This is the third in what has become a three-part series. Section one lightly sketches some reasons why IMB missionaries don’t frequent many churches, with the main thesis being churches no longer request missionaries as speakers. Part two is a more in-depth treatment of that initial thesis, pointing to trends and patterns which have led the SBC to this condition.
Today we’ll look over how to request an IMB missionary and what to do with them once they arrive. Do not expect a comprehensive listing; I imagine comments from current and former IMB workers will far outshine my own in terms of creativity and efficacy.
To request an IMB missionary for an event at your church, you may choose from the following standard options:
Feel free to follow more informal methods, like calling a Director of Missions, other pastors, associational offices, and perhaps even the national WMU. For today’s festivities, though, I’m going to focus on the official IMB Speaker Request form, and to that end I’ve attached some screenshots.
The first several questions should not challenge anyone. Note the contact person does not have to be the pastor; anyone can do coordinate this.
The self-explanatory questions continue. An event name can be something as simple as “Sunday morning service.” Also – do not feel pressured to choose a precise date and time without the possibility of alteration. Once you complete the request, someone will contact you and you’ll have ample opportunity to tweak dates and times.
Nearly as important as time and date, the event purpose helps the IMB and the missionary prepare for the event. Be creative, but try to be explicit as well. Is this about missions education? Involvement? Lottie Moon fundraising? Just a sermon? The only wrong answers are “No real purpose” and “We need fresh meat.”
The most interesting part of the above section is the WebEx offer. Sometimes, the organization just can’t find someone you need. Suppose you want a woman who speaks Russian to address a group of Russian students in Chicago, but all the Russian-speaking missionaries are unavailable to travel. The solution is to meet online, and the IMB will facilitate this. Missionaries will, in fact, wake up at 3:00 AM to meet with your church.
Questions 19 – 21 allow you to flesh out what you need from the missionary and to add any special requests.
Be explicit about services what you want from them. Here’s some ideas:
- Fill the pulpit for the week; please be explicit as to whether this is a preaching moment (sermon) or a share-about-your-work item. Remember, the missionary chooses events he can handle, and knowing what you need helps. One note: if you want someone to preach, then pastors don’t need to be around. I mean, feel free to take the week off and sit in the pew if you want, but you should also consider taking advantage of the opportunity to get away for the weekend. However, if this is your missions emphasis week, then please, pastor, stay. Show members that missions are important to you.
- Visit Sunday School classes – all of them.
- Eat-and-meet on a Saturday evening with the whole church informally, ending with a sharing about work/call to involvement. Or invite them to mingle from Sunday School through worship, church picnic and evening youth meetings.
- Teach theology of missions at a multi-church gathering over the weekend.
- Speak on missions and Lottie Moon Giving. Please remember many churches make this request. Get yours in early and avoid the late fall rush.
- Camp visitor who doesn’t teach much but instead acts as a missionary presence alongside preachers, youth ministers, and counselors.
- WMU speakers; feel free to request the specific type of woman you’d like: single, wife, mother, educated, from a specific state, etc.
- Men’s retreat speaker
- Missions breakfast on Saturday morning, lunch with the youth, supper with the deacons and Sunday School teachers. Make it personal and engaging.
Close out the process by adding miscellaneous information.
- Consider gender: Do you want women? Men? A married couple? Singles?
- Languages: Is your church one that uses something other than English? Include that information here: “Missionary must speak ________.” If you want someone who knows sign language, or Spanish, or Greek, just spell it out.
- Region: Some churches have a heart for a specific place in the world. Some have old partnerships, or immigrant church members. If you want someone from a specific country – again – spell it out. Try not to box organizers in too tightly (blind left-handed Guatemalan dentists without tonsils), but say what you need or want and work with the IMB to see how to meet that need.
- Most missionaries I know will sleep anywhere and eat anything; even so, if they are going to sleep on the couch and eat with your nine children, warn them
- And best of all, miscellaneous!
Some old-timers will weigh in here, I’m sure, with some great ideas. My point is that there’s more to offer than the pulpit; just write it down and see who comes. I’m not promising every request will be satisfied, but we’ve got folks ready to go; why not ask?
Oh – and thanks for all you do to support missionaries. It helps more than you could ever know.