Missions: Deputation Notes for Pastors

Originally compiled by an unnamed missionary.
Adapted by Elliot Templeton


A. Acts 13 – Antioch sends out Saul and Barnabas.

  • 1. They went immediately when the Holy Spirit told them to go.
  • 2. They did not raise support before they went.
  • 3. Deputation today is not unbiblical – it is the raising of support which a sending church cannot afford.

B. Deputation is often misunderstood, even by missionaries themselves; it is also often overlooked in books on missions.

C. The purpose of this paper it to help pastors and future pastors to…

  • 1. understand what a missionary on deputation goes through
  • 2. think through matters that affect this missionary
  • 3. develop a better relationship with missionaries both on deputation and on the field
  • 4. reconsider policies and procedures for missions and missionaries on deputation.

I. Why Have a Missionary on Deputation Come to Your Church?

A. Have a missionary for the benefit of the pastor and the church.

  • 1. A pastor’s desire for a missionary to challenge the people concerning missions – they may be concerned about missions or they may be ignorant of it – isn’t necessarily wrong, but there ought to more to it.
  • 2. Select missionaries in the area to address particular subjects.
  • 3. Avoid the desire to have a missionary simply to fill your pulpit while you are on vacation. The pastor should be present to get to know the missionary as well.
  • 4. Many churches have fallen into the tradition of having a missionary come once a month or once-every-other month. Thus their scheduling of missionaries has become a routine and the purpose and ministry of the missionary is lost. Consider scheduling fewer missionaries or finding ways to make their coming more of an event than mere routine.

B. Have a missionary in order to “do the missionary a favor.”

  • 1. Allowing a missionary to come and present their ministry even when your church cannot take on another missionary can encourage your people and help the missionary through love offerings and prayer support.
  • 2. Avoid limiting yourself to only accepting missionaries you can support. Some churches will wait until one of their missionaries retires or dies before they start “accepting applications” from others. These dry spells will kill your people’s fervor for missions.
  • 3. Be up front with a missionary you cannot take on, but don’t be hesitant to have them come and speak. Praise the Lord if your church can still honor new missionaries while pushing the limits of financially supporting others.

C. Have the missionary so your church can consider how you might support them.

  • 1. Consider: “Is this someone we might want to support in the future?”
  • 2. Think of it as you would a couple going on a first date:
    a. Potential marriage should at least be at the back of their minds
    b. Basic common beliefs should be agreed upon.
    c. Learn more about the person and see if this date will lead to others (which could eventually lead to marriage).
    d. Give the relationship a chance to grow through prayer and communication.
  • 3. Seek to be a mutual blessing.
  • 4. Get to know each other by asking as many questions as you can while you’re together.
  • 5. If possible, have the missionary stay for more than a day so several church families can host them and get to know them.
  • 6. Request his prayer letter, even if you cannot take him on now.

II. When is a Good Time to Have a Missionary Come?

A. Missions Conference / VBS

  • 1. These made up 3% of the author’s 227 visited churches.
  • 2. These are great for a missionary if the events are well-planned.
  • 3. It offers your church and the missionary more time to get to know each other (unless the conference is a round-robin type)

B. Sunday Morning

  • 1. These made up 13% of the author’s 227 visited churches.
  • 2. This offers the missionary the greatest exposure to the church people. Generally speaking, only half of the Sunday morning attendees return Sunday evening; only half of these return for Wednesday evening.
  • 3. Generally missionaries take Sunday School to show slides, share testimonies and answer questions and take the Sunday morning service to preach the Word of God.

C. Sunday evening

  • 1. This is the most common time, making up 27% of the author’s 227 visited churches.
  • 2. Disadvantages for a missionary on deputation:
    a. There are often fewer in attendance
    b. There is less time to get to know the people of the church.

D. Midweek service.

  • 1. These made up 20% of the author’s 227 visited churches. This number is actually inflated, because oftentimes these came impromptu when the missionaries had mid-week layovers at churches.
  • 2. Not many pastors desire this, because so few people can attend, though these do not interfere at all with regular church services.

E. Sunday all-day

  • 1. These made up 28% of the author’s 227 visited churches
  • 2. This gives the church the best chance to get to know the missionaries and vice versa.
  • 3. Overall, this arrangement works out best.
    a. It allows for the missionary and his family to sit under the pastor’s preaching, something necessary for traveling missionaries who review the same messages week after week.
    b. It gives the missionary a feel for the church’s ministry.
  • 4. Best process for missionaries:
    a. Deliver in Sunday School their testimonies, the ministry, and a short challenge.
    b. Sit under the pastor’s preaching for the morning service (and perhaps offer up some special music)
    c. Show slides and share a message for the evening service and perhaps take questions.
  • 5. All-day presences gives the family a chance to meet one or two other families from the church.
  • 6. Occasionally the church could hold an afternoon service after a pot-luck, especially if the missionaries have a long drive ahead of them.
  • 7. This also gives the deacons or missionary committee ample time in the afternoon to meet with the missionary. The author found it surprising how few churches asked them questions about what they are doing and what they plan to be doing. The pastor should also be sure to spend time than an initial “Welcome” to get to know the family.

F. A note: beware of in-between days. Many on-the-road missionaries dislike having to handle the days between services and meetings. Ask your missionary if it would help them if they arrived a day or two early or stayed a day or two later.

G. Other times

  • 1. Some churches treat the initial service with the missionary as a vetting experience. If they are impressed and are truly considering taking the missionary on, they might consider asking the family back for a full Sunday or full week of meetings.
  • 2. Some churches don’t even consider missionaries on deputation who cannot stay all Sunday or even from Sunday through Wednesday.
  • 3. When you want the missionary to come ties in closely to why you want him to come.

III. Pre-planning: Return a Letter or Phone Call and Write Things Down

A. Two things seem very hard for pastors to do: return phone calls and answer letters.

  • 1. This is true especially if the initial contact was unsolicited.
  • 2. Such slow or failed responses make it very difficult for missionaries to schedule their travels.
  • 3. Do not be afraid to call and let the missionary know your answer is “No.” At least he has an answer and need not wait on a possibility

B. This author purchased an 800 number so pastors could call him back. This free option helped, but only minimally.

C. Even after meeting have been set up, contact often runs slow.

  • 1. Pastors who promise to “get back” to the missionary with pertinent details on conferences, etc., often wait until just a few days before the meetings begin.
  • 2. This make the missionary’s preparation from on the road very difficult, specifically if the pastors uses “snail mail.”

D. Because schedules are made so far in advance, arrangements often  change.

E. Newer missionaries naively think that the initial contact and scheduling with a pastor sets the plans in stone for both, and no further contact is necessary.

  • 1. They must recognize that reminders from missionaries to pastors are oftentimes necessary.
  • 2. They can send postcards to pastors reminding them of: what the missionary will do, when they will arrive, and when they will leave.
  • 3. They can also call the pastor 3-4 weeks (at least no more than a month) in advance to confirm everything—this seems to work best.

F. Despite all these precautions made by the missionaries, plans still change, because many pastors fail to write things down.

  • 1. This can include minor details like “Did I tell them we would provide them supper before the service?”
  • 2. It’s not safe to rely on our memories, no matter how great we think they are.

IV. Preparation for a Visiting Missionary

A. There are several questions to ask a missionary up front before you begin scheduling his coming. These include:

  • 1. Are you within the prescribed radius of the church (i.e. 400 miles?)
  • 2. What mission board are you with?
  • 3. What country are you going to? (Do we already a missionary there?)

B. Make sure your congregation knows that the missionary is coming so they are not mistaken for visitors.

C. Some things a pastor can do to prepare hearts and get his people excited about a missionary being with them:

  • 1. The pastor can be excited himself.
  • 2. He can speak and preach on missions-related topics.
  • 3. Announce the missionary’s coming a few weeks prior in the bulletin and announcements—and make sure the information about them is correct.
  • 4. Offer small inserts that share about…
    a. the missionaries
    b. the country to which they are going
    c. their mission board

D. Make your time with the missionary special by…

  • 1. having a potluck dinner after the morning service.
  • 2. scheduling a special time for discussion and questions after the evening service.
  • 3. have the children color and hang posters relating to missions and that country.

V. Where Could the Missionary Stay?

A. People’s Homes

  • 1. This is the most common and, for the most part, a real blessing for both.
  • 2. It gives families (including children) opportunity to know a missionary family, learning that missionaries really are normal people.
  • 3. Friendships can develop.
  • 4. Prayer support is boosted when church families house missionaries.

B. Hotels

  • 1. It is less common for churches to place missionaries in hotels due to the expense.
  • 2. Some churches feel this allows something special for the missionaries—relaxation time away from meeting new people for an evening, though meeting people is one goal of deputation.
  • 3. If you put a missionary up in a hotel, be sure to invite them to homes for meals.

C. Prophet’s Chamber

  • 1. These are apartments attached to a church developed specifically for visiting speakers.
  • 2. These apartments are fitted with a private kitchen, a bathroom, and a bed.
  • 3. Some church members even fit prophets chambers into their own homes.
  • 4. These end up being less expensive than hotels and still allow privacy for the missionary.

D. A Missionary House

  • 1. This is a home owned by the church (much like a parsonage) used specifically for visiting missionaries and even as a base for missionaries on deputation or furlough.
  • 2. This allows for privacy, space, a feeling of homeliness, a place for laundry, cooking, etc.
  • 3. This is specifically useful for missionaries who stay for longer periods of time, so they do not feel like a burden on hosts.

VI. A Missionary Cupboard

A. Out of the 227 churches we visited, only 25% had a missionary cupboard.

B. Should your church have a missionary cupboard? YES.

  • 1. If you have room in which to put it.
  • 2. If such needs are not being addressed in a different manner.

C. Is it really a help to missionaries on deputation or furlough? YES.

  • 1. Usually money is very tight, and the cupboard will provide for some real needs.
  • 2. Because of time restraints in travel, missionaries can’t purchase or find necessities.

D. How should it be administered?

  • 1. Assign each item a point value and allow each missionary a total of so many points.
  • 2. Or encourage the missionary to take anything he could use.

E. What should a missionary cupboard carry?

  • 1. New or good-as-new items.
  • 2. See “Possible Missionary Cupboard Items” sheet.

F. To replenish the missionary cupboard:

  • 1. One church had “Missionary Cupboard Emphasis” weeks all summer, focusing on a different category every other week. During offering time, teens carried buckets to collect items instead of money. This “offering” for God’s servants was much more meaningful than “put the items in the cupboard anytime.”
  • 2. Rather than having a perpetual cupboard, hold a “missionary shower.” The pastor having asked the missionary in advance what specific needs they have, posts the items on a bulletin board sign-up sheet. Church members bring these items to church the day the missionary speaks.

VII. What is Their Needed Support?

A. This section discusses monthly financial support, but what other forms of support can a church offer a missionary?

  • 1. prayer support
  • 2. support through communication – writing, calling, cards, etc.
  • 3. support through visits
  • 4. support through a one-time need they might have (vehicle, building project, etc.)

B. Pastors must try to better understand what makes up a missionary’s financial support.

C. Most missionaries continue ministering even when supported less than 100%

D. Pastors should ask for a copy of the support breakdown of missionaries, both those they consider supporting and those they support.

E. Missionaries need to breakdown their support and carries copies of this for pastors:

  • 1. Salary items: net salary (including foreign taxes), U.S. Social Security, retirement.
  • 2. Non-salary items: service fees, health insurance (for travel within the US), passage funds (for furlough), work funds, travel expenses, prayer letter.

F. Factors to consider when considering taking on a missionary.

  • 1. Salary items
    a. net salary out of which foreign taxes are paid
    b. cost of living in foreign countries often varies greatly from that of the US
    c. many missions agencies demand a certain amount for retirement
  • 2.Non-salary items
    a. these are ministry-related items
    b. missions boards’ “Service Fee” (often 5-10% or $200-500)
  • 3. Exchange rates
    a. Three support items change monthly based on fluctuating exchange rates: net salary, work funds, and in-country travel expenses
    b. Fluctuating exchange rates can either hinder or help a missionary
    c. Missionaries must make educated guesses concerning their support budgets based on the previous year’s exchange rates.
    d. A local church financier could regularly check exchange rates for all supported countries. Love offerings can go to those missionaries who are adversely affected.

VIII. What Honorarium Should be Given to a Missionary Speaker?

A. A missionary’s coming is for your mutual benefit, and just allowing them to be in your church is not payment enough.

B. Taking a love offering after the service in which the missionary speaks is one option.

C. A more useful method is breaking down funds that cover mileage, an honorarium for speaking, and a love offering.

D. Some churches simply give each visiting missionary a set amount in order to not burden their people with constant love offerings. This, however, may not even cover the missionary’s travel expenses. Each church ought to consider covering all travel expenses and then discuss what love offerings/honorarium ought to be given.

E. There really is no distinction between full-time or part-time deputation.

  • 1. “Part-time” – Missionaries who travel only on the weekends also have full-time jobs during the week to deal with, so it is as if they are working two full-time jobs, seven days a week.
  • 2. “Full-time” – Missionaries who travel constantly raising support do not make nearly enough for their family to live on.
    a. But by the grace of God, most missionary families would live in the poor house.
    b. The author averaged $128 per service during deputation. At 3 services per week, this amounts to $384 per week. Subtract all travel expenses, and what family could live on the remainder!? (of course this does not include monthly support that may already be coming in, but this is rarely an option the beginning).
    c. The author defines full-time deputation as one which visits at least fifty churches during a year, whether he has a job or not.

F. Consider where in their support raising the missionaries are. Those at 20% will have much more immediate needs than those at 80%.

IX. How to Handle a Check for a Missionary

A. If you are ready to give a check to a missionary family, should you give it to them directly before they leave or mail it to their mission board?

  • 1. If you give it to them directly, you ought to make the check out to the mission board with their name on the memo line.
  • 2. Missionaries appreciate getting the check before they leave for the following reasons:
    a. There is no chance of this “unscheduled expense” getting lost in the daily shuffle of a church after the missionary leaves.
    b. Missionary desire to know whether the amount collected would cover their travel expenses or if they needed to alter their budget elsewhere.
    c. It helps the missionary to send an appropriate and timely thank-you letter.
  • 3. Mission boards generally send their missionaries’ financial statements out monthly, so it could take a full two months before a missionary learns that they received your gift.

B. You may not be ready to give them a check before they leave:

  • 1. because your treasurer is not present or because you have yet to decide how much to give them.
  • 2. In this case, send them a check as soon as possible. If you can mail it to them directly, do. They will certainly send it along to their own board to reimburse their expenses.

X. Should You Notify a Missionary if You are Going to Support Him?

A. By all means, YES!

  • 1. The missionary can then know why they are receiving money.
    a. Support goes toward a salary, honorariums go toward paying expenses.
    b. If an agency doesn’t know what kind of money they are receiving, they won’t know what to do with it.
  • 2. The missionary can know how to write a thank-you letter.
  • 3. The missionaries are awaiting such good news with great anticipation.

B. Be careful not to tell your missionary “We can probably support you,” or “There’s a good chance we’ll be able to support you, if…” Chances are, it will never happen. Their anticipation of receiving your support does not involve money alone.

C. Whenever you send money for missions, be sure to state to the missionary or the agency exactly what the money is meant for, specifically if you expect a tax-deductible receipt.

XI. A Prayer Letter

A. Prayer letters, though expected and appreciated, often get lost in the goings on of a church.

B. Monthly prayer letter expenses can be upwards of $100.

C. Prayer letters are still important (I Thessalonians 5:25).

D. The missionary’s part:

  • 1. Send letters regularly to keep supporters informed.
    a. quarterly at minimum
    b. every other month is better
  • 2. Content:
    a. Goings on since the last letter.
    b. Praises
    c. Requests

E. The church’s part

  • 1. Read them.
    a. People forget the read letters on bulletin boards, and even when they do, they rarely write the requests down.
    b. Get the letters in the hands of the people
    c. Various ideas for handling prayer letters:
    —i. Post them on bulletin boards (beside respective prayer cards or not)
    —ii. Place copies in holders beside prayer cards for people to take if they desire.
    —iii. Organize letters in a missionary notebook placed near the missions map.
    —iv. Shrink copies of the letters as inserts in Sunday’s bulletin
    —v. Read them in full at prayer meetings as you receive them, then pray.
    —vi. One Sunday evening each month, have missionary adopters or missions committee representatives publically read selections from the letters.
    —vii. During prayer meetings, give each small group a letter to read and pray over.
    —viii. Scan and forward prayer letters to your church family, or encourage each family to subscribe to the missionary’s e-mail newsletter.
    —ix. Quarterly, condense the prayer requests and praise items for all missionaries and post them on the bulletin board.
  • 2. Pray for the requests mentioned.
    a. Pray at church
    b. pray at home
    c. prayer is a vital part of supporting a missionary.
  • 3. Encourage your missionaries by responding to their letters with letters.

XII. Communicate with Missionaries

A. Very few churches (members, missions committees, or pastors) correspond with their missionaries (while the missionaries are on deputation or the field).

  • 1. E-mail, phone calls, letters.
  • 2. Visit them on the field to encourage both them and you.

B. E-mail is currently the most effective method of communication, specifically for sharing urgent prayer requests and news.

C. Phones:

  • 1. If you need missionaries (or others) to call you back, consider investing in an 800 number.
  • 2. Be sure your church has a working answering machine
  • 3. Consider also call-forwarding if your office is in your home.

D. Cards and letter.

  • 1. As soon as possible after visiting a church, we would send out a thank you card.
  • 2. How surprising it was to see how few thank you cards we received from churches for our ministry in their churches.
  • 3. How encouraging it was to receive them from those who did!
  • 4. Don’t think you’re doing your missionary a favor by having them visit and speak—these missionary visits should be of mutual benefit for your church and the missionary.

XIII. How can You Help Missionaries Who are Constantly Traveling?

A. Remember that a life on the road (for missionaries on deputation or furlough) is not normal—kids fresh from an 8-hour drive are not angels. Be understanding and don’t let your first impression be your lasting impression.

B. Let them know you are excited to have them and that they are not a burden. Fit at least some time into your pastoral schedule to visit with them personally.

C. Churches often overlook the days between the normal service schedules of Sunday and Wednesday. Ask the missionaries their plans for these days and be accommodating. Perpetual stays gets very expensive for missionaries.

D. Make them part of your family during their stay. They have probably been away from home for a long time, and they may not even have a place to call home. The words “Make yourself at home” are difficult to follow if the hosts don’t show them where things are in the home. Be open to accommodate their needs. If everyone in the house will use the same bathroom, work out a schedule.

E. Be sensitive to keeping the missionaries up late. They may be tired from travel or they may need to get up early to prepare for the service.

F. Do not schedule out their days for them. Missionaries often need to study or home-school their children, and they need ample personal time to do so.

G. Sometimes the missionary family cannot all travel together (school or other engagements) and the father must visit alone. If you are interested in taking the family on, see if you can work out a time when they can all come together.

H. Before the missionaries arrive, open communication between the host family and missionary family to see if there are any special needs that must be addressed (allergies, illnesses, children, etc.).

I. If your church has special projects to be done, ask the missionaries if they would like to help. After long hours of travel, they often long for opportunities to exercise and might be glad to help.

J. Try to make bedroom adaptable for the missionaries and their sleeping habits (i.e. number of blankets, fans, noises, etc.). New nightly surroundings often makes a good night’s sleep a challenge. This can easily lead to irritability and sickness.

XIV. What it Means to Support a Missionary

A. “Support” defined (American College Dictionary):

  • 1. to sustain a person under trial or affliction
  • 2. to maintain (or provide for) a person or family by supplying the things which are necessary for existence
  • 3. to uphold a person by aid

B. “Missionary Support” illustration: Bridge.

  • 1. The Missionary is the bridge between the Gospel and the heathen.
  • 2. The church is the foundation out which four pillars go to support that bridge:
    a. money,
    b. prayer,
    c. communication, and
    d. visits.

C. Missionary support is necessary.

  • 1. Without it, the missionary might fail.
  • 2. One support pillar alone cannot uphold the bridge.

D. One key to Missionary support: Involvement.

  • 1. It takes time and energy to make someone else’s ministry part of your own.
  • 2. Don’t let your only contact with your missionary be their deputation and furlough.

XV. Who is Joining Whose Ministry?

A. Sending Church: a missionary sent on deputation by their sending church to raise support is not out to join the ministries of other churches, but to ask other churches to join the ministry of their sending church.

B. Missions board:

  • 1. A missionary who joins a missions agency essentially becomes an employee of that agency.
  • 2. Churches that missionary visits while on deputation, then, are asked to join the ministry of a missions agency.
  • 3. Remember, however, that a mission’s agency’s purpose is to assist the sending church, to be a service to agency to churches.

C. The missionary’s responsibility:

  • 1. Regarding churches, a missionary is ultimately responsible only to his sending church.
  • 2. He has responsibility and accountability to his sending churches and his agency, but not to the same extent as to his sending church.

D. The sending church’s responsibility:

  • 1. You can have a missionary read and agree with your constitution, missions policy, etc.
  • 2. But more importantly, you should read those of his sending church. Call his pastor and find out more about the missionary you are considering taking on.
  • 3. Remember, your church is entering his church’s ministry, not the other way around.

XVI. Why it has Become so Hard to Raise Support

A. Because support levels are rising.

B. Because of all the ministries that are seeking support (i.e. camps, evangelists, short-term missions, education, etc.)

C. Because so many churches have reached their limit in the number of missionaries they can support.

D. Because the American dollar is shrinking across the world—remember, your missionary have to deal with exchange rates besides inflation.

E. Because more churches are supporting fewer missionaries for larger amounts (instead of many for smaller amounts).

F. Because American church members have too many “needs.”

  • 1. They have forgotten how to be content with life and satisfied with having real needs met.
  • 2. They have forgotten to be willing to sacrifice for the benefit of someone else.

G. Because of the growth of Christian schools—these are not bad, but they sap churches of funds faster than anything. Plus, parents spend much more to send their kids here, they have less to spend on missions.

XVII. The Negative Aspect to Deputation

A. Challenges of relationships: The easiest method of gaining support is from a church where the missionary knows someone. When they visit a church for only a few hours, such a relationship can rarely be built.

B. Challenges of church attendance: While missionaries certainly attend church (sometimes up to three different churches per week), they cannot get involved in their own. When they return to their church, they feel like visitors still. This is especially hard on children and teens.

C. Challenges of weariness: constant traveling takes its toll on a family and vehicle.

D. Challenges of time: Deputation has taken on a negative connotation for the length of time it often takes.

E. Challenges of comparison: some want to equal deputation to missions work, saying “If you can’t cut it on deputation, you won’t cut it on the field.” The two are not nearly synonymous, and it cast a negative light on both deputation and missions.

XIII. The Positive Aspects of Deputation

A. It gives a missionary a chance to visit other churches of like faith that they never knew existed—to see other ministries and meet new friends.

B. It allows missionaries to meet more prayer partners (subscribers to their prayer letters) than otherwise.

C. It teaches missionaries the truths of Philippians 4:19 and lets them recognize what in their lives are true needs and what “needs” are not needs at all.

D. It give missionaries the chance to share their testimonies of how God saved them and led them to their mission field, which may encourage others to go as well.

E. It allows for churches to hear the scope of missions anew, challenging them to get involved in their community and beyond.

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One Response to Missions: Deputation Notes for Pastors

  1. Elliot, thanks for taking the time to summarize this book.

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