Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Author: Ken Guenther Page 1 of 24

Director of SEND U

coaching or mentoring
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Do I need a mentor or a coach?

In the last while, I have been thinking about how to strengthen our mentoring within SEND. In a recent analysis of leadership development within our organization, I noted that we needed more intentional mentoring of developing leaders by our current leaders. This is a gap in our current leadership development. Thinking about how to fill that gap has naturally led me to try to define mentoring. How is mentoring different from coaching? SEND U has already sought to create a coaching culture within the mission. More than 200 people in SEND have received some type of training in coaching. So, do we need both mentors and coaches?

Defining coaching and mentoring

A significant difficulty in answering this question is that the definition of coaching varies so much. For example, Lois Zachary and Lory Fischler in their mentoring fable, “Starting Strong” say,

Coaching is more instructive, but mentoring is more of a relationship. It’s not about me telling you what to do and you doing it.

Lois Zachary & Lory Fischler, Starting Strong: A Mentoring FAble, p.21.
YouTube evangelism

YouTube Evangelism

God calls all of us to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5). As Gary Ridley points out in another blog post, this work is not just with non-believers. Nevertheless, those of us who are called to serve as cross-cultural workers look for opportunities to share the Gospel with those who have never heard this good news. Typically, we expect that we will do so through sharing the Gospel in one-on-one conversations with our friends and acquaintances. Sometimes, we have opportunities to present the good news in public events through sermons or testimonies. A few of us might use Gospel tracts or other printed literature. But rarely if ever did we envision that YouTube could be our best platform for evangelism.

Digital missions

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have become much more interested in “digital missions” – how to do mission work through the Internet. We continue to see the strategic importance of living among the people we serve and learning their language and culture (see my recent blog post on this topic). But when we have fewer face-to-face interactions because of social distancing and quarantines, we look for additional opportunities to multiply our outreach. One of our colleagues in Japan has figured out a way to use YouTube for evangelism. The following article first appeared on the SEND blog and is used by permission.

combo teams
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Combo Teams

A number of years ago in this blog, I wrote about three different types of teams that we find in our mission organization.1I am indebted to Liz Givens who first identified these three different types of teams in SEND. Basketball teams are made up of multiple team members, working together closely and interacting frequently with each other about their various ministries. Track teams have a common purpose and team members support one another, but each person on the team works independently. X-Teams (expedition teams) are small teams found where a single expatriate missionary (or missionary couple) and a national Christian worker (pastor, missionary, or a lay Christian) partner together closely in ministry.

A fourth type – combo teams

But after discussing these different types with our teams around the world, I began to realize that there was yet a fourth type that was becoming increasingly popular. We are calling it a combo team. This type of team is not a single team, but a collection of multiple X-teams. In this scenario, missionaries serve on two teams simultaneously.

The ministry team is an X-team

The missionary serves with a national worker or a few national workers. This serves as their ministry team. The X-team is committed to a common purpose and provides direction and companionship in church planting and ministry. Normally, in these combo teams, the missionary is not the team leader of the X-team but serves under the leadership of a national pastor.

mission drift

Avoiding Mission Drift – part two

I have been looking at how a non-profit organization can avoid mission drift. You can find Part One of this series at this link. My mission organization, SEND International, says our mission is “to mobilize God’s people and engage the unreached in order to establish reproducing churches.” Recently, we have adopted the theme of “kingdom transformation.” We want to broaden our ministries to more than just spiritual needs. In so doing, we want to strengthen our evangelism and church planting among the unreached. We are not in any way changing our mission statement.

Historical examples of mission drift

Nevertheless, as I noted in my previous blog post, this new theme raises the danger of mission drift. This has happened many times in the past. Organizations that were focused on one thing gradually changed until their work in no way matched what they originally set out to do. For example, the Puritans of New English who founded Harvard University stated it’s purpose in this way:

mission drift
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Avoiding Mission Drift

It happens every day. I have a project or task in mind, put it on my schedule, get started on it, but then get distracted. My thoughts and then my actions drift off in another direction and I begin to work on another project instead. The same thing can happen to organizations. We call it “mission drift.” We have a stated purpose, but we are no longer doing what we said we are going to be doing.

Boundary markers

Over the years, I have adopted a few tools to get me back on track through the course of the workday. Keeping track of how I use my time on Toggl is one such tool. See also my blog post on “Deep Work.” I have also developed a few warning signs or boundary markers to prevent me from permanently drifting off course. My personal mission statement and my job description are two really important boundary markers. I review my alignment with these documents every quarter. My monthly goals prominently featured on my to-do list is another such boundary marker. What are the boundary markers for a non-profit organization to avoid mission drift?

incarnational model

Are missionaries called to be incarnational?

The incarnational model is how we often describe our decision to live among the people to whom we are sent. We learn to speak their language. We immerse ourselves in their culture, eating their foods and building deep friendships within that people group. The term “incarnational ministry” may also refer to adopting a living standard (e.g., the type and size of our house, the transportation we use, the clothes we wear) that does not create social barriers to the common people.

But is “incarnational” the best word to describe our strategy of immersing ourselves in the culture of the people? Is the incarnation of Christ the model we should follow as we engage the unreached people of this world?

coaching for goals
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What happens in a coaching session?

Do I need a coach?

This month, I will be thinking hard about my ministry and learning goals for 2021. My mission organization asks me to put together an annual ministry plan (AMP) and a personal growth plan (IGP) for the new year.1For further information, see the AMP/IGP guide that our training department has created. As part of that planning process, I am going to consider whether I will need a coach to help me with my ministry and learning goals. Setting up a few coaching calls might very well make the difference between reaching our 2021 goals and not doing so.

But what does a coach actually do? I have written about coaching in this blog. See “What is coaching?” and “The value of coaching” as two examples. But our blog posts have never really explained what a coach actually does. About 10 years ago, I addressed this question in a series of newsletters to our mission membership, entitled “Comments about coaching.” You can find these on the SEND U wiki. But given how long ago that was, I thought it would be helpful to revisit some of those “comments” and update them as well.

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