How Do Missionaries Determine With Whom to Work?

  Joel McMartin (right), in Africa, leads a team in people group assessment.

Joel McMartin (right), in Africa, leads a team in people group assessment.

Where Should a Missionary Go?

How do missionaries know where to go? There are literally billions of people around the world without access to the gospel message in their heart language, let alone discipleship. So when missionaries are determining what people group to work with and where to locate, they don’t just throw a dart at a map. First, they pray. Then, they research.

  Encountering many people during a people group assessment

Encountering many people during a people group assessment

People Group Assessment

This research, or “people group assessment,” allows church planting teams to minister effectively and strategically.

Some of the research happens before the missionaries even arrive on the scene. The missionaries research online, seeking answers to questions like:

  • Is there any gospel influence among the people?
  • Are any evangelical mission organizations working with, or planning to work with, these people?
  • Are the people multilingual? What is their heart language?
  • Is the use of their heart language increasing or decreasing?
  • Is the population expanding or shrinking?
  • What outside influences would impact the people’s ability to hear the teaching? (For example, in one location a company was building a major processing plant for natural resources. This created jobs for the people, a good thing. But many of the people now had much less time and willingness to hear the teaching.)
  Many questions can't be answered until you're on the scene.

Many questions can't be answered until you're on the scene.

Researching on the Scene

Now, it’s time to visit the people. Of course, when missionaries show up in a village, obviously outsiders, they need to start with why they’re there.

Jim, a missionary in Asia Pacific, explained it to the people like this: “In our first visit last year, we introduced ourselves and explained how our organization sends teams to live among people groups in remote areas to study the language and culture, translate the Bible and teach from God's Word.”

A key factor in working among a people group is the people’s openness to having missionaries come there to teach. If the people are not open to it, we don’t go there.

More questions follow. Some of them are basic logistics questions. If the missionaries locate there, how would they get in and out with their families? And where would they get supplies?

Prayer

This has been just a glimpse of people group assessment. But a key factor in determining what people group to work with and where to work is prayer. Missionaries need God’s wisdom. And it is God who gives the increase (I Cor 3:6).

Will you pray for the missionaries involved in people group assessment, that God would give them wisdom?