The Role of the Local Church in Preparing, Sending & Supporting Missionaries
My home church, Elmbrook Church, in Brookfield, WI, supports and works with over 80 missionaries, mission organizations, and apprentices around the world. It is truly a blessing to be a part of the Elmbrook family, and the almost 60-year history of a church with a heart and DNA for mission. Elmbrook is a non-denominational church with an average weekend worship attendance of about 6,000 at four worship services.
Elmbrook played a vital role in my preparation and development for mission. We have a Study Center in conjunction with Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and I was able to get a M.A. in Christian Studies by attending night classes. My field education included leading a small group to Prague to partner with Elmbrook missionaries and a local ministry there, serving in an administrative capacity to support the International Center, and doing a summer internship with Bibelseminar Bonn and To All Nations, the German partner organizations who invited me to serve full-time. Elmbrook provided cross-cultural training for short term teams, along with a number of leadership development seminars and conferences. I was also very actively involved in leading men’s and mixed small groups.
Our Pastor of Mission and his staff serve as mentors and coaches for potential missionaries as we continue to develop a missionary pipeline. We often met at each other’s homes, to hear the calling God has placed on our hearts, pray for and encourage one another, help to identify resources, validate calling to serve and selection of a mission agency that will provide the best fit for ministry. This was also a wonderful opportunity to meet Elmbrook leadership and staff, learn about Elmbrook’s mission strategies and mission structures, other missionaries, and local and global work and partnerships.
The commitment to local and global mission starts with and is modeled by our pastoral leadership and staff. Many travel the globe preaching, teaching and supporting the work of Elmbrook missionaries and expanding opportunities to further Kingdom work. Staff and church members come every year to minister in local churches in Germany and Austria. Our Senior Associate Pastor of Leadership Development, has come to Germany every year to help us put on Men’s Conferences. We have translated some of his materials and are consulting with local churches to help them better minister to men and build a leadership pipeline. When these pastors return to Elmbrook, they incorporate stories from their Germany experiences in their preaching to keep Elmbrook informed of our work.
The Faith Promise is part of our annual Harvestfest, a missions festival, and determines the budget to finance all of our local and global work. The current Faith Promise at Elmbrook is $2.7 million, this year alone. That is about 24% of all contributions. That is a huge financial commitment to missions. In recent years, we have combined the Elmbrook International Center (a global leadership development model) with Harvestfest, to broaden the global church leadership representation and help Elmbrook members better understand how God is working locally and globally, while encouraging more workers to engage. Elmbrook also provides an Explore Mission Sunday, once per month. This is an opportunity for missionaries on Home Ministry Assignment (HMA) to share how the Lord is working through their ministries and encourage others.
Elmbrook staff help to develop the mission strategies to provide strategic focus and direction to align all of the work. In addition to the leadership team, other structures are in place to support Member Care by region to provide ongoing care for missionaries. I report to the Europe Member Care group. They invite me to their meetings when I am stateside, determine level of financial support, pray regularly for us and our partners, and conduct my annual review. We also contract with staff from Potter’s Inn in Colorado for soul care and spiritual formation. Elmbrook missionaries are encouraged to meet with their staff during Harvestfest or to visit them and participate in their coaching and seminars at Potter’s Inn.
Elmbrook also has a German Focus Group that consists of people from a number of different churches in the Milwaukee area who have an interest in Germany. The purpose of the focus group is to heighten awareness among Milwaukee churches about Kingdom work in Germany, build relationships with German ministries, pray regularly for ministries in Germany, and provide stateside, logistical support for missionaries working in Germany. Most of the members of the focus group have visited with me in Bonn and other Elmbrook missionaries in Germany. They have provided host families for visiting ministry leaders, students, and missionaries from Germany. In addition, they have provided cars, cell phones, and served as advocates to help connect visitors from Germany to churches and activities in the Milwaukee area. This has proven to be a wonderful way to involve more people personally in mission and build relationships with various German ministries.
In addition, Elmbrook has encouraged life groups (small groups) to adopt a missionary and pray regularly for them. I have several men’s small groups and a mixed group who pray regularly for me. I make a point to visit with each of them on HMA.
Today, Elmbrook includes me on a number of email distribution lists to keep me informed. I also have regular Skype communications with the leaders of the German Focus Group. They are continually soliciting prayer requests and distributing them to the broader group. The Elmbrook website hosts podcasts of sermons and regular information updates about the life of Elmbrook. They really make an effort to keep me informed and feeling a part of the church. The leadership and staff continue to be extremely responsive when I need to contact them. I love Elmbrook Church!
By: Dan Sweeney, Serving in Germany