Overseas Missionary Selection


Missionaries serving in foreign settings face challenges of learning a new language and culture, and frequently face hostile religions and worldviews.

  1. What evidence is there of candidates having strong cross-cultural skills? These would include previous overseas experience and foreign language proficiency.
  2. Are they oriented toward spiritual warfare?
  3. How have they prepared for the field/roles ahead?
  4. How does their spiritual gifting compare with their anticipated ministry?

Selection Criteria:

Priority Considerations and Definitions:

Approximately 28% of the global population has not yet heard the Gospel, according to the World Christian Database1. Those who haven’t yet heard the Gospel should have an opportunity to hear it in an understandable way. This is more crucial than providing further opportunities to nations that have credibly been evangelized, but have rejected the Gospel. Largely-evangelized nations would include most of Eastern and Western Europe (including Great Britain) and the Western Hemisphere. However, some evangelized nations would qualify as unreached/least reached according to the definitions below, and would take priority over sending missionaries to nations having a high percentage of self-described Christians, and a high percentage of Evangelicals2.

“An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group without outside assistance.”
“Definition: Less than or equal to 5% Christian Adherent AND less than or equal to 2% Evangelical.”

Questions to consider:
  1. Who is the missionary trying to reach?
  2. How well does the missionary meet the guidelines in this document?
  3. Are they solidly within these guidelines, or minimally?
  4. Is the ministry strategic? Would the missionary likely have an outsized impact for the Kingdom?
Areas of Emphasis:

How is the Spirit leading your church’s mission priorities? Consider reaching nations dominated by large cultural and ethnic religions, including Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Also consider reaching New Religionists (of Asia), agnostics, atheists, and ethno-religionists (tribal religions).

Nationals and Expats:

Would supporting an expat missionary or a national missionary be appropriate? Questions to consider include:

  1. Does the missionary candidate add something significant to a field or team that a national Christian worker (more proficient in language and culture) would lack?
  2. Do we have credible knowledge of an outstanding national worker who needs support, and who works in the same field as the US missionary?
  3. If the missionary assists national workers, does the missionary have sufficient expertise to justify the typically high cost of the expat’s presence?
  4. In the area of church planting, could a missionary potentially do a better job of church planting than a national? Would the expat church planter focus upon reaching expats or nationals?
Need and Stewardship:

Candidates should provide their annual budget to aid in decision-making. Normal cost-of-living data for the involved location should be reviewed in comparison with the submitted budget3. Missionary support levels are typically normed to American standards of living, rather than to what living costs are on the specific field.

Mission Agency:

How long has the agency been in existence? What information is provided on their website about the agency’s leadership? What is the agency’s statement of faith, and is it acceptable? What are the agency’s mission focus and strategy? How complete, substantive and professional is the website?

What percentage does the missionary agency take for administration--both for salary and special projects? Ten percent or less might be reasonable. Does missionary support go to the specific missionary, or to a pool of funds for all missionaries in the agency? Consideration of US retirement costs may be important when looking at the budget figures, as many missionaries will retire in the US.

US-Based Missionaries:

When a missionary applies for support with the intent of living primarily in the US, there should be a compelling, strategic advantage for this intention. Those who have had extensive time serving and living in a foreign country, and who now live in the US could be considered if they intend to work remotely with their former foreign community, and plan occasional visits to that country.

  1. All candidates would normally be under an approved mission agency.
  2. Priority should be given to candidates who are members of the mission committee’s church, or who have strong ties to the church, or sister churches in the area. If candidates ask for guidance, consider pointing them to serving unreached/least reached people groups.
  3. Candidates with ties to currently (or previously) supported projects may be given heavy consideration, in order to build and nurture our relationship.
  4. Would accepted candidates be willing to submit periodic reports as requested by the church? Would they provide regular prayer updates?
Missionary Personal References:

In addition to the above requirements for missionary applicants, personal references should be required and checked. However, a strong preference should not supersede the above criteria for missionary selection, and should not guarantee support.

  1. See Gordon Conwell’s Center for Global Christianity’s annual statistical updates, currently at https://www.gordonconwell.edu/center-for-global-christianity/resources/status-of-global-christianity/
  2. ”The Joshua Project definition of “Evangelical” is:  
    “Followers of Christ who generally emphasize:
    • The Lord Jesus Christ as the sole source of salvation through faith in Him.
    • Personal faith and conversion with regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
    • A recognition of the inspired Word of God as the only basis for faith and living.
    • Commitment to Biblical preaching and evangelism that brings others to faith in Christ.
  3. A good source of obtaining information on local costs, including many cities, is Numbeo.com