How Can the Local Church Minister to a Missionary’s Family?

Editor’s note: This post is the first in a two-part series that will deal with how a local church can minister to a missionary’s family. Today we will look at how the local church can fulfill this ministry while the missionary is serving on the field. In the next post, we will consider how the church can more effectively show their love for the missionary’s family while they are on home assignment.

In most cases today, a local church sends a missionary family for a long-term assignment to a foreign field to preach the gospel in some form. I specifically mention family because normally the number of families outweighs the number of single missionaries sent by local churches. Logically, but regularly overlooked is the fact that the church sends the entire family, not just the ordained minister and leader of the household. The ministry involves the entire family and not simply the man.

On the foreign field, the ministries are numerous and varied. Depending on the context, there will be evangelistic concentrations, church planting, discipleship and leadership training to name a few. The ministries are numerous, and so are the challenges. A family who has been displaced from their home country and culture experiences countless difficulties from the first moment they arrive at their new home. Over time these initial battles are won and give way to other issues. There is a new language to learn, there are unwritten cultural rules to follow. There are new decisions that need to be made that often impact the missionary’s financial support, the on-field ministry as well as the family unit as a whole.

Like many other believers in different contexts, the missionary and his family face discouragement, isolation, loneliness and even serious bouts of depression. I had no idea that seasonal depression was real until my wife began to suffer from it. The cold, dreary six months of winter that we face each year affects my wife in ways that it doesn’t affect me.

Unfortunately, too many times, these issues go unchecked. The missionary himself is engulfed in the work or is ill-equipped to deal with the problems by himself. They could lead to burn-out, martial problems and in the least, a decreased effectiveness in the ministry. So how can a local church help to alleviate some of these pressures and minister to a missionary’s family?

Ensure that their needs are being met.

Those needs include financial, spiritual and emotional needs. While it’s unlikely that any one supporting church, friend or stateside family can always ensure that an unforeseen or pressing financial need is met, they can inquire on a regular basis. While we were raising our support several years ago, one pastor asked me what the average amount was that a church supported our ministry. He didn’t want for his church to be just an average supporting church but wanted to make sure that they gave over and above what other churches gave. If a local church isn’t in a position to help meet a need, they can always pray that the Lord might send someone else to take care of it.

Spiritual needs can be met in many different ways. One of our supporting churches regularly sends books to all of their missionaries. These books are often devotional in nature and help to feed the souls of the missionary and his family. Often the books are directed towards the missionary’s wife and are sometimes appropriate for their children. My wife once went to a special retreat for missionary wives that blessed her tremendously in a time when she needed refreshing. The ladies who worked in the retreat were made it a special effort to care for the spiritual needs of the attendees while on a short-term mission trip. Something similar could easily be put together for missionary kids. These investments make a great impact on families who serve far away from their previously normal lives and cultures.

Emotional needs can be met in these types of settings. My children have been involved in summer camps where American volunteers invested in the campers. They didn’t only play games and teach them, but also took time to inquire about their lives and their friends. They came away from these experiences realizing that others do care and do pay attention to the sacrifices they making while their parents serve on the foreign field.

Provide feedback during a time of need.

You may not know, but some of the most difficult times in a missionary family’s life are holidays. When everyone else is basking in the fellowship of their closest loved ones and enjoying their favorite traditions, missionary family’s do their best to get by. The food’s are different, if available. Modern technology, though great doesn’t make up for the sights, smells and personal contact with grandparents and aunts and uncles. Sometimes missionary kids don’t remember or don’t even know their cousins because they have spent so much time on the field.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are fantastic ways to keep in touch, but friends and family in the local church can go one step further by planning ahead and sending something as small as a card. Over the years we’ve gotten fewer and fewer Christmas cards, but we treasure the ones we do receive. We have several churches who send birthday cards for each of us every year. Holidays and birthdays aren’t the only times that people who are stateside could minister to families on a foreign field. In times of sickness or during a time of grieving over a death in the family. Phone calls or a simple email can strengthen ties between the local body in the States and their representative who is serving far away in another country on their behalf.

Churches could appoint a young pastor in training or someone who would like to serve on a missions’ committee to care for the missionary family as a pastor would care for his local flock.

Include them in local ministry news and updates.

Every two to three months missionaries normally update their partners in the States about what has taken place lately and what might be happening in near future. It shows accountability and gives those who are interested specific prayer requests to consider. It’s a normal practice that’s been around since Paul wrote to his supporters in the New Testament. However, more times than not communications only go one way. When I pastored in the US before serving in Europe, I made it part of the ministry of the church to stay in contact with our missionaries. I wanted them to know that we were interested in their work, but also that we would love for them to join us in prayer for our church. I wanted us to be partners. So, I wrote letters and made phone calls.

Now as we are on the field, we have a few pastors who keep in touch and send us updates about the church on a regular basis. For that I’m extremely grateful. If there is one thing that missionaries hate it’s when they hear from the supporting church only to be made aware that their financial support will be reduced. We long to hear about people getting saved and baptized and churches growing and being revitalized in the United States. So, the local church could minister to the missionary and his family by providing updates and including them in the local news of the ministry. We have a few churches that have added us to their closed Facebook group reserved for members of the church. Although we’re not official members, they allow us the blessing of sharing prayer requests with us and allowing us to see pictures of church fellowships and special events. The same thing could easily be done with youth groups or special Sunday school classes.

Last week our youngest daughter received a small package in the mail that was full of cards and letters and drawings. She’s been going through a tough time at school after our recent move. A church heard about her struggles and some of the young girls her age got together and decided to be a blessing to her. They ministered to her and to me in a time of need. You don’t have to be a pastor and you don’t have to give money to be a blessing to a missionary’s family.

About the Author

Michael Andrzejewski

Michael Andrzejewski is a missionary in western Europe who loves to share his stories. An introvert by nature, he swims upstream while struggling to pastor cross-culturally. Passionate about both the Gospel and football, he constantly searches for really good sushi.