Aspiring missionaries need more training than a single program can provide. Some of their knowledge, character, and skills are developed in their sending churches, prior to coming to a training program. Even so, training programs are instrumental in coming alongside sending churches to provide specialized training to prepare missionaries for cross-cultural ministry.
When you are evaluating a missions training program for yourself or a candidate in your local church, look for programs that value cross-cultural experience, language learning, mentorship, and biblical teaching.
Look for Extended Training in a Cross-Cultural Context
Look for a training program that takes place in a cross-cultural context. Because the setting of the missionary task is so challenging and disorienting, consider attending a training center that allows candidates to spend extensive time on the field.
By training in a foreign culture, aspiring missionaries can experience the real rhythms of life on the field and make adjustments accordingly.
By training in a foreign culture, aspiring missionaries can experience the real rhythms of life on the field and make adjustments accordingly. Training overseas provides a unique opportunity that cannot be easily replicated in the United States. This time of training allows you to experience and process life on the field.
Look for Training in Culture and Language Learning
Some programs provide an opportunity for students to learn about a language but don’t take the time to teach students an actual language. Consider attending a missionary training program where you have an opportunity to learn the local language. At the Radical Training Center, students spend 16-20 hours a week learning a language for nine months. This time is spent practicing with locals, listening to recordings, reviewing lessons, and practicing in the community.
By investing in language learning, students overcome the fear of making mistakes and adapt to the challenges of life in a new language. They learn how to manage pressure and make adjustments when the program isn’t working out the way they envision. They get frustrated, so they learn to depend on God, evaluate what’s going wrong, and make adjustments.
Language learning is a tool to shape character and develop perseverance which is far more important than learning the language itself. When they land in their long-term ministry context they’ll have the experience, confidence, and humility to learn the local language without the training wheels.
Look to be Coached by Godly Veteran Missionaries
As students learn in the classroom, spend time in the community, and consider future opportunities, they need godly mentors to coach them. They need to be surrounded by missionaries with both field and training experience to help them process what they are learning. These experienced missionaries prepare candidates to depend on God to persevere with joy through suffering.
Many training programs are apprenticeships where experienced missionaries host candidates and invite them into the ministry of their lives. While these apprenticeships can be formative for aspiring missionaries, it can be difficult for the busy missionary to make time to slow down and help candidates process each step along the way. Consider finding a program where experienced missionaries are specifically equipped to train new missionaries.
Look for Biblical Content on Missions and Discipleship
Most importantly, find a training program with sound biblical teaching. What does the Bible say about missions? What are biblical and unbiblical ways to think about conversion? Does the Bible tell us how to disciple a new believer? As you prepare for the missionary task, you need a biblical perspective not only on core Christian beliefs, but also on evangelism, discipleship, church planting, and culture.
As an aspiring missionary, consider carefully who will shape your missiology.
Your ministry will be shaped by what you believe. As an aspiring missionary, consider carefully who will shape your missiology. Look for trusted ministries that have a proven track record of promoting faithful, biblical teaching. Consider attending a training center that places a high value on the authority of Scripture for determining how we live out the missionary task.