Missionary Support Teams (MSTs)
No missionary should serve solo
These verses are often read during wedding ceremonies to remind us of the benefits of marriage. But the writer of Ecclesiastes isn’t just referring to the relationship of husband and wife in this passage. He’s talking about a reality that few of us in Western culture like to dwell on — we need each other.
Most of us strive to be independent and responsible for ourselves, believing we should be able to “make it on our own.” And even when we do recognize our need for one another, our preference is to be the one giving help rather than the one receiving help.
The Kingdom of God is so contrary to our cultural tendencies at times! While the world tells us to function independently, the Word calls us to interdependence in the body of Christ and encourages mutual “edification” (encouragement and support).
These concepts of interdependence and edification lie at the heart of EMM’s vision for the interaction among a missionary, his/her support team, and the mission agency.
The closing phrase of Ecclesiastes 4:12 provides a concrete image of this three-stranded relationship: “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
A missionary, the MST, and EMM — three strands woven together into a strong cord. Although each strand has strength of its own, three strands working separately will reach their breaking points more quickly than three strands woven together into one cord.
May we be woven together in unified mission vision, experiencing the strength and joy of interdependence!
“Working together, MST members develop systems of spiritual, relational, and financial support that uniquely fit the needs of workers serving around the world, increasing their resilience and fruitfulness in mission. EMM deeply values its MST partners and the vital role they play in mission.” — Barry Freed, MST coach
A potential missionary seeking God’s direction about a missions calling should seek counsel from congregational leaders, family members, and trusted friends. These people often become MST members if God opens the door to a missions assignment.
|When the missionary:||The MST:|
|is approved for service||is formed as people accept the missionary’s|
invitation to serve in particular roles
|is preparing for service|
helps the missionary to
arranges for the home congregation to
|is on assignment|
prays regularly for the missionary
provides regular encouragement to the
communicates frequently with the missionary and the support network
monitors the balance in the missionary’s
assists with raising additional funds if contributions are less than pledged
|returns from assignment|
helps the missionary to
continues to provide loving support during
EMM resources MSTs by:
- orienting each new MST
- training MSTs to work with their missionaries in raising full financial support
- providing resources for creating communication pieces and tracking contributions
- producing prayer cards to help missionaries and MSTs communicate with supporters
- providing ongoing encouragement and equipping by newsletter
- sending information about re-entry care to MSTs
MST member covenant
I commit to:
- pray regularly for the missionary we support
- stay in relationship with the missionary
- carry out the duties of my role on the team
As a team, we commit to:
- work with the missionary to develop a support network that enables full financial support
- take primary responsibility for raising funds and maintaining necessary balances while the missionary serves on the field
MSTs are made up of people from the missionary’s congregation, family, and friends. These teams, along with EMM, form a vital part of the network supporting the missionary. EMM recommends that both short- and long-term missionaries form MSTs by inviting people to serve in the following roles:
- Team leader: convenes team meetings and orchestrates the team’s work in cooperation with the missionary and EMM; usually someone with administrative and motivational gifts.
- Prayer facilitator: circulates the missionary’s prayer requests and leads the prayer network; usually someone whom the missionary trusts deeply and who has a heart for prayer.
- Pastoral care provider: mentors the missionary in spiritual and emotional well-being throughout preparation for service and time on the field, and during reintegration into the sending community when his/her mission assignment is completed; can be a pastor, mentor, or other trusted spiritual adviser.
- Finance coordinator: tracks financial contributions and monitors the missionary’s financial support; usually a person who likes numbers and details.
- Church communicator: ensures that communication flows freely and frequently between the missionary, supporting congregations, and other members of the support network; often someone with the gift of encouragement who is comfortable speaking in front of others.
Note: Parents of missionaries often make valuable contributions as MST members, especially in the children’s advocate, church communicator, and newsletter manager roles. EMM recommends that a parent not serve in the roles of team leader or prayer facilitator.
Missionaries serving more than one year often ask people to cover two additional roles:
- Newsletter manager: receives and distributes updates from the missionary to members of the support network; usually a person with ability to maintain a database of addresses and sometimes with graphic design skills.
- Children’s advocate: discerns and tends to the special needs of missionary children; usually someone with a special interest in children. If the missionary child is older, the advocate could be a peer.
Of course, each team is unique. Sometimes one person covers more than one role. Sometimes a married couple shares a role. Sometimes teams adapt the recommended roles to better fit the missionary’s and the team’s particular needs. This is perfectly acceptable.
MST RESOURCE HANDBOOK
Each Missionary Support Team is given a manual of resources to help its members understand their roles and complete the tasks assigned to them. MSTs are never left to flounder on their own. EMM’s two MST coaches help new teams form and resource each team as members learn their roles and how to function well together.
The complete MST handbook is available to view and includes resources to guide the team in ensuring a missionary’s:
- spiritual support
- relational support
- financial support