People group assessments are like scouting missions that help missionaries determine where to focus their church planting efforts. They take time, energy, and money. So, why not just send missionaries to every village in every people group instead? An NTM missionary in Papua New Guinea helps answer this question, “It would be great to just be able to send a missionary to every single village in every single people group and not be concerned that some Christians might go to places that already have a good gospel witness. Unfortunately, we have limited personnel which means that we need to be wise stewards and carefully invest the resources that God has entrusted to us.”
When an assessment team goes out, they are looking for answers to a number of questions about a people group. These include, does the group already have access to the gospel? Are there other religions or cults influencing the local people? What languages and dialects are spoken? And the final question, what kind of interest do the people have for New Tribes Mission to come, translate God’s Word and teach Bible lessons?
A Closer Look Before Sending a Team
When an assessment team is praying about going into a new region, they visit several different villages in order to gain a deeper understanding of the people. This initial groundwork is necessary to avoid misusing time and resources.
“Incorrect information can have serious ramifications for missionaries and nationals alike,” a missionary said.
For example, studying an area will help the team avoid translating the Bible into a dying language. A typical Bible translation costs about $35 a verse and takes 10 to 20 years to complete. Because of this, teams want to select a language that will be around a long time.
The Most Important Factor
People group assessments are a valuable tool that help NTM make wise decisions about how to use God’s resources. These assessments and strategies go hand in hand with prayer. Seeking God’s direction is at the heart of all of NTM’s church planting efforts and what allows for fruit on the field.
A missionary shared, “Trust and obedience are more important than any amount of planning and strategizing.”