Through the years, we have gleaned from churches and from other missionaries many ideas for missions conferences. We are listing them here for your consideration.
We suggest that you inform the missionaries of all activities at the beginning of the conference. Let them know what is planned for them each day. This will help them to schedule their personal time better.
Be it known, however, that Silent Word Ministries International, as a missionary agency, recognizes that missionaries are not worthy in themselves of serving the Lord, even much less worthy of being honored in church missions conferences. We are not suggesting that your church do these activities for the missionaries. Nevertheless, it is a fact that many churches want to honor their missionaries in some way. Thus, in the line of being helpful to those churches that do want some new and fresh ideas, we offer the following. These ideas are some of the ways other churches have used to honor and to be a blessing to the missionaries involved in their conferences.
1. Men’s Outing
Golf Outing –
Some churches have men who enjoy golfing. Some missionaries enjoy golf as well. Missionaries are split up among the men of the church so that one missionary is on each foursome. This is a time for your men to get to know your missionaries better.As is sometimes the case, neither your men nor the missionaries can really golf, but only play at it. Many hilarious stories can be told and many memories be made by men who really don’t even know how to golf.Teams can be made up of either two or four men. The “Best Ball” or “Captain‘s Choice” version is used to cut down on the seriousness of the game. This also is helpful to those men and missionaries who do not golf well or never even attempt to golf.
Sometimes the round of golf becomes a tournament. The winning foursome gets trophies or some other awards in one of the evening services of the conference. Other awards can be given for the worst team, for the closest to the pin on a certain hole, or other common golf awards. Interesting stories can be told in the pulpit about that day’s round of golf that adds a personal touch to the conference.
This is a time of relaxation for all involved, builds relationships between your men and the missionaries, and adds some comedy as well. It is best if all missionaries in the conference be involved. Because some missionaries are not golfers, it is wise to let the missionary men know what is expected of them before the conference or in the informational session at the beginning of the conference. This info may even be placed in the informational conference folder or packet.
Personally, I feel that it is best if the conference speaker be involved in the activities as well. However, due to age and/or health reasons, this is sometimes not possible. Most people will understand if this is the case. Missionaries on the field are expected to be flexible, patient, and cooperative. Therefore, your missionaries should be expected to display the same character in your conference even if they don’t prefer a certain activity, such as golf. Character is an important quality you should expect from the missionaries you support.
Miniature Golf Outing –
This activity does not require as much time as golfing. It tends to be more relaxing since there are few men who are truly serious about this game. Although the competition may seem to be hot, miniature golf lends itself to much goofing around and fun. Awards may be given out in the services.
Bowling Outing –
Some churches do not have men that like to golf so they opt for bowling. This is also a good choice over golfing when the weather does not permit 18 holes outdoors. Again, awards can be given for highest individual score, lowest individual scores, highest team score, lowest team score, and more. You may want to check with the bowling alley beforehand about taking and using your own music, however.
Skeet Shooting Contest –
Other churches are made up more of hunters. Hunters bring their guns and shoot skeet, of course. Different awards can be given out for the best and worst shooters. You may want to have a special award for the missionary who does the best or is the funniest. Gag gifts are appropriate and can bring down the house, as they say.These types of activities, again, are designed for fellowship between your men, which is always needed, and your missionaries. Time together in an atmosphere away from the suit and tie, formal, missionary setting can have many benefits as you can imagine. It can be helpful for your men to see the missionary as a man, a human, and a friend, and not just a seemingly, untouchable missionary on another level of spirituality.
Suit Shopping –
Some churches take all the missionary men to a certain store or mall and outfit them with a new suit. Some offer a new shirt and tie to match.I recommend that you invite the men of the church to go along. They will enjoy the fellowship with the missionaries. The more the merrier, as they say. This can also give the missionaries some time to talk to your men, some of whom may be candidates for the mission field.
Shoe Shopping –
Other churches take the men shopping for shoes. I suggest that the church provide an envelope with a determined amount of cash that each missionary may spend on shoes. Let the missionary know if he can buy any kind of shoe or if you prefer that he buy church shoes.If the church plans to pay with a credit card then be sure the missionary knows how much he can spend. Rather than say, for example, “You can spend $70“, it is better to say “You may spend between $60 and $80“. This gives the missionary a margin in which he can shop. You may increase the margin, as you feel best for your situation.
P.S. – In case you decide to take the teens with the men and the women during their activities, be sure to provide financially for their expenses as well. Pay also for their golf, bowling, or whatever. If you are taking them shopping you may want to consider giving them a smaller amount of money with which to shop than you gave their parents.
As an option, you may want to give the teens their money and just tell them to go spend it on themselves in the mall somewhere. Most teens can take care of themselves. However, make sure of their parents wishes before you tell them what you want them to do.
2. Women’s Outing
This usually means shopping. The same suggestions and tips made regarding shopping for the men are also applicable here.Some churches stipulate that this money be spent on the missionary wife herself rather than on her husband or the children. Others simply let the woman decide that herself since she knows what are the greatest needs of the family at this time.Some women have a hard time finding clothes for themselves and so have a hard time shopping in a limited time slot at a limited place.
Older missionary ladies can build into the lives of younger missionary ladies during these times out together. Often you might overhear a younger missionary asking questions of the older women.Again, I want to suggest highly that the women of the church be invited to go along for the fellowship. You may even want to include a stop for ice cream for all the women, paid for from the church missions conference account. Your ladies will pray more for those missionaries than ever before because they have gotten to know them more personally.
3. Couple’s Outing
Both miniature golf and bowling are recommended and usually accessible. You may be creative and think of something else such as a cruise down the river, a tour of an antique mall, horseback riding, or even a special couples’ candlelight dinner. (If you come up with more ideas that have worked for your missions conference, please, let us know of them and how they were a blessing to all who participated.)The benefits of a couples’ outing during a missions conference are that they are enjoyed as couples rather than as individuals. Of course, make sure your own people are involved in these activities.It is interesting how some church couples seem to “click” with certain missionary couples. Have you ever noticed that?
Personally, there are churches that support our family where there are other couples that my wife and I look forward to seeing and fellowshipping with repeatedly. We have bonded with them in the past. Ongoing correspondence has resulted. Do you think that these church members remember to pray for us? This is the kind of relationship that you want to build between your people and your missionaries.
4. MK Outing
To not leave out the MKs during the conference, often activities are planned for them. When the activity is planned for the same time slot as the activities of the parents, this may also serve as a way to take care of smaller missionary children while their parents are away.One important item to consider here is the age of the children. Some older teens may prefer to go with the men or the women than to go with the younger kids. In any case, make sure that the teens are thought about and that something interesting is done for and with them.Responsible adults must be available as chaperones for the smaller children.
Suggestions include: play areas in a mall, playgrounds at a local park, special children’s parks, amusement parks, museums, science centers, historical sites, roller skating, ice skating, or just games in the church gymnasium or even outside.
Be sure to keep the kids busy and having fun. (You may want to check with the skating rink beforehand about taking and using your own music, however.)
You may even want to take the kids out to eat at some fast-food restaurant or ice cream parlor they would all enjoy.
Be sure the responsible people have the funds necessary to pay for the activities.
I recommend that, if possible, as many children from the church, of the same age groups, be invited to spend time making friends with the MKs. This also breaks the ice for the MKs and allows them to make friends quicker with the church kids. Then in the evening services, they will tend to migrate towards each other more.
This type of activity, many times, fits into the lifestyle and philosophy of many home-schooling families. They seek for opportunities to get their kids experience with kids from other countries and cultures. Their flexible schedules often allow for joining activities like these.
These times together also help the MKs themselves to bond. Sometimes these friendships last for years, which is a wonderful benefit of your conference for the MKs and their families, making this a benefit that you may not ever see personally.
5. Field Trips
Field trips for sightseeing purposes can be a blessing to all involved. Choose some historical site in your area or museum, mark a day and time during the conference, and take the missionaries and your church people, as many as can go, out for the day. This time and interaction away from the church scene will draw different ones together for fellowship and deeper relationships. It will give some of your people more time to talk and question your missionaries, and vice versa.These activities are for families.Other options might be to some government building, monument, military installation, specialty store, factory tour, amusement park, or city park.
6. Miscellaneous Activities
Hobbies, Crafts, and Pastimes –
Have you ever stopped to think about the numerous hobbies, crafts, and pastimes in which your people are involved? If you were to put up a list for your people to sign mentioning their hobbies and skills I am sure you would be surprised.There are missionary men, women, teens, and children who may truly enjoy spending an afternoon with someone in your church learning or practicing a hobby or pastime.My son has enjoyed years of fellowship with a man in Iowa who took him to see his woodworking shop and taught him some skills. Since then, they have maintained contact and my son has greatly improved his skills in woodworking to the point of even building some large pieces of furniture.
Some men and boys are interested in model cars, trains, wood burning, caning, knives, guns, soccer, and many other hobbies.
Women and girls are often interested in crocheting, cross-stitching, rubber-stamping, calligraphy, jewelry making, beading, and other crafts.
You may want to ask your people to make their hobbies known and open their home some morning or afternoon for a missionary family to come over and fellowship around a specific hobby of theirs.
Christian School Activities –
If your church has a Christian school, you may want to consider one of the following ideas. Plan to invite the MKs to participate in recess time, P.E., classes, or chapel times.You may want to plan a special field trip for your students during the conference and invite the MKs to go along. Again, time together to build lasting relationships is our goal.Some older MKs are very talented and have experience working with younger children. You may want to ask them to do something in the school or ask your teachers if they would be interested in having an MK speak of his/her experiences on the mission field. You can even open it up for your students to ask questions. My children have had many opportunities to speak to kids around the USA during special services and conferences.
7. Visitation/Soul Winning
Missionaries are supposed to be “professionals” when it comes to soul winning. So why not take advantage of this and send them out for a morning or afternoon during your conference to do soul-winning with your people?Team them up with your folks and let them go door-to-door or visit some of the contacts you have. Maybe you have some folks in your church who have family members that need to be saved but who haven’t “budged” yet. Maybe a visit from some “fresh blood”, a missionary, will add water to the seed. Possibly, there will be some fruit picked and some rejoicing in Heaven, and in the church that night.Even lost people like to hear about foreign countries and cultures. Sometimes the stories missionaries tell can break down barriers in people’s lives. Use your missionaries’ experience and expertise to visit someone for whom you have prayed much.
Your people will get to see their missionaries in action and some may learn something from them. They will have more time to chat, either in the car, or as they walk from house to house. They will grow to love and appreciate them even more.
As always, what a joy it is to share the blessings of a day of visitation with others who are also concerned and involved in preaching the Gospel to every creature, whether on a foreign field or here on the home front.
Conclusion: Let’s face it. Many people do not give to nor pray for missions and missionaries as they ought simply because they do not have a close relationship with the missionaries. They are not close to the laborers whom seem so far away and removed, not only geographically but also spiritually.Pastors and church staffs must make a concerted effort to expose the people more to the missionaries themselves. Time together will show the people who they want to pray for and to whom they want to give their money. This is the bottom line of a growing missions program.Although faith is very important to the growing church’s missions giving program, it is relationships with the missionaries themselves that will burden your people more to be involved in worldwide missions.
Building relationships between your people and your missionaries may lead to trips abroad to visit the missionaries, and, who knows, maybe even to the dedication of a life or family to worldwide missions!
Missionaries around the world today enjoy knowing they have churches back home who are praying for them, writing to them faithfully, and giving to their ministry. Yet missionaries enjoy returning most to those churches where deeper relationships have developed due to time spent together with some individuals and families in some missions conference years ago.
Do your missionaries really look forward to returning to your church? More importantly, do your people really enjoy having certain missionary families return to your church?