I've got a question for you all.
Both our church here and our last church in Chicago haven't had the traditional mission board. Neither one of them really supports missionaries like so many traditional evangelical churches do.
I understand why they don't. They've seen people go overseas just because it's this traditional uber "spiritual" thing to do, and those people often do more harm than good to everyone. They've also seen people come around asking churches to support them, and the church ends up supporting 40 people that they barely know that have been overseas for forever. They've seen congregations feel good about themselves because they support lots of missionaries when no one is engaged in serving in their local community. It's just... a flawed system.
However - both churches still strongly encourage engaging in ministry overseas. They tend to partner with organizations that work on the ground and nurture long-term relationships in certain countries and with certain ministries. They both send short-term teams to do various forms of ministry in those countries.
So far, so good.
Our first problem? There's no potential support for people who are already engaged in ministry who need help. Both sets of our parents worked overseas for nearly all of their adult lives. If they had dropped support and needed to engage a new church supporter, our church simply wouldn't be able to help them. Why? Because they don't support missionaries corporately, only through individual members of the church. However, since our parents are already overseas, it's impossible to get to know the church. Catch-22. Work overseas must be abandoned in order to attempt to build the relationships to gain the support needed to get overseas. Problem.
Second problem? People from within the church that intend to head overseas are left without real church support. We've spent the last four years heavily invested in and involved in this church. We love it, we're so thankful for it, and it's changed us. Everyone we meet in the church heavily encourages the direction we're heading in. However, since the church doesn't support corporately, we're meant to raise support from individuals only (this, by the way, is not considered best practice by most organizations). We're young, though, and the people we know in the church are also young. We'd never be able to raise enough money to go from just our circle of friends. We'd have to go elsewhere to ask for help, and yet if other churches are like our church, they wouldn't even consider supporting us because they don't know us. Other churches that might consider it would question why our own body wasn't helping us - is that a sign that they don't believe in what we're doing? In the end, we may be forced to switch churches just to teach overseas.
Third problem? I think this mentality towards missions really devalues and misses the great need for long-term people that invest their entire lives in a place. Those people learn the language, absorb the culture, and attempt to see what the true needs are and how they can be met in a culturally appropriate way. This is ironic to me, because the church is really trying to value this by partnering with ministries that are already at work on the ground. However, what they're essentially doing is taking advantage of other people that have already become those long-term missionaries while simultaneously not having any way to develop new people like this that might be called from within the body.
So - how does a church solve the problems of the traditional church missions committee and solve the problems that our church is currently facing? We're just beginning to engage in these questions - does anyone have any experience with this with their churches?