How Missionary Sending Organizations Help Prepare You For Cross-Cultural Ministry
If you are praying, hearing God’s voice and seeking a way to use your talents to serve God, it’s possible that you are considering cross-cultural ministry/international missionary work.
It’s natural to have fears about something this big. Being a cross-cultural minister is not always easy; in fact, people who’ve served in the role will tell you it’s by far the most challenging thing they’ve ever done. But the rewards can be even greater than the challenges. To be able to take advantage of the talent God gives you, to go and share Christ’s love with people of all nations -- is truly an opportunity that shouldn’t be ignored or taken lightly.
Although every one of us has individual gifts, we don’t have to go it alone. God puts helpers in our path; caring people and organizations who come together to work for good and work for God.
Mission sending agencies (also called cross-cultural sending agencies, mission sending organizations, or ministry sending organizations-- we use the terms interchangeably in this article) exist so that people who are called to serve can access the skills and support needed to amplify their work.
Think of a sending organization like United World Mission (UWM) as a Ministry Outfitter-- an experienced partner you can count on for the equipment you’ll need to have with you as you go on your journey.
A sending organization is a valuable resource to get the skills and tools that make your work as a missionary more effective. Your fears are more manageable when you know you’ve got someone looking out for you. We hope you’ll read on to learn more about how an organization like UWM can give you the tools you need to follow your calling.
What does it mean to serve cross-culturally?
Compassion for people was the heartbeat of Jesus. Even in today’s world, where it feels like technology is taking over, there’s still a massive need for people. It’s real people who connect and make the difference. It’s people who do the work on the ground. It’s people who are Jesus’ hands and feet, people who show God’s love to others.
Cross-cultural service is diverse. Just as Jesus’ compassion and love are always expanding, there are many geographical locations where people can be a steward of his teachings. From North America and Latin America, to Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, people in countless locations around the world need assistance. Some are near, some are far, but your contribution can make a difference no matter where you choose to serve.
Forget the old stereotypes. Modern cross-cultural service is exciting and relevant to today’s world. It doesn’t look like just one thing. Jesus keeps up with the times-- sending us out to share all our gifts, including skills that might not traditionally be thought of as missionary work.
Cross-cultural ministry work might look like:
- Helping at-risk children
- Business and entrepreneurship
- Equipping people stuck in poverty and injustice
- Using your graduate degree
- Teaching English
- Using computers and technology
- Developing recipes and cooking
- Coordinating holistic missions
- Being an artist or musician
- Marketing and social media
- Helping victims of human trafficking
- Or something else!
Cross-cultural work doesn’t look the same everywhere. God can always use your skills, as long as you’re willing to share them. Your talents matter. The needs of unreached people are always there, but the approaches you use to serve could vary from day to day, hour to hour.
The most effective ministry workers are teachable. They are rooted spiritually, with a flexibility and an openness to the surprises God has in store for them. Are you willing to learn? Are you open to submitting yourself to God’s teachings, to different cultures and languages, to hard challenges? Your teachable attitude will help make you an effective shepherd.
Every day, cross-cultural workers submit to the love of people. They share their ministry and gifts in different contexts, to help others experience Christ’s love and find sustainable solutions for their communities. It’s difficult work-- but to the people you serve, you can make all the difference.
What are missions sending agencies?
As the name suggests, a sending group works to send and support people undertaking missions work. These agencies do a lot of preparation (behind the scenes and otherwise) to get cross-cultural ministers to the field and once there, serve as a support system to help them be more effective.
Missionary sending groups assist individuals and families in finding financial partners. They support your fundraising efforts. They train and equip you to become a leader. And the most successful sending organizations have the skills and resources needed to support you and your entire family-- mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
For 75 years United World Mission (UWM) has been a trusted mission sending agency, dedicated to helping cross-cultural and international ministers meet the challenges that come with the work. UWM unites missionaries with trusted global partners and equips thousands of indigenous leaders, pastors, and church planters to fulfill the Great Commission.
UWM’s efforts make the church visible and strong, going where the darkness is the greatest. They show unreached groups that they are meaningful and important. By partnering with talented people (like you) who want to share their gifts, missionary sending agencies like UWM make the church healthy and help it grow.
How does a missionary sending organization help me?
Any time you enter a new profession, good training can provide confidence and boost your performance: Missions work is no different. A reputable, experienced sending agency will help set expectations, then do everything possible to prepare and equip you for your new job.
There’s an urgent need for highly trained leaders within the global church. UWM equips leaders from the grassroots to the classroom —pastors, church planters, and missionaries— as well as scholars and thought leaders. UWM prepares you to be part of something larger than yourself. They help you deal with the challenges that come with cross-cultural work.
Some people think it’s easy to be a missionary in another culture, but for most it’s a monumental challenge. Advance preparation is an absolute necessity to help missionaries know what to expect, and to help them adapt and serve. Without the right agency, many missionaries simply don’t have the support to go or stay on their own.
Preparation makes ALL the difference. One of UWM’s key benefits is a residential training center where you and your family will work with seasoned experts. You’ll learn about what you’ll need for your journey. You’ll get a healthy, Godly perspective on missions work and the tools you’ll need: cross-cultural preparation, language acquisition, and a spiritual retreat.
Imagine going to a place where you don’t fit in. Where everything that’s part of you makes you stand out from everyone else. A place where you can’t communicate. We don’t tend to realize how big of an impact culture makes on our lives until we’re in a new one. Workers going to new cultures need expertise in adapting to their environments or we risk being ineffective.
UWM is unique because of its partnership with the Center for Intercultural Training (CIT). CIT offers an expert-led, pre-field training program to help you prepare for differences you’ll face on the field. Missionaries who are properly equipped by experts have more of the tools they need to be sustainable. Mission workers who are professionally trained have a huge advantage over those who “go it alone.“
The CIT program is a residential, 5-7 week course that offers you preparation for integration into a new culture. It helps you and your family understand differences among cultures, and how the Bible speaks to all. Age-specific learning environments help every member of the family learn and prepare for the transitions ahead. You’ll learn that you’re part of something bigger than yourself and get skills that can help you demonstrate Christ’s love to others.
Communication can be one of the biggest barriers between you and the people you’re trying to serve. UWM helps bridge the gap by providing language acquisition training. In the past, did you struggle to learn language in a classroom environment? Or are you the type of learner who does well with a textbook but finds it tough to speak with real people? How do you personally learn best?
A two-week language acquisition module helps missionaries-in-training understand their preferred style of learning a new language. Getting the right language acquisition skills is critical in setting you up for success, since learning how to communicate will be important wherever you go.
You’ll get skills and attitudes to acquire language successfully, gaining confidence and taking charge of your own learning. And throughout it all, you’ll learn in fellowship, depending on others and the Lord for help. UWM and CIT will help you play to your strengths, teaching you how to be the most effective communicator you can be. You’ll harness the power of activities and techniques to learn language in a way that’s meaningful to you.
No missions sending agency should neglect the importance of spiritual formation. As you prepare to be a cross-cultural minister, UWM gives you a designated environment for processing the transitions you’re about to experience. UWM missionaries can always call on a full-time director of spiritual formation. You’ll receive spiritually solid, entry-point orientation and full coaching on how to raise support, deal with challenges, and how to represent Christ as an ambassador.
Offerings such as week-long spiritual retreats provide time with other team members, making you part of an excited and humbled, supportive community. And there’s always a space for your heart. Missionaries have to seek Christ and learn to trust him. Faithfully grounded, spiritual expectations can give you foundational skills for the field long before you cross geographical, cultural, or linguistic barriers.
You’re launching a new life, and UWM is here for you with prayer, education, and support. We know you’ll need this dedicated time before you leave to reflect, plan, and pray. But don’t forget that intentional spiritual formation is integrated throughout the program, not just at the beginning. It’s there to help you pay attention to what is going on in your heart, and how God is at work in you.
Do missionary sending organizations make a difference?
Being a missionary is extremely fulfilling, but it’s not a piece of cake. When you’re serving people in other cultures, there are struggles. In challenging situations, it’s a blessing and a necessity to stand on a firm foundation, to have access to a group of trained and faithful people who can consistently support you.
Missionary sending organizations are those firm foundations. They can aid in encouraging you, in connecting you, in giving you direction to carry onward in your calling. They are trained to deal with situations that naturally arise when doing missionary work.
The most effective missions agencies are here to help. They’ll remind you of the clear vision God has for the work that needs to be done, but they’ll also give support that makes a difference in your daily life. Partnering with a missions agency is a way to strengthen your impact and to follow the vision that called you in the first place.
Sending agencies provide amazing fellowship and foundation. You have a built-in community of like-minded people thinking of you, praying for you, and finding new ways to support you. If you or your family get sick, a sending organization like UWM is there to help with access to healthcare solutions and remind you you’re never alone.
If you have children, a sending agency like UWM is critical. It offers them the support and skills they need to deal with inevitable adjustments. A Member Care Team counselor is never far from reach to assist with whatever difficulties arise.
UWM also facilitates get-togethers with other colleagues in your region. You’ll meet people who can offer support, prayer, and understanding just as you pray and support them in return. It feels great to know that even when you’re outside of your comfort zone, there is a strong and steady community of knowledgeable and faithful people who support you. It’s critical to be able to count on people who share your experience and vision.
A good missions sending organization is a partner, a support system, and a contingency plan. It helps you work alongside others. It helps you manage funds and handle business. Working with UWM can help you learn how to manage your heart, savings, health, self-esteem, relationships, family, and freedom.
What should I look for in a missions sending agency?
A good missionary sending agency prepares men and women to serve God, the church, and society, providing the tools needed to reach out and serve more effectively. But it’s helpful to remember that the calling you’re considering is, in many ways, a job. Think of the sending agency as a hiring corporation. Ask questions about the agency as if you were interviewing for a position there.
Thoughts for consideration:
- Do you align spiritually with the agency’s statement of faith?
- Are you seeking work in a particular geographical area or with a particular people group?
- Do you “click” with people you’ve spoken to at the agency?
- What is their philosophy on ministry and planting churches?
- Are you aligned with their financial structure?
- Does their fieldwork approach fit with your ideals?
- Is ongoing member care provided?
- What are the benefits their home office provides?
- What’s their accountability structure?
- What is the leadership structure?
Look for an agency that fits with your beliefs and approach. Immersing yourself in a new culture does not magically change who you fundamentally are. Recognize your strengths and limitations and try to find a group that aligns with these traits. Try to find a group deeply rooted in the Scriptures and rooted in service. Look for a group that encourages discipleship and a nurturing environment.
How does the group provide ongoing support for family counseling issues, healthcare needs, financial planning? These areas may seem small compared to matters of faith, but they’re important. These are issues that will affect you throughout your time in the field.
A missions sending organization recognizes that the Church is God’s main instrument of transforming lives-- so they should also strengthen the Church on the ground through theological training. UWM provides Biblical literacy to workers and builds up believers. UWM aids missionaries in working beside local churches, not dominating them.
When missionaries are used to solve problems, it facilitates church planting. Workers are able to equip national church planters and leaders. UWM works with and through national churches and other like-minded parachurch organizations, forming partnerships with nationals to be effective in their calling. We cannot preach what we do not live.
What problems do mission sending agencies solve?
People who are called to do missions work might find it faster to work through their own church and go by themselves. But missionaries who feel supported by an organization are more likely to carry out the call the Lord has put on their life.
We all know there’s a great need for the Gospel, but an effective support system is also vital in holding up missionaries and helping them flourish. After all, we are just humans, with imperfect hearts. We depend on God (and others) for practical things.
A group like UWM has extensive know-how (over 75 years of experience) in helping people take on this important work. We solve everyday, real problems that ministry leaders and their families face.
UWM helps individuals and families with:
- Access to healthcare
- Kids’ education
- Raising support
- Biblical literacy
- Ministry training
- Networking opportunities
- Understanding their role and how it fits into the organization
- Seeing how they will make a difference
- Counseling and support
Did you know that 90 percent of churches in the world are led by men and women who have little or no training for ministry? The United World Missions team has a bold goal: To make relevant theological education, practical training, and spiritual formation accessible to every ministry leader in every nation.
How does UWM lead?
UWM nurtures flourishing leaders and effective ministries worldwide. The UWM Mission: See God change lives and transform communities everywhere by partnering to equip leaders, establish churches, and engage in holistic mission.
When you’re considering a sending agency, always look for an organization that aligns with your beliefs. UWM leads with the following values:
- Seek God first
We embrace God's Kingdom, presence, work, and Word as foundational to everything.
- Serve partners well
We equip, encourage, and build capacity in others for contextual, sustainable impact. We are only as successful as our partners.
- Innovate a way
We seek innovative solutions by embracing change, practicing ingenuity, and walking with God's Spirit and our partners.
- Live boldly
We are energized by the heroic ambitions of Christ's calling, and we boldly follow wherever the Spirit leads.
- Surprise by love
We seek the good of all people and create authentic, missional communities displaying grace, affection, humility, and mutual support.
Jesus walked with his disciples; live immersed within the culture.
Christ came to give life. Share the Gospel of Christ’s transformation in proclamation and action alongside the local church.
God is dynamic. Join local ministries in seeking the Spirit’s innovation to engage society.
I’m still thinking of missionary work. What’s the next step?
There are people in the world with abundant need and abundant suffering. You have big dreams and aspirations to make a difference. Can God use you? Yes, and He wants to!
The UWM team is here and ready to listen. Please reach out to us for a no-pressure, confidential conversation. You’ll speak with a mobilizer, a friend guide who’s here to listen and answer your questions.
You can help develop a world that flourishes in Christ. You can disciple them effectively and work with them to build the Church, making an impact on local communities. Sometimes it’s about losing your life to find it; It’s about picking up the cross and carrying it.
Cross-cultural ministry leaders aren’t called to be comfortable, but UWM knows that you can serve more people if your own needs are supported. We hope you’ll reach out and learn more about how United World Mission can equip you to follow your calling.