Becoming an Effective Worker on the Mission Field


Becoming an Effective Worker on the Mission Field

  1. Introduction:
    1. Our topic for discussion today is: Becoming an Effective Worker on the Mission Field.  Our goal is to share with you some of the realities of work as a missionary, and then to give you some guidance on two important areas, i.e. coping with a very heavy work load, and the basics of planning.  (Mic & I will "team-teach".)
    2. Personal testimony from our own missionary experience highlighting the importance of this topic.
    3. It is MOST important that you understand a fundamental fact, viz. that during your first 2 years with OM, much of your life and work will be planned for you.  Your program or agenda will be largely what is given to you to do.  Your attitude must be one of a SERVANT — come to serve the Lord, the team and the people God has sent you to (believers & unbelievers).
    4. This implies that a part of your "success or failure" as an OMer will be evaluated by how well you fit into the team structure and work with them, accomplishing the tasks that you are given to do.
    5. Put off a western work mentality on the field, eg. 40 hour weeks, my right to a day off, etc.  This will hinder you from truly adapting to the work God will be giving you to do.  Instead of my "rights", put on the mindset of a servant who humbly serves the Lord not demanding his or her rights though is prepared to communicate openly about inner struggles with a leader at the appropriate time and place.
    6. On an OM team, much will be expected of you.  Though worship must be our first priority, nevertheless you will quickly discover that OM is very work-oriented.  You will be given much work to do.  And you will no doubt find much of your own work to do.  Most of us are fairly highly motivated people and love to work.  And we come from work-oriented cultures. 
    7. The question we all face is: How can I do all I have to do and be successful as a Christian worker?  How can I be fruitful and effective for God?  If I am ineffective and inefficient as a worker (i.e. I just don’t get my work done, I do not accomplish what I came to do), then I will be fail.  However, God wants us to be fruitful and successful for Him.  Yes, we will be fruitful if we prioritise our relationship with Him (i.e. worship before work, being before doing).  But God is also interested in our attitudes towards the work we’ve given to do and that we carry it out — this is also spiritual ministry (incl. money matters etc.).
    8. Perhaps the question that many of you may be facing right now is: Will I be able to cope with all the work demands?  We need to consider carefully how we will cope effectively with "work stress".   And we need to find some very practical ways of living
    9. What kind of struggles do OMers face as they go about their work?
  2. Results of a survey on the real-life struggles of OMers with their work & efficiency:
    • Trying to complete several different tasks at the same time
    • Social expectations within the culture (interruptions)
    • Expectations too big, goals too big
    • Too much to do
    • Lack of organisation, or over-organised
    • Lack of self-discipline
    • No discipline to follow-through and finish a task
    • Avoiding unpleasant jobs
    • Lack of prioritising tasks
    • People interruptions
    • Too casual or laid back about work
    • Perfectionism including too precise
    • Little jobs before big (important) ones
    • Not sticking to plan
    • Not using time "small time" efficiently (i.e. idle moments in between other work)
    • Lack of balance between work and personal needs
    • Try to do too many things all at the same time
    • Over-work & tiredness
    • Laziness
    • Just follow feelings
    • Too much zeal
    • Struggle keeping to a time-table
    • Too many people to minister to
    • No real day off
    • Poor allocation of time for a task
    • Spending too much time on unimportant tasks
  3. Putting on the right attitudes:
    1. It is very easy for many of us to become easily discouraged or frustrated with our work load.  Or with ourselves and our inability to cope with all we’re expected to do.  This sometimes happens because we may have perfectionist tendencies.  Or we feel we can’t do anything to change the situation that is causing us the stress, eg. we can’t change our leader who seems to expect too much of us or who isn’t a good organiser.  We feel trapped, frustrated and incapable of improving our effectiveness.  The effect of this discouragement not only decreases or lessens our effectiveness but also our joy and freedom in our work.  We feel burdened down by the weight of "unfinished business" — work that stares us in the face every day but we aren’t able to do.
    2. A godly attitude is: I want to learn new ways.  I want to learn more about myself and how I personally need to improve my effectiveness in my ministry.  I want to be the best worker I can be for God’s glory.
  4. Key problem & solution – very heavy work load / over-worked:
    1. Work that is required of us:
      1. This is work that is given to us as a part of being in OM, eg. work to learn the language, assignments in the training program, daily duties living together (cooking, cleaning, washing etc.).  This takes up most of our normal day!
      2. Here we have no choice in the matter.  Our leaders will require us to do certain tasks, both those we will like and those we don’t like or wouldn’t normally choose to do.
      3. Sometimes we might find ourselves feeling we just can’t cope with all the work — too much is given to us.  Then even more is given to us.
      4. We will probably have more to do than we have time to everything in, especially if we want to do everything perfectly and thoroughly.  The best approach is: I will do it as best as I can in the time that I have.  That’s all we can really expect of ourselves.  And that’s all that God expects of us.  He knows that we are human, not superman or superhuman.
      5. What we can do:
        • Make sure that you know what is expected of you.  This is best recorded in a simple job description. A job description records Job Title, Responsible to, and Responsible for (principal & other).  (Sometimes your gifts and qualifications are also given in a job description.)  After you have become familiar with your situation/location and have passed the initial language learning phase, write down your main tasks and check them with your team leader.  Then have them typed out and have copies for both yourself and your leader(s).
        • When you are assigned a task, make sure your task is clear to you.  Ask for clarification if necessary.  You can’t tackle or complete a task if you do not know what you are to do.  Don’t hesitate to say to your leader: "I’m sorry but I don’t yet understand what you are asking me to do."  (It could be that he or she isn’t yet clear either!!)
        • The next important fact is to be sure it’s clear to whom you are responsible for this particular task.  Or in other words, who is the one who is responsible to lead and oversee your doing this particular task.  Then you must relate directly to this one (not other people, even your country leader or team leader) throughout the carrying out of this particular task.
        • Establish clearly when you are required to finish the task.  Is it an open-ended job, or is there a deadline for you to keep?  Remember that if you are unable to keep a deadline, or if you are having difficulty along the way with a task assigned to you, communication with your leader, asking for help, is absolutely essential.  Don’t keep your leader in the dark giving him/her the impression that everything is fine when it isn’t.
        • After the task is finished, try to get your leader to help you evaluate how you performed.  Have the attitude that you won’t do a perfect job, that your well-being as a person is NOT wrapped up in your success in your work but rather in your relationship with God (and remember that the people around you love you anyway!), but that you will do the very best you can.
    2. Work that is requested of us:
      1. Here is it YOUR choice whether or not you take the task on or not.  Therefore, it is important that you think through the issues carefully and prayerfully.
      2. Check your motives.  Am I wanting to do this work only to please my leader, to make a good impression to him/her?  Or is it to impress people?  To climb up the ladder in the organisation? etc.
      3. Seek to know the mind of the Lord on the matter.  Tell your leader that you will pray before saying "yes" or "no".
      4. Realise the sinful possibilities within your own heart, eg. laziness, apathy, rebellion against the leader (i.e. don’t like him/her, therefore not interested in doing anything more than I must!), my own self-centred plans and wishes (i.e. watching a video instead of doing some extra work though we do need to plan time to relax), my unwillingness to go beyond just what I am required to do etc.
      5. If and when we accept a task, then we need to be clear that this is our choice.  And it is our responsibility to carry that task through for the glory of God (cf. Col.3:17).
    3. Work that we personally want to do or need to do:
      Examples: Write letters to family, supporters, home church; write prayer letters; relaxing activities etc.
      Key factors:

      • Plan, prioritise and schedule these important activities into your diary – always allowing for change / flexibility.
      • Learn to work efficiently, e.g. to write brief emails and letters to friends and supporters – if you write many, long emails to your supporters and prayer partners, they will eventually wonder why you have so much free time to write letters – whereas they sent you out to share the Good News with the lost, not to spend hours and hours writing lots of emails, cards and letters home!  Another clue is to write and save, then paste several paragraphs of basic news that you can share with different ones – rather than your feeling the need to write every person an “original”.
      • You need time off to relax and exercise.  This is as vital for ministry as any so-called ministry activity.  Without variation and time-off, your efficiency and effectiveness in the Lord’s work will significantly suffer.  However, you personally must realise the importance of this activity as most likely you will not be made to exercise or take time off.  In fact, you could have a team or field leader who will praise you if you just concentrate on work, work, work – but then you probably won’t last beyond the initial two years on the field. 

Graham Roberts
Missionary Training School, Czech Republic

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