Every mission, missionary and mission leader should lay emphasis on a continued and consistent effort in their work. Mission work must continue to the next level, whether in the field, leadership or strategy. In each level, the common attitude motivating each one daily should be, “I am here by God’s divine appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time.”
So very often, when a missionary leaves the organization, he/she simply drops the work and moves away. Others take away the best practices to the next mission, which suddenly announces a big success although truthfully it is the work of the previous mission.
It is sad to watch mission organizations in Asia get severely disrupted (and sometimes close down) because of the failure to continue the work the previous leader had done. Here’s what happens:
- Sacrificial financial investments get wasted as on when ministry started well come to a halt.
- Mission Boards are lax in the area of rules and regulation and mission policies. Sometimes power struggles and hidden agenda among board members destroy the smooth continuity in the mission.
- The leader’s pre-mature decision to leave the organization creates a vacuum because of improper handing over of responsibilities.
- When a field missionary decides to quit, it severely hampers the initiatives he had begun.
- Larger missions are attracting effective missionaries, and they try to manipulate the missionary with better incentives. But this ends growth on the field.
- The greed of a denomination or missionary movement to acquire the ministry done among a particular untouched people group or unreached field/area/region improperly destroy the continuity.
‘God finishes what He starts!’ Rick Warren.
Missionary work without proper transitioning is often times a disaster. In my experience, I have had the privilege of counselling ministries that felt victimized. On the other hand, I have witnessed missions and its leaders undergoing a smooth, Godly transition as well.
Take for example, the Christian Institute of Management in India, where the new leader writes, “It is indeed a great blessing and honor for me to take over the mantle from Bro. Anbu and carry the rich legacy set by him and team CIM. Bro. Anbu keeps reminding me that our God is a progressive God and His nature is taking us to the next level and encourages me to prayerfully walk His journey, I am blessed.”
The intention here is to focus on operations to support the mission, ministry initiative, effectiveness in work and continued missional leadership development – soul winning & church planting, research & strategy and training & development service – despite every crises. Mission continuity is a critical component in establishing a resilient mission movement with the capacity to resume functions without being carried away by disruptive events like transition, retirement, resignation or spiritual downfall of the mission leader.
Your mission’s continuity plan can be the determining factor of its survival after an interruption. An effective continuity plan will chalk out preventative measures, outline procedures and define strategies. This plan helps reduce the length of the interruption and resume operations as soon as possible. It safeguards the ongoing ministry initiatives, such as soul winning ventures, discipleship processes, holistic mission initiatives, uncompleted training efforts and all the other smooth running projects & programs. In the event of a crisis situation, an Emergency Management program should direct response efforts, prioritizing the safety and welfare of the mission community.
In order to develop an effective mission continuity plan, you must first identify your mission’s critical operations and ministry services. These are the absolute necessities in your mission operations. Depending on your type of mission, the critical areas can include systems, information on each missionary, payroll information and operational structure. Also, ministry donors and fieldwork should be identified as critical areas.
Once you have identified the critical areas of operation, you will need to develop a team. Your mission continuity planning team should represent each of the critical areas within your mission. This carefully selected team will be able to provide pertinent considerations, as applicable to the mission. Collectively, the information will assist you to develop a well-rounded mission continuity plan that addresses every potential area of concern. Although a planning team is ideal for the mission continuity, if you choose to develop the plan by yourself, make sure to look at your mission from every angle so that your plan encompasses every aspect.
Recovery planning lies at the core of your mission continuity plan. This plan-within-a-plan focuses on how your mission will respond immediately before, during and immediately after an interruption. The plan outlines the methods of communication, chain of command, emergency exits and procedures, and other factors that will help to protect your mission assets, staff, field ministry and donors. This plan also includes preventative steps that your mission will take, such as immediate replacement, contingency fund for damage control as well as backing up files, computer systems etc.
Unlike the disaster recovery plan, the mission continuity plan, as a whole, focuses on the long-term strategies that your mission will take to maintain its livelihood after an interruption. It considers the possibilities of operational shifts, fluctuating demand and relocation possibilities. It analyzes risks and outlines procedures that the mission will use to mitigate those risks. Every aspect of mission operations is considered, including the potential financial position after the disaster.
Someone said that in Asia barely 40% of bigger missions and less than 40% of smaller mission initiatives have a continuity plan in place. Although creating a mission continuity plan can be challenging, but it is absolutely necessary for the future of a mission. The mission leadership must seek for free resources and information that can assist your mission to complete a well-designed continuity plan. This plan should include a handy motivational training, which would result with the following attitude:
‘He brought me here. It is in His will I am in this place.’
‘He will keep me here in His love, and gives me grace to behave as His child.’
‘He will try me here in order to make sure that I am fit of His blessing and will teach me the lessons he intends for me to learn.’
‘In His good time, He will lead me higher ground of ministry responsibility with the blessings of my community here – how and when only He knows.’
“I am here by God’s divine appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time.”
Dr. Susanta Patra is the former General Secretary of India Missions Association. Susanta received Jesus as his Savior in the year 1970 in a street evangelistic outreach program at Cuttack City. Even though he was disowned by his family, the Lord used him to bring 221 students to Christ through personal evangelism.