1. Making funding decisions one by one

Teams can default to making decisions on a case-by-case basis rather than establishing a big-picture strategy and clear policies that can answer most requests. This distraction is marked by comments such as “How much will we give to Megan for her short-term trip?” or “George wants us to invite his nephew from out of state to present his ministry to orphans.” Such requests should be filtered through previously established specific policies so individual requests don’t bog down team meeting time.

2. Constant handwringing over the congregation’s missions apathy without adopting creative steps to better engage people in fresh ways

Perhaps your team often voices discouragement such as “Most of our congregation is so uninterested in missions that they probably couldn’t name one of our missionaries.” Yet they don’t take concrete steps to change their communication approach.

3. Multiple discussions about frustrations with a missionary without taking action

Perhaps at multiple meetings someone on your team asks, “Has anyone heard from John and Renee? Are they still on the field or have they moved back here now? Does their agency know what they’re doing?” If your team doesn’t pursue answers, the questions distract without resolution.

4. Concentrating on programs or platform time rather than individual relationship building

Signs of this distraction are comments like “Our missionary Mark is only going to be in town Sunday morning. We’ve got to get the pastor to give him sermon time because that is the only way he can share.” or “Our children’s classes write a letter to one missionary a month, but they have no idea who they are.” Focusing on platform time or simple activity can distract us from investing in long-term relationship building.

5. Sending too many short-term teams

Short-term-program overload is indicated when leaders say things like “It’s going to be a lot of work to coordinate the fundraising for our 12 short-term teams this summer, but people expect us to send teams every year.” Short-term teams are a distraction if they have lost focus or are just sent “because we always do.”

6. Investing too much time and energy into an annual missions conference

An event is taking precedence over impact if we say things like, “Our conference takes a huge amount of planning, yet fewer and fewer people are attending.”

7. Depending on missionary-of-the-month programs to educate and engage

This distraction is built on the false assumption that every member knowing every missionary is the goal. It results in shotgun approaches like “If we feature one missionary each month, it will take us two years to highlight everyone, but by the end our people will know all of our global workers.”

8. Continuing to invest time in doing anything that is producing diminishing returns

Perhaps you have caught yourself saying things like, “It’s hard to get people to attend out spaghetti dinner fundraiser but that’s how we raise support for our Haiti trip.” Investing energy into something that doesn’t excite your congregation is a missions distraction.

“Missions distractions”—less-productive efforts that keep you from focusing on the most effective mobilization priorities


Did the list above identify some distractions that have detoured your missions team? How do you begin defining priorities and refocus your leadership team’s efforts in high-impact directions?

Get the facts

Begin by enlisting someone in the congregation with expertise in research to help you ask the right questions to determine what programs and methods of communication would best engage your people. Be sure to include data across all age groups, but pay special attention to the input from younger generations. Remember that what stimulated missions interest years ago is often ineffective today. For example, in our current context, individual relationships have far greater impact than group programming.

Stop doing things that produce lesser results

Take the information you have discovered in your research and sit down with your missions team to identify what tasks or program elements are taking too much time without producing real results. Be brutally honest with yourselves; don’t let anything be a sacred cow. List aspects of your missions program that can be dropped or at least put on hold for a time in order to make room for new priorities that will have greater impact.

Make sure that you have the support of your pastor and other church leaders for such decisions, then move forward bravely. In communicating changes to your congregation, recognize that some people may have deep personal connections to initiatives you are setting aside, but don’t let that derail your resolve to focus on priorities.

Create ad hoc work teams to tackle individual projects

This will spread the workload of the missions team among more people but much more importantly, it will ignite passion for missions by engaging more people and empowering them to use their God-given gifts. Ephesians 4:12 challenges leaders to equip members of the body to use the gifts which He’s given them. Sometimes it is easy for church missions teams to become “doers” instead of “equippers.” Recruiting someone for a short, initial commitment allows both the volunteer and your leadership team to decide if that type of task is a good match for their gifting, time availability, and passion.

Every leader is responsible to prayerfully identify not just what is “good” to do, but what is God’s “best.”


Once your distractions are identified and a commitment to high -mpact priorities has been made, what are some next steps?

1. Direction

Lead your team to expand their vision, define a strategy, and adopt specific and faith-stretching goals. Involve your pastor and key leaders in the process so that their vision is engaged and they share ownership of the results. Begin by reading a challenging book together or make a field trip to a church that has recently gone through a vision- and strategy-defining process, then write out God-sized goals for the coming year. Here is a list of past Postings that can help you consider these issues. You may want to employ an outside coach to help you with this process.

2. Vision

Creatively present your vision to your congregation. Seek to engage as many people as possible. If people are infected with the passion, they will be moved to pray, give, encourage others, develop global relationships, volunteer a talent, etc. Ask your pastor to introduce your vision in a series of messages and/or feature it in sermons throughout the year. At least annually offer a highly interactive Sunday school series or small group study on the biblical basis of missions. Good options: God’s Heart for the Nations/Lewis or Missions—God’s Heart for the World/Borthwick. Offer a teen and children’s component as well.

3. Leadership

Communicate monthly with your senior pastor and elders. Send a short email sharing one goal you are working hard to reach. Include one paragraph describing an exciting/challenging experience of one of your missionaries or something transformational that God is doing around the globe. Ask how you can work together to expand the mission momentum. Make sure your communication is a two-way street, being humble and open to questions/concerns from your leadership.

4. Short-term teams

Limit short-term teams to places where you have a long-term commitment to the bigger picture of what God is doing there. Make sure each trip has a clear purpose and that each person accepted for the team has been carefully screened and prepared. Afterward, debrief with every participant. Discuss with them what God taught them, how they saw God use them, and what they think His next step for their global or local engagement might be. Make time to also debrief each trip with the on-field leaders to learn how you can improve and make future trips as effective as possible. See if the trip identified other ways for your congregation to be involved and praying.

5. Prayer

One important way to expand your congregation’s intercession is by modeling it. Provide a short, written, specific missions request for use in the pastoral prayer in each weekly worship service. Announce answers to previous prayers. Encourage each member to become an intercessor for one missionary, then use email or social media to keep them updated on requests for that worker.

6. Recruitment

Create clear steps toward longer-term cross-cultural service. Direct to appropriate agencies/resources and make available necessary assessments, trainings etc. Have individual conversations with people you believe God might be tapping for missions. Talk about newer ways to go such as influencers or Kingdom professionals. Encourage people to always see themselves as go-ers, starting with opportunities to cross cultures with the gospel right in their own context.

7. Missionary care

Set up a schedule so that someone from your church has a monthly Skype or Zoom call with each missionary your church has sent out, and at least annually or semi-annually talk to each supported worker. Focus on ways to encourage your partners and maintain quality, two-way communication. Ask about both ministry and personal/family concerns. Pray together online or over the phone. When needs are revealed, meet them as fully as you can.

8. Discipleship

Developing spiritual and missional maturity is a lifetime process for every believer. One fruitful way to stimulate growth is by creating summer internship opportunities for college students. Consider developing a paid summer internship that has a local/global component. Also offer to mentor students who have an interest in considering future cross-cultural ministry; you can work together to identify their God given gifts and calling. Perhaps there is a missionary or retired missionary who would be an effective mentor.

Every leader is responsible to prayerfully identify not just what is “good” to do but what is God’s “best,” the most important opportunities He wants them to pursue in their current context. Don’t let distractions detour you from pursuing God’s strategic global role for your church right now.

This post written by Ellen Livingood and originally posted at, and used by permission of Catalyst Services. Image by FotoRieth from Pixabay.