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September Activate Post: The church’s role in developing cross-cultural workers


Do you know how long it usually takes for a person to move from initially exploring a call to missions to living overseas? It takes years, sometimes even decades. As I talk to candidates who are interested in serving overseas, one question we always ask is, “Tell me about your calling to cross-cultural mission work.” The answer is never a short story. God uses a person’s life to develop a call, and then He uses many more years to prepare people for cross-cultural ministry.

More than 80 percent of people who currently serve in long-term mission work first considered this path while on a short-term mission trip. A large majority of those trips occurred while the person was a student. High schoolers and even college-aged students have several years before they are prepared to move overseas. In the meantime, life has a way of derailing these holy desires. I don’t say this to discourage you, but rather to encourage you as a church congregation. You have a role to play in this story!

What is your response when a member of your congregation comes to you and says, “I think God may be calling me to missions”? Here are some suggestions for you as you lead and guide people who sense a call to missions:

  • Suggest the person attend a Perspectives class. Better yet, host a Perspective class for your city! Perspectives is an in-depth class that studies the biblical, historical, cultural, and strategic aspects of cross-cultural ministry.
  • Engage them in deep levels of discipleship. If God is leading someone to cross-cultural mission service, they will need to know how to disciple others, which starts with being discipled well themselves.
  • Get them involved in planning and praying for your annual Global Impact Celebration. Have them host a cross-cultural worker in their home so they can ask questions and learn more about cross-cultural ministry.
  • Connect them with a cross-cultural worker, and encourage them to go on a vision trip. This trip would be different from a short-term mission trip. Have the individual spend a few weeks just doing life with a missionary. This will be a great way to experience cross-cultural ministry.
  • Involve their love for missions in your conversations with them. As they choose a life path, remind them of their call.
  • Connect them with a mission agency. We have mobilizers whose life call is to help others discern what God is calling them to next.

TMS Global recognizes that there is a big jump from, “Maybe God is calling me,” to, “I’m ready to go!” We have developed short-term trips to bridge this gap. Our GreenLight program gives college-aged students the greenlight to embrace culture, experience ministry, and explore calling. This is not your typical short-term trip. Students are encouraged to dig into scripture and prayer in a cross-cultural setting. During GreenLight experiences, students seek to discern how God is forming them and how He will sustain them for long-term ministry.

If you know of any college-aged young adults who could benefit from our GreenLight program, please contact us. We want to empower you to lead your people into deeper levels of involvement as we all seek to join Jesus in His mission.

Sarah Parham serves as the senior director of domestic mobilization for TMS Global.