Why Serve With An International Team of Missionaries?
We know by long observation of both ineffective and effective work all over the world that mission work is commonly:
Strongly influenced by the culture of the sending country of the missionary
Strongly influenced, even strictly governed, by church (denominational) culture and expectations
Strongly influenced by the leadership culture of the sending country, because it guides both the missionary and the leadership that sends him
Attempted according to pre-existing models, plans, and methods
On one hand:
When the missionary team all comes from the same country (a mono-cultural team), these can be expected:
The culture of the team is that of the sending country
The language of the team and team meetings is their own, not that of the host country
The leadership style of the team leader is appropriate for the sending country, not the host country (where the team is now working)
Local contacts first encounter and interact with the sending culture, not their own culture
It takes an especially long time for local believers (host culture members) to become the majority in the fellowship
The eventual “release” of the work to local/national leadership is a highly complex and time-consuming process
On the other hand…
When the missionary team is comprised of people from multiple cultural backgrounds and language groups, we expect (and we observe) the following:
The host culture, not the sending culture, determines methods
The local language is the easiest and best choice for team interactions
There is easier adaptation of leadership style to local culture because it is both inside and all around
Different cultures bring different strengths to the team
Weaknesses of one mission worker’s culture are balanced out by others
Long-term stability – church culture can more easily remain the same over time
Release of the project to local leadership is made much easier
The adaptation work has already been done… The most complex part of missionary work, adaptation to local culture (contextualization), is built directly into the development of the leadership team from the very beginning. Thus, much of the hardest work is done in advance (while the team is small), rather than later (when contextualization can be more difficult and even destructive to the group)
For these reasons
Kontaktmission intentionally seeks to send missionaries into multi-cultural and international teams. We understand the complexities of this and take them into account, seeing especially the importance of the team leader in establishing a healthy team culture. We also seek to place local believers/leaders on the field in key leadership positions of the team, understanding that these indigenous/local workers already possess much of the cultural understanding that can make the team most effective.
Serving on a locally-led, international team makes the missionary’s (for instance, the American missionary’s) experience much more likely to be effective and to endure past his eventual departure from the field. It’s solid mission theory that benefits both the host culture and the foreign missionaries who serve there.
Please contact us if you have any questions. We love to talk about this topic, because it is so central to what Kontaktmission is doing well around Europe.