Monday, August 9, 2010

How does the church do missions?

CHURCH CHALLENGE

Hanfield United Methodist Church
By Jenny Shaffer, WGM Writing Intern
January/February 2008 Call to Prayer

How does the church do missions? In the WGM community, many churches have found innovative ways. The Church Challenge shows how one church is doing missions today. Think about how your church could do missions and then by all means “Just do it!”

What comes to mind when you hear the word “missionary”? Is it a picture of a holy, righteous servant of God who gives up everything to work in a far-off country?

So often we have an up-on-a-pedestal image of who missionaries are and feel that we cannot relate to them. Maybe we haven’t traveled to a foreign country. Maybe we don’t like speaking in front of crowds. Maybe we think we’re not qualified enough. Whatever our hesitation is, it creates a divide between us and missionaries.

Eliminating the barrier that people seem to put up between themselves and missionaries is one reason Hanfield United Methodist Church in Marion, Indiana, established their Missionary in Residence program. Although similar programs have been in place on college campuses for some time, Hanfield has adapted the concept for the local church.

Hanfield has always valued missions. Their vision is to be “a church without walls, joyfully ministering to the felt needs of our community, nation, and world.” To improve their worldwide reach, they created this unique way to simultaneously educate their church members and minister to missionaries. By inviting missionaries to spend a month at Hanfield, they allow the missionaries and church members to build stronger relationships.

“Missionaries can’t develop relationships with the church when they fly in and out,” Pastor Tim Helm explained. “Hanfield wants to really connect with the missionaries we support, so the Missionary in Residence program is a win-win idea. It blesses the missionary and allows our church to be strategic about missions.”

During the time that the selected missionaries are on homeland ministry assignment, they commit to spending one month at the church. They teach in every adult Sunday School class, share in small groups, go out to eat with different families in the church, preach at least one message during morning worship, and work on a special project with the Hanfield missions committee.

“This is how relationships are built,” said Pastor Helm, “and how the missionaries learn our church’s DNA.”

The church makes a commitment, too. Supplying housing for a month is just the beginning. The church also commits to providing 1/12th of the missionaries’ monthly financial support and to continue investing in the field on which those missionaries serve. They send work teams that assist with projects and ministries and that see firsthand how the church’s investment results in changed lives.

Hanfield started their Missionary in Residence program in September 2002. The first couple they hosted were Kasonaga and Illunga Munza, United Methodist missionaries to Congo and Zambia. Since that time, the church has hosted WGM missionaries Bill and Lydia Allshouse (2003, 2007), John and Beth Muehleisen (2005), and David and Debbie Hawk (2006).

Encouraging church members to visit the fields on short-term missions trips is also part of the strategic plan. Pastor Helm shared, “[one of my dreams is] that every Hanfield-ite would go on at least one missions trip.”

For example, while David and Debbie Hawk were at the church in 2006, they traveled with a group from Hanfield to explore the possibility of WGM’s assisting the Honduran Holiness Church in beginning churches in El Salvador. When the Hawks—who had served in Mexico and Honduras previously—completed their homeland ministry assignment, they moved to El Salvador. They are working in church planting, community development, education, and ministries to at-risk youth.

One member of the 2006 Hanfield team that accompanied the Hawks was Aaron Johnson. In the summer of 2007, Johnson led another Hanfield team to El Salvador. The team helped with a basketball camp for youth and the remodeling of a home for use as a ministry center. After these two missions trips, Johnson says, “You may think of missionaries up here,” waving his hand above his head, “but you realize they’re just normal people, too.”

Hanfield United Methodist Church adopted a creative approach to solving two common church problems. With just this one program, they have enabled missionaries to feel plugged into the church and encouraged church members to feel pulled toward missions.

In Mark 16:15 (NIV), God calls us to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation,” but He doesn’t necessarily say how. Hanfield is working on fulfilling that commission in some creative ways. Don’t be afraid to be innovative in your approach to missions.
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