A common discussion in churches is around the need for or importance of partnership with mission agencies for team trips or individual experiences. The decision about any partnership may be influenced by a number of factors such as the church vision for overseas mission, perhaps church connections with a particular location and project, existing mission expertise and personnel within the church or simply determination to go it alone.
In every situation the Church is the primary sending body. It is through and with the support of the church that people go out. Where an agency comes in, is as the mission facilitator. An agency is established as an organisation whose primary focus is to facilitate people to world mission using the expertise, knowledge and experience gained through their people to particular parts of the world and with particular ministry foci. The partnership between church and agency then is vital to ensure that individuals are well supported in their calling to go and are well assisted in the details.
MISSSION WORLD's recommendation for overseas trips is to partner with an agency wherever possible and our reasons for this include:
- An agency can assist the relationship between the church as the sending body and the individual being sent.
- An agency can offer and guide with focused orientation / preparation to a team or individuals prior to departure and also debriefing on their return
- Logistics such as transport, accommodation, visas and permits, medical requirements etc. can be dealt with by the agency using their extensive knowledge.
- An agency has proven expertise, experience and connection in focused areas of the world and already established links and relationships for effective placement and pastoral care on the field.
- For teams, the pressure of organising an itinerary can remain with the agency rather than the church or team leader who instead can focus on the team itself
- An agency can assist in helping people to reflect on and understand issues of culture and religion and then to reflect theologically on where the Gospel fits with these.
Many churches or groups may also choose to partner with an agency in prayer and financial support without necessarily having established connections through a church member. Certainly this is to be encouraged. You will need to do some thinking as to what sort of partnership you are looking for as a group/church, what will fit with your vision and then do some research on a number of agencies eventually narrowing this to best fit. It will be important to talk thoroughly with the agency as to the status of the partnership and ensure clear understanding from both parties.