Envision each city in Canada populated by a unique people group. Every city has its own language — and often more than one. The Church is virtually non-existent and the Bible scarce. Church planters visited some cities long ago. Other cities have teams serving there now.
To add to the complexity, imagine that ten cities are totally unstable, ripped apart by political and religious factions. Another group of cities has so many unique languages that it’s difficult to tell where one people group ends and another begins.
Where Do You Send A Church Planting Team First?
Every city needs Christ, and it’s up to you to determine which city to send a church planting team to first. As an added challenge, they will need to learn the language and the culture. The team may even have to invest more than a decade to translate the Bible for the people group they serve. Now to make the situation even more difficult, some of the people group’s languages are disappearing. For example, the children of one tribe are learning the language of an adjacent city, and others are adopting a trade language in a particular region.
You definitely don’t want a team to invest 10 years in a language that will be forgotten in 15. And that’s just one variable. If you’re looking at hundreds of languages, you have thousands of variables.
To make a bigger impact, you need to send a church planting team to a place where they can help a local church grow to maturity. You want them to invest their lives into people who will make disciples, while at the same time not duplicating the work of other teams.
As you can see, allocating God’s resources appropriately requires wisdom and experience. Thankfully God has given NTM the people and know-how to navigate scenarios just like these on a daily basis.
The Foundation for Church Planting
The previous analogy of trying to pick who to serve first among several different people groups is a reality. This is why New Tribes Mission uses what’s called a people group assessment — the first step in church planting.
The assessment is an in-depth analysis that helps us place church planting teams in the locations where they can be the most effective. Teams go into a certain area of the world to research how to serve a specific people group. This ensures that funds and talent are allocated with the greatest degree of responsibility. Conducting an effective assessment requires a great deal of research. But the effort is worthwhile because the initial planning and prayer prepares a team for making an impact.
The Assessment is Key to Success
Each assessment goes through two stages of research. The first covers a whole country and can take six months or more to complete. This gives a broad overview of what’s happening from a political and religious standpoint, and takes into account historical context and additional information such as security concerns, and safety for the team.
The second stage of the people group assessment is the most critical. This is when an NTM team visits multiple people groups in a particular area. A small team of field leaders and church planters continue the research with feet on the ground, looking for open doors and hearts that show a willingness to discover God.
Building on 70 Years of Experience
For almost 70 years, NTM has been conducting people group assessments in some form. This has allowed the ministry to develop an effective model that can be used over and over. The system has become more strategic and faster, but continues to remain flexible enough to work in many different areas of the world.
NTM looks to answer the following four questions with the assessment. Are the people receptive to a church planting team working among them? Can we create specific goals? Will we have a distinct impact? Will the impact be lasting? If we can answer those questions with a “yes,” then the area may be ready for a church planting team to come and share the Good News.
Research Teams Discover the Opportunity
A few months after the assessment, the church planting team typically has the next steps identified, and the research can be acted upon. The following phase is to position the team to serve. Typically three families are sent because there are a number of responsibilities that have to be met (i.e. translation, teaching, discipleship making, community development, etc.) A team of this size is able to accomplish more and can also encourage each other.
Coming Alongside Church Plants
NTM is putting a greater emphasis on conducting work where there is an opportunity to help a local church reach unreached people groups. These considerations are a major part of the assessment. Of course we still serve in places where there’s no church at all. But we are putting increased emphasis on going places where NTM can work alongside the local church with a “How can we serve with you?” approach.
Laying the Groundwork to Reach More Tribes
The assessments are the foundation of effective translation projects, church planting and discipleship. They allow the ministry to make better decisions and ultimately bring greater success to the church planting teams. Because of this, more lives are impacted.
NTM teams need to complete numerous people group assessments to continue the work. There are dialects to be researched. People groups to be identified. Local churches to be involved. Just as it takes a team in the field to conduct the research, it takes a team of supporters to make it happen financially.
A Global Partnership to Reach the Lost
Your partnership with NTM in carrying out effective people group assessments supports more than just Western missionaries. When you partner with NTM your gifts will support research being done by missionaries from all around the globe. You may be helping a Brazilian missionary serving in West Africa, a German family serving in Papua New Guinea, or a Filipino missionary serving in Thailand. Your investment serves the Body of Christ all over the world.
NTM needs to conduct 300 people group assessments. The cost of an assessment varies, but averages $4,500. This part of the work is critical for the strategic placement of church planting teams and proper allocation of resources. It also helps identify the key partnerships NTM can make with other believers around the world, people who also have a desire to see the world come to know Christ.
Giving to See More Tribes Reached
Your partnership will enable the assessments to begin so critical decisions can be made about placing of church planters. Assessments can begin as soon as the resources are available. The body of Christ will be blessed and the Kingdom of God expanded. Will you partner with us?