Three-quarters of missionaries said they were “helpful” or “very helpful” and only five percent saw them as having little value. There was a fairly strong correlation (r = .61) between how satisfied missionaries were with field visits and their overall satisfaction with missionary care. However, little in the way of follow up to the visits was reported. Over 90% indicated they received a brief follow up report (57%) or no report at all (31%), in spite of the fact that 50% of respondents found such reports helpful and 10% specifically commented that they would appreciate such reports when asked what would improve field visits. Sending a third party such as a counselor to consult with missionaries appeared to be a rare occurrence. Three-quarters (76%) reported this had never happened and another 13% indicated someone had been sent to deal with an emergency. Only 11% said that someone had come on a periodic basis to help them in a proactive manner.

Missionaries suggested they were moderately satisfied with communication with their sponsoring churches. While 44% said they were satisfied or highly satisfied with the frequency of their communication, 32% reported it was “okay” and 24% indicated a level of dissatisfaction. Satisfaction levels with the quality of their communication were similar. Fifty percent reported satisfaction with the quality of their communication, 31% said it was okay, and 19% expressed dissatisfaction. There was a strong correlation between each of these indicators and overall satisfaction with missionary care (satisfaction with frequency, r = .67; satisfaction with quality, r = .68). When asked through an open-ended question what would improve communication with the sponsoring church, a common theme was more contact. Twenty percent volunteered that they would like more regular communication with their sponsoring church, some specifying increased contact with the elders and missions committee and others desiring more contact with church members in general. Some also indicated they wished for a closer emotional tie in order to feel that the church was really concerned about them as more than a budget line item.

In addition to staying in touch through various means of communication, missionaries indicated sponsoring churches offered support in other ways. Prayer appears to be a primary means of support, with 70% reporting that the elders, missions committee, and/or support teams prayed for them “often” or “all the time” and 57% reporting that the church does the same when they meet together. A third indicated they received notes of encouragement via mail or social media (34%) and were encouraged to go to uplifting events like retreats (34%) “often” or “all the time.” Other types of support including encouragement to take time away from work, care packages, cards or gifts on special occasions, and resources such as books and literature were cited to a lesser degree. When asked to rank order the importance of these types of support, missionaries indicated prayer and notes of encouragement were clearly the most important to them.

Finally, missionaries were asked about financial compensation. The vast majority of sponsoring churches (93%) provide at least a partial salary to the missionaries surveyed. However, fewer than half of churches were reported to provide other financial benefits including health insurance (39%), life insurance (23%), retirement funds (45%), reentry funds (38%), travel funds for retreats (47%), and educational funds for children (25%) and the missionary (14%). In addition, 40% of missionaries indicated they received raises or adjustment to income based on exchange rates “regularly” or “sometimes” while 60% said this happened “seldom” or “never.” In general, sponsoring churches were seen as good stewards of funds. Most missionaries agreed or strongly agreed that their congregations provided their funds on time (99%), let them stay in touch with other contributors (86%), provided additional funding in emergency situations (64%), and let them know in advance when there were changes in their funding (63%). However, missionaries seemed less certain churches had a good grasp on their financial needs. Sixty percent were uncertain or agreed with the statement that churches responded to needs only when the missionary brought it to their attention and 47% were uncertain or disagreed that the congregation had a good understanding of their financial situation. Overall, satisfaction with financial compensation was fairly high. Eight-five percent said their salary was “adequate” or “generous.” Of those receiving funds, 76% reported their working fund as “adequate” or “generous” as did 61% about their benefits. The correlation between satisfaction with salary and overall missionary care was moderate (r = .40).

As previously noted, missionaries in this survey indicated they were positive about the care they received from their sponsoring churches. However, when asked for feedback regarding what they would like churches to know about missionary care, they did offer a number of suggestions. Many of these comments centered around churches taking the initiative to get to know their missionaries. Multiple respondents commented on the need for churches to understand the emotional and spiritual needs of their missionaries, to recognize the complexities of living in another culture, to understand that missionaries want to be considered a part of the congregation, and the importance of simply “checking in” on a regular basis.

Church Survey

Forty-five churches responded to this survey. They ranged in size from 15 to 2000 members (average = 757). Of those reporting, 37% were under 500, 37% were 500–1,000, and 26% were over 1,000 members. Many had a history of sponsoring missionaries, ranging from 3 to 55 years (average 25 years). They estimated approximately 61% of the financial support received by the missionaries they sponsored was supplied by their congregation.

Like the missionaries, respondents to the church survey evaluated their missionary care in a positive light. Two-thirds (64%) saw it as “good” or “great” and only 20% thought it was “sub-par.” At the same time, churches expressed a desire to improve their care for missionaries, with 71% indicating they would be interested in learning more about missionary care.

Churches indicated they were regular in their communication with missionaries. Sixty-four percent said they contacted their missionaries on a monthly basis, with another 27% reporting more frequent contact. A specially appointed liaison (53%) or a mission committee chair (24%) was cited as the most frequent point of contact with missionaries. Churches indicated their communication with missionaries focused both on their work and their personal well-being. As in the missionary survey, the most common response to a question about how they balanced these two foci was that they placed about equal emphasis on the work and the personal life of the missionary (48%). However, 35% indicated they focused more on the work than on the personal life of the missionary.

One hundred percent of the church respondents indicated they stayed in touch with missionaries through email. However, they also indicated they used other means of staying in touch including reading reports (91%), Skype (58%), phone calls (71%), field visits (78%), and, to a lesser extent, texts and instant messaging. The effectiveness of these various means paralleled their percentage of use. Emails, field visits, Skype, and phone calls were rank ordered as the most effective means of communicating with missionaries.

Field visits were seen as a highly effective means of communicating with missionaries by respondents to the church survey. One-quarter (26%) indicated they visited missionaries on the field at least once a year while 57% said the frequency of their visits was between one and three years. However, when asked what they would like to change about visits to the field, 11 respondents indicated they would like to see more visits and nine said those visits should include a greater variety of people from the church, including elders and ministers. Since a number of churches in this survey sponsor more than one missionary it is unclear as to whether they are reporting how frequently they visit any given missionary they support, but it seems evident that field visits are a high priority. Like their other communications with missionaries, field visits were reported to focus on both the work and the well-being of the missionary. Forty-eight percent indicated their attention during field visits was evenly split between these two emphases, while 40% said greater focus was given to the work. Field visits are clearly valued by churches in this survey. Nearly all found them “helpful” (43%) or “very helpful” (52%). However, there was only a moderate correlation between how they rated the outcome of field visits and how they viewed overall missionary care (r = .42).

Respondents to the church survey seemed fairly satisfied with the frequency of their contact with missionaries. Fifty-eight percent said they were “satisfied” or “highly satisfied” with their frequency of contact and only nine percent indicated a level of dissatisfaction. They were more positive about the quality of their contacts with missionaries. Seventy percent reported being “satisfied” or “highly satisfied” and only four percent indicated dissatisfaction. There was a moderate correlation between each of these indicators and the overall satisfaction churches reported with missionary care (satisfaction with frequency, r = .48; satisfaction with quality, r = .45). In spite of this positive outlook, when asked in an open-ended item what they would change about their communication with missionaries, about 20% suggested they needed more consistent communication and that it needed to involve more members of the congregation.

Churches reported prayer as the most frequent non-monetary support they provided missionaries. Over three-quarters (78%) indicated the church prays for their missionaries “often” or “all the time” and 95% reported the same response regarding specific groups within the church such as elders, the mission committee, and prayer teams. Notes of encouragement and encouragement to attend special events like retreats were identified as the next most common means of support. Not surprisingly, prayer and notes of encouragement were cited as the most effective means of non-monetary support the church provided. Though cited less often, encouragement to attend special events, care packages, and cards or gifts on special occasions like birthdays were also seen as important means of support.

Nearly all (97%) of the churches surveyed provided at least a partial salary to their missionaries. Moreover, 80% provided funding for travel to retreats, and 59% indicated they had set aside money for re-entry. In addition, churches provided funding for other benefits including health insurance (40%), retirement (45%), life insurance (20%), and educational support for children (28%) and missionaries (16%). Income adjustments appear to be intermittent. Few indicated they provided raises (9%) or salary adjustments based on exchange rates (11%) on a regular basis. Most indicated they did this “sometimes” (raises = 57%; income adjustments = 58%), while about a third reported they “seldom” or “never” made such adjustments (raises = 34%; income adjustments = 30%).

Overall, churches appeared satisfied with the levels of compensation provided their missionaries. Eighty-seven percent indicated the salary was “adequate” or “generous” and similar responses were offered for working funds (85%) and benefits (67%). A moderate correlation (r = .45) was found between satisfaction with salary level and overall satisfaction with missionary care.

Discussion

The purpose of this project was to gain insight into the practices of missionary care in Churches of Christ from the perspectives of sending churches and the missionaries themselves. We are cognizant of the fact that this research has several significant weaknesses and hope future research efforts in this area will close these gaps. First, the respondents in this survey were drawn from large, independent databases. We were unable to measure comparative responses from specific churches and their associated missionaries. In addition, more than likely the church survey responses were from churches that are invested in and conscientious regarding their involvement and care for their missionaries. It might be assumed that churches who are not involved in mission work, or minimally involved, would be less inclined to respond to a survey regarding missionary care. Consequently, it is anticipated that the church respondents to this survey are more positively aligned with missionary care and may not accurately represent many Church of Christ congregations.

Also, there are some concerns related to the survey response rate. The missionary survey response rate was a low 18%, however, the church response rate was 8%, a significantly lower response rate than a customary 30–40% web survey response rate.3 A low response rate affects the overall validity and reliability of the survey results.

Therefore, because of these two concerns, only general conclusions and suppositions can be gleaned from this research study as it applies to practical utilization for missionary care.

For purposes of this particular research, it seems important to mention another significant observation from this project. Most Churches of Christ believe in the autonomous nature of congregational leadership and the prerogative of each church, under the guidance of each church’s spiritual leaders, to make decisions regarding all things pertaining to that body, including mission work. Even though there are definite benefits of autonomous church organization and structure, this research illuminated potential challenges for autonomously directed churches, especially as it relates to missionary care. Our research was delayed by several months when we discovered that there was not a usable electronic database of Churches of Christ and that one would have to be constructed for us to be able to deliver the surveys, cost effectively, via email.4 Even though it was difficult, tedious, and time consuming to build an electronic church database, the absence of such a church resource seemed to tell another story. It appears that the autonomous structure within our fellowship may also indicate that our churches may not be communicating with each other, sharing information with each other, and learning from each other, especially as it relates to missionary care. This supposition was further reinforced by a low response rate among church respondents, causing us to postulate that an independent church structure may not accommodate cooperative efforts between churches as it relates to accountability, learning, and a synergistic sense of team and collaboration. This is especially problematic given that most missionaries (including those in this survey) are supported by multiple churches and individuals.

An independent church structure may not accommodate cooperative efforts between churches.

Another interesting consideration for future missionary research relates to the missionaries themselves. For the purposes and focus of this research, we did not include survey questions related to the missionary’s personal level of self-care and efficacy, nor did we inquire as to the availability of pre-field screening services for missionaries. These would seem to be important factors in how well missionaries adjust to lives on the field and the role of churches in supporting them.

Practical Considerations

Since the purpose of this research was not intended to be as much of an academic exercise as it was to be useful and practical, we have elected to add a final section to this article that considers how this information can be practically and effectively utilized by sending churches as they contemplate their important role in missionary care. We offer these pragmatic suggestions to churches based on analysis from this research project.

(1) It is important for churches to know that most missionaries want and appreciate more regular and frequent contact with their sending churches. This was a consistent theme in missionary survey responses. Missionaries appear to value greater frequency and quality of communication with their sending churches, but they admit that they are less likely to be the ones that reach out to initiate more communication. This is a significant observation since missionaries’ survey responses reported that at least a third of their sending churches only contact them 1–2 times a year or never. Higher percentages of churches surveyed reported satisfaction with the frequency and quality of their communication with missionaries than was evident in the missionary survey. This may reflect the independence of the surveys but it may also suggest that missionaries are less likely to view communication with sponsors as effective than vice versa.

Most missionaries want and appreciate more regular and frequent contact with their sending churches.

(2) Overall, missionaries appreciate field visits from their sending churches. They especially appreciate visits that are focused on seeing the mission work, visits that observe, listen, and learn, and field visits that are not necessarily about “working” with the missionary but rather “being” with the missionary family. Missionaries report that it is meaningful to them when representatives from their churches (including church members and elders, as well as mission committee members) spend time with them in relationship building, as well as asking questions about how they are doing and what their needs are. Churches represented in this survey also saw field visits as vital. Nearly all saw them as helpful and indicated they provided them an opportunity to focus on the well-being of the missionaries as well as learning about their work. It appears the value of field visits could be extended through more intentional follow up, as a number of missionaries indicated this would be helpful. Sometimes churches are reluctant to use their resources on visits to the field; these surveys suggest such visits are a wise investment.

(3) Missionaries report that they want to feel connected and to feel that they “belong” to their sending churches. They also appreciate personalized care as it relates to their family size and structure as well as their life stage. It is important to note that although salary and financial care are very important, even critical, to missionary care, missionaries rate feeling a bond with their sending churches with greater significance.

(4) Missionaries truly appreciate sending churches who pray frequently and diligently for them—and let the missionary know they are doing so. They also find notes of encouragement very helpful and meaningful. Missionaries rated both of these items (prayers and notes of encouragement) as vital in ways churches care for them while they are on the field.

(5) Missionary survey responses, and especially the qualitative data within the surveys, revealed that missionaries appreciate churches that provide spiritual guidance, shepherding, and care for them, as well as care for their emotional needs. Even though churches and missionaries both noted that counselors or crisis care workers are infrequently utilized for missionary care, it appears that missionaries believe they would benefit, at times, from specialized care.

(6) Financial support is essential for missionaries. Both missionaries and churches were generally satisfied with the levels of financial support provided to missionaries. However, it appears that a minority of missionaries receive financial support aside from salary, including benefits and working fund. Lack of funding in some of these areas may hamper the long-term effectiveness of missionaries. It may behoove churches to look more closely at total financial support packages for missionaries.

(7) In spite of their generally positive responses about the level of care provided to missionaries, 71% of churches responded “yes” on the survey when asked if they would like to learn more about missionary care. This seems to indicate greater awareness of the need for missionary care from churches and may suggest a pivotal point for Churches of Christ, in that they believe they could learn more about how to better care for their missionaries.

(8) If a church is active and successful in missionary care, we would like to suggest that they consider becoming a “missionary care mentoring church.” If a successful missionary sending church is aware of other congregations in their area that might be interested in learning how to better care for their missionaries on the field, we would encourage those churches to consider walking alongside these churches and sharing with them specific practices they utilize in caring for their missionaries. This type of collaborative effort will not only benefit missionaries, but it will encourage better cooperation, accountability, and best practices in missionary care among sending churches.

Thank you for reading this article and thinking about effective missionary care among Churches of Christ with us. As has been said, missionary care is about building a fence at the top of the cliff rather than a hospital at the bottom. May God help us to build loving, preventative, and protective practices conscientiously in missionary care, so that missionaries can do what they were called to do—take the good news to the nations!

Becky Holton is Director of Missionary Care at Great Cities Missions where she works with missionaries in all life stages, from pre-field to on-field to re-entry care. She is a licensed therapist as well as a certified crisis response therapist. She holds a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and a PhD in Child, Youth, and Family Science. She is a former church planter, urban ministry worker among immigrant populations, college professor, and campus counseling center director. She is a frequent consultant for church leaders and missions committees.

Dale Hawley is the Director of the Marriage and Family Therapy program at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. For several years he also served as Associate Director for Missionary Care with Missions Resource Network. Over the past twenty years he has conducted numerous interpersonal relationships workshops with mission teams and has provided support to individual missionaries and their families.

Appendix 1: Missionary Survey

General

  1. Approximately how often does someone from your sponsoring congregation (not including family members) contact you?
    • Never
    • Once or twice a year
    • Monthly
    • Weekly
    • Multiple times per week
  2. Which of the following methods does your sponsoring church use to stay in touch with you?
    • Email
    • Phone calls
    • Skype
    • Reading their reports
    • Chat/instant message
    • Text messaging
    • Field visits
    • Other (please specify):
  3. List, in order, which means of staying in touch you find most effective.
    • Email
    • Phone calls
    • Skype
    • Reading their reports
    • Chat/instant message
    • Text messaging
    • Field visits
    • Other
  4. Who is your main contact person at your sponsoring congregation?
    • Mission committee chair
    • Specifically appointed liaison
    • Elder
    • Deacon
    • Minister
    • Other (please specify):
  5. When your sponsoring church contacts you, how would you describe the focus of that contact?
    • Focused entirely on our work
    • Focused mostly on our work, with some attention to our personal lives (e.g., family life, spiritual and emotional well-being, life, satisfaction, etc.)
    • Focused about evenly between our work and personal lives
    • Focused mostly on our personal lives with some attention to our work
    • Focus entirely on our personal lives
  6. How satisfied are you with the frequency of communication with your sponsoring congregation?
    • Highly dissatisfied
    • Dissatisfied
    • It is okay
    • Satisfied
    • Highly satisfied
  7. How satisfied are you with the quality of communication with your sponsoring congregation?
    • Highly dissatisfied
    • Dissatisfied
    • It is okay
    • Satisfied
    • Highly satisfied
  8. How frequently does your sending congregation(s) contact you in order to offer spiritual or emotional guidance and support?
    • Never
    • Once or twice a year
    • Monthly
    • Weekly
    • Multiple times per week
  9. If you could change one thing about the communication between you and your sponsoring church, what would it be?

Field Visits

  1. How often does someone from your sponsoring congregation (not including family members) visit you on the field?
    • Never
    • Less than once every five years
    • Every 3–5 years
    • Every 1–3 years
    • At least once a year
  2. When someone from your sponsoring church visits you on the field, who sets the agenda for the visit?
    • It is entirely or mostly set by representatives from the sponsoring church.
    • It is entirely or mostly set by the missionaries.
    • It is a collaborative effort with about equal input from your congregation and the missionaries.
  3. When someone from your sponsoring church visits you on the field, how would you describe the focus of that visit?
    • Focused entirely on our work
    • Focused mostly on our work, with some attention to our personal lives (e.g., family life, spiritual and emotional well-being, life satisfaction, etc.)
    • Focused about evenly between the our work and personal lives
    • Focused mostly on the our personal lives with some attention to our work
    • Focused entirely on our personal lives
    • Other (please specify):
  4. How would you describe the outcome of visits from your sponsoring church?
    • Harmful
    • Of little value
    • Okay
    • Helpful
    • Very Helpful
  5. After the visit, what sort of feedback do you receive from the representatives of your sponsoring church?
    • A detailed response (written or verbal) regarding how they think you are doing, areas of strength and improvements, etc.
    • A brief response (written or verbal) regarding how they think you are doing, areas of strength and improvements, etc.
    • No feedback
  6. If you do receive feedback from representatives at your sponsoring church, how helpful do you find it to be?
    • Extremely helpful
    • Moderately helpful
    • Marginally helpful
    • Not helpful
    • Harmful
    • Does not apply
  7. If you could change one thing about visits from your sponsoring church, what would it be (skip if not applicable)?
  8. When has your sponsoring congregation sent a third party (e.g., a counselor or consultant) to assist you with issues you were facing on the field?
    • Never
    • When we have faced an emergency situation
    • On a periodic basis to help us address issues proactively

Non-Financial Support

  1. Respond to the following statements about the types of support you receive from your sponsoring church:
    • The church prays for us when they meet together.
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Often
      • All the time
      • I don’t know
    • The elders/missions committee/a support team pray for us.
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Often
      • All the time
      • I don’t know
    • I/We receive notes of encouragement by mail, social media (e.g., Facebook), email, etc.
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Often
      • All the time
      • I don’t know
    • I/We receive care packages.
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Often
      • All the time
      • I don’t know
    • I/We receive cards or gifts on special occasions like birthdays or holidays.
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Often
      • All the time
      • I don’t know
    • I am/We are encouraged to attend spiritually uplifting events like retreats for missionaries.
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Often
      • All the time
      • I don’t know
    • I am/We are encouraged to take time away from our work.
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Often
      • All the time
      • I don’t know
    • I/We receive resources such as books, literature, podcasts, etc. intended to provide a spiritual uplift.
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Often
      • All the time
      • I don’t know
  2. Please list, in order of importance, the type of support you receive from your sponsoring congregation:
    • Cards, gifts on special occasions
    • Care packages
    • Notes of encouragement
    • Prayer
    • Encouragement to attend spiritual events
    • Encouragement to take time away from work
    • Resources such as books, literature, podcasts
  3. My sponsoring church has worked with me to develop a re-entry plan for when I/we decide to leave the field.
    • Yes
    • No

Financial Support

  1. How many other churches help support your ministry?
  2. How many individuals also support your ministry?
  3. What percentage of your total support (salary, benefit, and working fund) come from your sponsoring church? (Indicate N/A if you do not have a sponsoring church.)
  4. Which of the following benefits do you receive as part of your financial support?
    • Salary (yes/no)
    • Health insurance (yes/no)
    • Retirement funds (yes/no)
    • Re-entry funds (moving, resettlement money, etc.) (yes/no)
    • Life insurance (yes/no)
    • Travel funds to attend retreats or conferences (yes/no)
    • Educational expenses for your children (yes/no)
    • Educational expenses for you (i.e., higher education) (yes/no)
    • Other (please specify)
  5. If you answered “yes” to providing health insurance benefits, how much of this benefit do they fund?
  6. How often does your sponsoring congregation provide the following services?
    • Raises
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Regularly
    • Income adjustments to account for changes in exchange rates
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Regularly
    • Help with tax or financial planning
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Regularly
    • Financial counseling
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Regularly
  7. My sponsoring congregation…
    • …consistently provides my financial support on time.
      • Strongly disagree
      • Disagree
      • Uncertain
      • Agree
      • Strongly agree
    • …lets me know in advance when there are changes in my support due to other supporters.
      • Strongly disagree
      • Disagree
      • Uncertain
      • Agree
      • Strongly agree
    • …lets me stay in communication with my other financial supporters.
      • Strongly disagree
      • Disagree
      • Uncertain
      • Agree
      • Strongly agree
    • …only addresses my financial situation when I bring it to their attention.
      • Strongly disagree
      • Disagree
      • Uncertain
      • Agree
      • Strongly agree
    • …has a good understanding of my financial needs.
      • Strongly disagree
      • Disagree
      • Uncertain
      • Agree
      • Strongly agree
    • …has provided additional funding when I have needed it due to an emergency situation.
      • Strongly disagree
      • Disagree
      • Uncertain
      • Agree
      • Strongly agree
  8. How would you rate your salary level?
    • Inadequate to meet our needs
    • Under funded – barely making it
    • Adequate
    • Generous
    • We do not receive a salary
  9. How would you rate the level of financial support you receive in terms of benefits (e.g., insurance, retirement funds, professional development, etc.)?
    • Severely underfunded
    • Underfunded
    • Adequate
    • Generous
    • We do not receive any benefits
  10. How would you rate your working fund?
    • Severely underfunded
    • Underfunded
    • Adequate
    • Generous
    • We do not have a working fund
  11. How would you rate the overall level of care your sponsoring congregation provides for you as a missionary?
    • Great
    • Good
    • Okay
    • Sub-par
    • Terrible
  12. What do you wish your missions committee/elders from your sending churches knew about missionary care?
  13. What is your age?
  14. What is your gender?
  15. Number of years on the field (including this location and any other foreign countries where you have served as a missionary)?
  16. Continent on which you are currently serving:
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Pacific Rim
    • South/Central America
  17. Number of children currently living with you.
    • 0
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • More than 4

Appendix 2: Sponsoring Church Survey

General

  1. Approximately how often does someone from your congregation (not including family members) contact your missionaries?
    • Never
    • Once or twice a year
    • Monthly
    • Weekly
    • Multiple times per week
  2. Which of the following methods does your congregation use to stay in touch with your missionaries?
    • Email
    • Phone calls
    • Skype
    • Reading their reports
    • Chat/instant message
    • Text messaging
    • Field visits
    • Other (please specify):
  3. List, in order, which means of staying in touch with your missionaries you find most effective.
    • Email
    • Phone calls
    • Skype
    • Reading their reports
    • Chat/instant message
    • Text messaging
    • Field visits
    • Other
  4. Who is your missionary’s primary contact person for your congregation?
    • Mission committee chair
    • Specifically appointed liaison
    • Elder
    • Deacon
    • Minister
    • Other (please specify)
  5. When a representative from your congregation contacts one of your missionaries, how would you describe the focus of that contact?
    • Focused entirely on the missionary’s work
    • Focused mostly on the missionary’s work, with some attention to their personal lives (e.g., family life, spiritual and emotional well-being, life, satisfaction, etc.)
    • Focused about evenly between the missionary’s work and personal lives
    • Focused mostly on the missionary’s personal lives with some attention to their work
    • Focus entirely on the missionary’s personal lives
  6. How satisfied are you with the frequency of communication with your missionary?
    • Highly dissatisfied
    • Dissatisfied
    • It is okay
    • Satisfied
    • Highly satisfied
  7. How satisfied are you with the quality of communication with your missionary?
    • Highly dissatisfied
    • Dissatisfied
    • It is okay
    • Satisfied
    • Highly satisfied
  8. How frequently does your congregation contact your missionary in order to offer spiritual or emotional guidance and support?
    • Never
    • Once or twice a year
    • Monthly
    • Weekly
    • Multiple times per week
  9. If you could change one thing about the communication between your missionary and your church, what would it be?

Field Visits

  1. How often does someone from your congregation (not including family members) visit your missionaries on the field?
    • Never
    • Less than once every five years
    • Every 3–5 years
    • Every 1–3 years
    • At least once a year
  2. When someone from your church visits your missionary on the field, who sets the agenda for the visit?
    • It is entirely or mostly set by representatives from your congregation.
    • It is entirely or mostly set by the missionary.
    • It is a collaborative effort with about equal input from your congregation and the missionary.
  3. When someone from your congregation visits your missionaries on the field, how would you describe the focus of that visit?
    • Focused entirely on the missionary’s work
    • Focused mostly on the missionary’s work, with some attention to their personal lives (e.g., family life, spiritual and emotional well-being, life satisfaction, etc.)
    • Focused about evenly between the missionary’s work and personal lives
    • Focused mostly on the missionary’s personal lives with some attention to their work
    • Focused entirely on the missionary’s personal lives
    • Other (please specify)
  4. How would you describe the outcome of visits from your congregation to your missionary?
    • Harmful
    • Of little value
    • Okay
    • Helpful
    • Very Helpful
  5. After the visit, what sort of feedback does your church send the missionary?
    • A detailed response (written or verbal) regarding how you think they are doing, areas of strength and improvements, etc.
    • A brief response (written or verbal) regarding how you think they are doing, areas of strength and improvements, etc.
    • No feedback
  6. If you do provide feedback to your missionary from representatives from your church, how helpful do you think the missionary finds it to be?
    • Extremely helpful
    • Moderately helpful
    • Marginally helpful
    • Not helpful
    • Harmful
    • Does not apply
  7. If you could change one thing about visits from your church to your missionaries, what would it be (skip if not applicable)?
  8. When has your congregation sent a third party (e.g., a counselor or consultant) to assist your missionary with issues they were facing on the field?
    • Never
    • When they have faced an emergency situation
    • On a periodic basis to help your missionary address issues proactively

Non-Financial Support

  1. Respond to the following statements about the types of support your congregation provides for your missionaries:
    • The church prays for your missionaries when you meet together.
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Often
      • All the time
      • I don’t know
    • The elders/missions committee/a support team prays for your missionaries.
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Often
      • All the time
      • I don’t know
    • Your missionaries receive notes of encouragement by mail, social media (e.g., Facebook), email, etc.
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Often
      • All the time
      • I don’t know
    • Your missionaries receive care packages.
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Often
      • All the time
      • I don’t know
    • Your missionaries receive cards or gifts on special occasions like birthdays or holidays.
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Often
      • All the time
      • I don’t know
    • Your missionaries are encouraged to attend spiritually uplifting events like retreats for missionaries.
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Often
      • All the time
      • I don’t know
    • Your missionaries are encouraged to take time away from their work.
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Often
      • All the time
      • I don’t know
    • Your missionaries are sent resources such as books, literature, podcasts, etc. intended to provide a spiritual uplift.
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Often
      • All the time
      • I don’t know
  2. Please list, in order of importance, the type of support your congregation sends to your missionaries:
    • Cards, gifts on special occasions
    • Care packages
    • Notes of encouragement
    • Prayer
    • Encouragement to attend spiritual events
    • Encouragement to take time away from work
    • Resources such as books, literature, podcasts
  3. Has your church worked with your missionaries to develop a re-entry plan for when they decide to leave the field?
    • Yes
    • No

Financial Support

  1. How many other congregations help support your missionary?
  2. Approximately how many individuals also support your missionary?
  3. What percentage of your missionary’s total support (salary, benefit, and working fund) come from your congregation?
  4. Which of the following benefits do you provide for your missionaries as part of their financial support?
    • Salary (yes/no)
    • Health insurance (yes/no)
    • Retirement funds (yes/no)
    • Re-entry funds (moving, resettlement money, etc.) (yes/no)
    • Life insurance (yes/no)
    • Travel funds to attend retreats or conferences (yes/no)
    • Educational expenses for their children (yes/no)
    • Educational expenses for them (i.e., higher education) (yes/no)
    • Other (please specify)
  5. If you answered “yes” to providing health insurance benefits, how much do you fund?
  6. How often does your congregation provide the following services for your missionaries?
    • Raises
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Regularly
    • Income adjustments to account for changes in exchange rates
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Regularly
    • Help with tax or financial planning
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Regularly
    • Financial counseling
      • Never
      • Seldom
      • Sometimes
      • Regularly
  7. Does your congregation…
    • …consistently provide missionary financial support on time?
      • Strongly disagree
      • Disagree
      • Uncertain
      • Agree
      • Strongly agree
    • …let your missionary know in advance when there are changes in their financial support?
      • Strongly disagree
      • Disagree
      • Uncertain
      • Agree
      • Strongly agree
    • …help your missionaries stay in communication with their other financial supporters?
      • Strongly disagree
      • Disagree
      • Uncertain
      • Agree
      • Strongly agree
    • …only address your missionary’s financial situation when they bring it to your attention?
      • Strongly disagree
      • Disagree
      • Uncertain
      • Agree
      • Strongly agree
    • …have a good understanding of your missionary’s financial needs?
      • Strongly disagree
      • Disagree
      • Uncertain
      • Agree
      • Strongly agree
    • …provide additional funding when your missionary may have a need due to an emergency situation?
      • Strongly disagree
      • Disagree
      • Uncertain
      • Agree
      • Strongly agree
  8. How would you rate the salary level you provide for your missionary?
    • Inadequate to meet their needs
    • Under funded – barely making it
    • Adequate
    • Generous
  9. How would you rate the level of financial support you provide for your missionaries in terms of benefits (e.g., insurance, retirement funds, professional development, etc.)?
    • Severely underfunded
    • Underfunded
    • Adequate
    • Generous
    • We do not provide benefits
  10. How would you rate your missionary’s working fund?
    • Severely underfunded
    • Underfunded
    • Adequate
    • Generous
    • We do not provide a working fund
  11. How would you rate the overall level of care your congregation provides for your missionaries?
    • Great
    • Good
    • Okay
    • Sub-par
    • Terrible
  12. Would you be interested in learning more about missionary care?
    • Yes
    • No
  13. How many years have you supported missionaries?
  14. Continent on which your missionaries are currently serving:
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Pacific Rim
    • South/Central America
  15. How many missionaries do you support?
    • Couples
    • Singles
  16. In what state is your congregation located?
  17. How many members are in your congregation?

Appendix 3: Responses from Missionary Survey

Overall Care from Sponsoring Church

Great

28

Good

39

Okay

19

Sub-par

13

Terrible

1

Communication with Sponsoring Church

Frequency of Contact (percent of respondents)

Initiated by Church

Initiated by Missionary

More than once/week

0

0

Once a week

15

3

Monthly

52

20

1–2 times per year

28

60

Never

5

17

Means of contact

Utilized (Percent)

Effectiveness (Avg. rank order)

Phone calls

27

4.49

Skype

42

4.42

Chat/Instant messaging

14

3.32

Texts

18

3.36

Field visits

48

5.08

Satisfaction with contact (percent of respondents)

Frequency

Quality

Highly satisfied

15

20

Satisfied

29

30

It is okay

32

31

Dissatisfied

16

14

Highly dissatisfied

8

6

Field Visits (percent of respondents)

Frequency

At least once/year

20

1–3 years

41

3–5 years

17

Less than every 5 years

6

Never

17

Focus

Entirely on work

5

Mostly on work, some on missionary

24

Evenly split between work and missionary

62

Mostly on missionary, some on work

8

Entirely on missionary

0

Outcome

Very helpful

36

Helpful

40

Okay

18

Of little value

4

Harmful

1

Compensation

% sponsoring churches providing benefits

Salary

93

Health Insurance

39

Retirement funds

45

Re-entry funds

38

Life Insurance

23

Travel funds to attend retreats

47

Educational funds for children

25

Education funds for self

14

Income Adjustments and Financial Services (percent of respondents)

Raises

Adjust

Financial Planning

Financial Counseling

Regularly

16

23

10

6

Sometimes

24

17

12

11

Seldom

34

16

16

14

Never

26

44

62

69

Rating compensation (percent of respondents)

Salary

Benefits

Working Fund

Generous

35

24

26

Adequate

50

37

50

Underfunded

12

29

18

Inadequate

3

10

6

Appendix 4: Responses from Church Survey

Overall Assessment of Missionary Care

Great

11

Good

53

Okay

17

Sub-par

20

Terrible

0

Communication with Missionaries

Frequency of Contact (percent of respondents)

Initiated by Church

More than once/week

7

Once a week

20

Monthly

64

1–2 times per year

9

Never

0

Means of contact

Utilized (Percent)

Effectiveness (Avg. rank order)

Email

100

6.78

Phone calls

71

5.68

Skype

58

5.92

Chat/Instant messaging

24

2.88

Texts

31

4.00

Field visits

78

6.44

Reading their reports

91

4.97

Satisfaction with contact (percent of respondents)

Frequency

Quality

Highly satisfied

16

7

Satisfied

42

66

It is okay

33

23

Dissatisfied

7

2

Highly dissatisfied

2

2

Field Visits (percent of respondents)

Frequency

At least once/year

26

1–3 years

57

3–5 years

5

Less than every 5 years

7

Never

5

Focus

Entirely on work

0

Mostly on work, some on missionary

40

Evenly split between work and missionary

48

Mostly on missionary, some on work

12

Entirely on missionary

0

Outcome

Very helpful

52

Helpful

43

Okay

5

Of little value

0

Harmful

0

Compensation

% sponsoring churches providing benefits

Salary

97

Health Insurance

40

Retirement funds

45

Re-entry funds

59

Life Insurance

20

Travel funds to attend retreats

80

Educational funds for children

28

Education funds for self

16

Income Adjustments and Financial Services (percent of respondents)

Raises

Adjust

Financial Planning

Financial Counseling

Regularly

9

11

9

3

Sometimes

57

58

17

23

Seldom

14

11

34

40

Never

20

19

40

34

Rating compensation (percent of respondents)

Salary

Benefits

Working Fund

Generous

22

20

25

Adequate

65

47

63

Underfunded

11

27

10

Inadequate

1

7

3

1 Lois A. Dodds and Lawrence E. Dodds, Stressed from Core to Cosmos: Issues and Needs Arising from Cross-Cultural Ministry, American Association of Christian Counselors World Congress, (Liverpool, PA: Heartstream Resources, 1997), 1, https://www.heartstreamresources.org/wp-content/uploads/CORE2COS.pdf.

2 See Claire A. Camp, Joy M. Bustrum, David W. Brokaw, and Christopher J. Adams, “Missionary Perspectives on the Effectiveness of Current Member Care Practices,” Journal of Psychology and Theology 42, no. 4 (Winter 2014): 359–68.

3 Nancy Thayer-Hart, ed., Survey Fundamentals: A Guide to Designing and Implementing Surveys (Madison, WI: Office of Quality Improvement, 2010), https://oqi.wisc.edu/resourcelibrary/uploads/resources/Survey_Guide.pdf.

4 We are profoundly grateful to Marti Van Roy at MRN and Christy LaStarge and Tiffany Vincent at GCM for the hours they spent building this database, while continuing to give attention to their regular workload.