Leveraging Non-Partner Tours
As the C&MA has moved more toward partnership models of missions engagement, a question has arisen that I hear frequently: How do we handle an IW tour with a non-partner IW? This is a great question, and it expresses itself in various ways such as, “How do we stay focused on our partners when we only see them once every four years and yet we have other IWs physically present every year? Are we expected to engage deeply with every IW who comes through our church? What do we do if a non-partner IW on tour wants to make a public financial ask or promote their newsletter?”
Of course, you’ll have to answer these appropriately for your context, but the following thoughts may prove helpful to you and your team as you prayerfully think through this matter.
Allow and celebrate engagement. An IW on tour provides an excellent opportunity for someone who has never engaged in missions to take the first step. Movement towards missions is always to be celebrated, even if it’s not with a partner IW. In addition, there may be people in your church who will connect with this IW in a special, and sometimes lifelong, way given the nature of their work or their particular story.
Maintain focus. Juxtaposed to the above is the reality that God has given you a special assignment to work with your IW partner. Therefore, you must maintain course and not abandon what He has called you to do. There is a balance between celebrating every IW who comes through your church (and you should do this) and totally changing your missions’ focus every time one visits. Rest in the confidence that your team heard from the Lord in engaging with your partner and be faithful to walk that partnership out.
Serve them well. It’s tempting to approach an unfamiliar IW on tour with a mind toward how you can get the most out of them to help your partnership. Resist this as a driving motivation. God has sent them to your church and therefore you have the responsibility to love them and serve them in the small timeframe He’s given them to you. Being on tour is difficult for many IWs, especially those who leave their families for weeks on end to speak in churches. Seek His guidance in how you can love them well.
Fuel the fire. Most churches will only have their IW partner in their church once every four years. However, an IW on tour provides a great opportunity to have live, in-person connections with someone doing similar work to your partner. Not only does this provide an up-close and personal experience for many in your church who may have never even talked to an IW before, but it also helps to remind the church of the breadth of the work and scope of missions, and hence our motivation to do our part faithfully.
Leverage similarities. As you hear the stories of celebration and heartache from the IW on tour, there will be similarities with your partner IW. While it may not be wise to point these out while the IW is present (remember, we’re not using them), they can lead to great conversations in times of reflection and debriefing.
Make connections. We are all working for the same King, and therefore any opportunity we have to make connections between different works helps craft a holistic perspective of missions. Perhaps the IW on tour knows people that your partner IW knows has worked in similar areas or on similar projects or has toured in a church your partner has toured in or served at. The more we can connect our partners to the greater work, the more we see things as God does.
Remember the rule of generosity. Psalm 112:9f relates a common picture seen throughout the Bible – the righteous person scatters gifts to the poor and only increases in vitality and security, while the miserly look on in confusion as their lives continue to waste away. We need not be afraid that generosity will bankrupt us. Make sure to take an offering for the IW on tour, allow them to present a financial ask, and encourage generosity.
Distinguish between collective and individual engagement. Perhaps this is an underlying theme in these suggestions, but it deserves special note. It is not disingenuous or unfaithful to both celebrate and encourage individuals who engage with an IW on tour and choose to keep your overall church focus squarely on your partner IW. There is nothing wrong with encouraging the IW on tour to make their newsletter signup available and yet not offering to disseminate it for them. There is no incongruence between encouraging a love offering and choosing not to partner with them financially as a church in an ongoing manner. It’s okay if a few people want to dive deep into the ministry of the IW on tour, but it doesn’t mean that the entire church has to get behind it. There are no doubt dozens or even hundreds of good things that the people in your church are involved in that will never result in collective, church-wide engagement.
I trust these ideas serve as a help and catalyst to you and your team as you navigate the realities of balancing a deep, healthy, and meaningful partnership with the blessing of an IW on tour each year. As always, I am available anytime if you would like to talk further or discuss other ideas.
Together with you,
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