Church organized missions conferences are a valuable tool in raising awareness of global evangelism and in helping Christ’s disciples better understand the importance and urgency of reaching the lost. When done well a church-run mission conference can bring great glory to the Lord. When done poorly a missions conference can actually impede a church’s impact in participating in God’s Great Commission.
The concept of God’s disciples living out the spread of his gospel is a foundational issue of the Christian faith. The local church is biblically how God intended to train, support and send missionaries. A well done mission conferences can be a major factor in this process.
There are, however, just as many examples of mission conferences done poorly as there are examples of them done well. If you are planning your church’s first mission conference or you want to revitalize an ongoing conference, here are a few thoughts for you to prayerfully consider:
1. Prepare Your Congregation
Pastors and church leaderships should begin preparing their congregations months in advance of a mission conference. In the time leading up to a mission conference a church should begin preaching and teaching on biblical examples of global evangelists. Abram, Paul, Acts and Jonah are great topics for instruction. The congregants should be given a passion and a basic biblical understanding of God’s desire for his people to reach the nations.
2. Invite Your Community
Leading up to your mission conference begin inviting churches near your community. Send postcards to the surrounding neighborhoods. Advertise on Christian radio. E-mail and mail your congregation. Encourage members of your church to invite co-workers and neighbors. Missions is a priority for God, make your missions conference important for your extended church community.
3. Cover Missionary Expenses
The missionaries who attend your mission conference are your valued guests. They are usually underfunded and overworked. Make sure you cover the cost of their air and ground travel, housing and food. Money they use on your mission conference is being taken from their ministry. Make sure you are blessing their ministries and not creating a financial burden for them.
4. Mix Mission Reports And Biblical Training
Use a balance of hearing from speakers who will teach on biblical examples of missions and of missionaries who are reporting on their labors. It is important for people to hear reports from real life laborers doing real work in the lives of real people. It is also valuable for the people to see the eternal connection found between God’s examples in Scripture and flesh and blood missionaries. The theological and practical connection should be interwoven.
5. Include A Panel On Missionary Life
Ask your missionary speakers to sit on a panel and tell stories and entertain questions about day to day life. It is important to hear a school was built or a church was planted. It is also valuable for your congregation to make a connection that these blessings don’t happen on their own. Fulltime missionaries are paying a personal cost. They struggle through culture, language and danger to glorify the Lord. Let your congregation ask questions of the missionaries about their personal lives. Most of our Western brothers and sisters have no understanding what it takes to live and serve in a foreign land. The possible lessons are mammoth.
6. Pray, A Lot
Make prayer the focus of your mission conference. Plan your conference with your congregation praying for missions and the speakers by name. During the conference make sure the missionaries and ministries are represented in corporate and small group prayer. Provide a way for the participants to continue to pray for these missionaries in the years to come.
7. Challenge The Audience
Let the participants of your mission conference know that missions doesn’t just happen. Challenge your congregation to take short-term trips, become fulltime missionaries, pray for missionaries and financially support missionaries. Every disciple of Christ is called to play a part in global evangelism. Make a commitment to missions a focal point of your mission conference.
8. Be Honest About Finances
A mission conference should not be centered on finances, but it should not be void of a serious financial component. Missionaries do not go on the field without money. God supplies the resources for missions, but he does so by calling local churches and individuals to financial support missionaries. Allow missionaries to make an appeal and prayerfully consider taking an offering for their projects.
9. Use Small Group Interaction
Schedule breakout sessions, meals and pray times to allow missionaries to share, interact and pray with smaller groups. Facilitate several opportunities where attendees can intermingle in intimate settings with missionaries. This will allow the participants to get to know several missionaries better and to ask burning questions they may not have been willing to ask in a larger setting.
A mission conference is more than throwing a few missionaries and a large group of Christians together with pizza. Missions is important to God and thus should be important to us. By prayerfully planning and facilitating a more intimate and real experience your congregation will better grasp the Great Commission, missionaries will feel they have experienced a time well spent and God will receive greater glory. Intentionally plan a missions conference, don’t just slap one together.