Apr 4, 2013

Communicating with missionaries

I've had this post about communication drafted for a while now, trying to decide when to post it.  I think what this talks about is important for all missionaries and churches to get a hold of. Take this post as you like. Some may agree with me, some may not.  I hope this short article can encourage those who have been in good communication with missionaries and be a rebuke to those who, for whatever reason, are neglectful to communicate and prompt then to start keeping in contact with missionaries.

I want to start out saying that we aren't living in total isolation here in Greenland, but some missionaries might be.  I want say THANK YOU to those who have stayed in contact with us.  It is a great blessing to me and my family to get the cards, emails, letters, and packages that have been sent.  But I believe the issue with communicating with missionaries is something that does need to be addressed.

I remember hearing much on pastors in the US telling missionaries that they need to communicate. Don't forget to "keep in touch".  Don't forget the monthly, bi-monthly, or how-ever-often prayer letters. I have read the “Missions Rules” that say a supported missionary MUST send prayer letters/updates to the church at least every two or three months or their support would be stopped. I have probably even signed some form of agreement along those lines with churches.

Now we sit on the other side of the fence (or ocean, as the case maybe). We have been in Greenland for almost 2 years and there are some churches that we have never heard from. It didn't start when we came here, some of them never kept in contact when we were Stateside either. I'm sure they have some reason or another, but is there really any good excuse? Letters aren't that expensive to send (they expect missionaries to send them) and emails cost nothing but a couple minutes in typing. And with today's technology you could even send an SMS that would arrive instantly.

I can only imagine a church's reaction if I, as a missionary, communicated with them as often as they communicate with me. What if the only time they heard from me is when I am calling to find out why they have neglected or been unfaithful in support (ooohh...that's a no-no for a missionary to do, am I right?). The only time I have communicated with some churches is when they have moved buildings or changed email addresses (without telling us, the missionary) and they want to know why they haven't been receiving prayer letters!

There has to be a better way to do this, and I hope these ideas will help someone, somewhere.

First let me mention a things concerning communication:
  • Communication is best when it is a two way street: giving and receiving.  Communication should involve dialogue, not monologue.  It gets tiresome being the only one to say things and almost never get a response.  It would frustrating if you were on either side of the fence, USA or overseas.
  • Lack of communication breeds suspicion.  In this time of growing apostasy and heresy, proper communication is needed more now than ever. If I suddenly quit sending prayer letters out, and churches never heard from me for let's say a year, they might start to wonder what was wrong.  "Have they quit?" "Has he gone off in some goofy heresy?" "Are they dead?"  But there are some churches that I have not heard from since arriving in Greenland.  It makes me wonder: "Have they closed?" "Have they gone off in some goofy heresy?" "Did the pastor quit and the church die?"
  • Communication can help to build relationships between the missionary and churches.  Really, how many of you think you could have a good relationship with your wife, husband, or children if you never talk with them?  The relationship that a missionary shares with churches isn't the same as a husband/wife/child relationship, but I hope you get the idea.
    • Like I mentioned about how lack of communication breeds suspicion, can you imagine how your spouse would be if you just stopped talking with them, hugging them, and telling them you loved them?  They would probably start wondering what was wrong.  AND SOMETHING WOULD BE GREATLY WRONG!  But is is accepted as standard operating procedure in most churches concerning missions even though it is very harmful.
    • Along the same line of building relationships goes the thought of getting churches to know the missionaries and vice-versa. I would hope it would go without saying, but sending questionnaires under the guise of "Getting to know our missionaries" is ridiculous. If you want to send a questionnaire, send one. If you want to get to know missionaries, the spend to time and effort to do so. When you met your future wife or husband you wanted to get to know them, right? How many of you had them fill out a 6 page essay questionnaire? Hopefully NONE! That is not how you get to know anyone, it's how you have people apply for a job or enter a contest.
  • Be consistent! However you choose to stay in contact with missionaries, I beg you, do it consistently. I can't tell you how often I have known of folks feeling bad for not keeping with missionaries better, contact them once or twice, and never hear from them until a year or so later when they feel bad again.  Please, be consistent.
There is nothing new, strange, or uncommon in my ideas for staying in contact with missionaries, except that you should do it and do it consistently.
  1. Call them – you can use Skype (that might get costly though), use Google Talk, calling cards, or research some other method.
  2. Email them – It's the perfect price for most people – FREE!
  3. SMS (text message) them – Not all phones can text internationally but if you have a smart phone, chances are you can find an app that will let you do it for free.
  4. Send a letter or a card – Send it to the missionaries directly on the field, not to their church where it will either be lost, forgotten, or arrive 3 months after the fact. My kids LOVE to get cards for birthdays or whatever reason as do other missionaries kids that I have talked with.
  5. Social media - Find out if they use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or some other type of social media and keep up with them.
  6. Visit them – This is the highest cost of ways to communicate, but it is the most effective and memorable. There is nothing quite like seeing the missionaries field in person.

    Staying in contact can be a great joy and source of encouragement for both parties when done properly.  When neglected or misused it can be a source of hurt, maybe even deep hurt, for one or both sides. Not just with churches and missionaries either, this applies to all relationships in life.

    I hope this article will help some missionaries, churches, and individuals.  It's been something that has bothered me for a while now, but I wanted to do the best I could to convey the frustration involved AND propose some possible (and mainly simple, common sense) solutions.  Hopefully this will help someone.

    Proper communication will take time and effort (and maybe some money too) but it will be worth it when it is done right.  Thank you for taking time to read this.  May God help us when it comes to communication.


  1. great article brother. I guess the reason why missionaries are such good communicators...for the most part...is because they understand the need and value for it.

  2. I will admit that I didn't understand the value of communication for a long time. We started realizing how important it was when we were in Kulusuk, Greenland for a few months in 2009. But being alone in Sisimiut really helped us to see how important it was.

    I hope to get better at keeping in touch with folks. Thanks for the comment!


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