My dad is in charge of a new missions group at our home church, so he asked me last night for some input on what makes a church a good supporting church. Obviously, prayer support and financial support are our most basic needs. But what can a church do beyond that? I think of the church that does the best job of helping us feel like real partners. They send us their church newsletter. Twice a year, they feature us in a Sunday morning service. Last month, they did a live phone call with us during the service. They also feature our ministry in their newsletter that month. They remember us at birthdays and Christmas. They have a notebook in their church building, containing our newsletters and photos. During the months when we are the focus, they put a box for cards, letters, donations, gifts, etc. Although we’ve only been to that church once, they feel like a second home. Dad asked me about whether people sending letters was an encouragement or just adding the burden of answering them. I think we always like getting correspondence (even via e-mail). It’s good if the person doesn’t expect a lengthy personal reply. If they send an e-mail, it’s easy to at least jot a few quick lines back.
He also asked about guidelines for work teams. Here were my ideas:
Come for a long time, not 5 days (especially if jet lag will be involved).
Come with the attitude of learners.
Come to serve the local people, not the missionaries.
Come prepared to leave your comfort zone. That means, eat the local food! Get out of the mission house, etc.
Monetary gifts are always appreciated, but the people really want to build a relationship with you. Don’t just foster dependency. Get to know the people and then let God direct you as to whether you ought to give something or not.