What's A Network Supported Missionary?

 LCMS Missionaries, Rev. Larry Matro (left), Dr. Martin and Marie Dicke, during the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation Celebration in Papua New Guinea.

LCMS Missionaries, Rev. Larry Matro (left), Dr. Martin and Marie Dicke, during the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation Celebration in Papua New Guinea.

— by Rev. Roy S. Askins

“What’s a Network Supported Missionary?” That was a common question during the seventy plus pre-deployment presentations I made. I spent precious time answering those types of questions rather than sharing the work of Christ’s Church in Asia. 

If you haven’t heard yet, I’m preparing for an abbreviated Home Service this October. I will reconnect with supporters and seek to build new connections. To answer some of these questions ahead of time, I wrote this post about the Network Supported Missionary (NSM) model. There’s a special download at the end for your congregation. 

If you’d like me to visit, please ask me. But even if you don’t ask me, ask another missionary. There’s a long list of them and most are supported through the NSM model. Before they visit, spend a few minutes to educate yourself. Then your missionary can talk more about Christ’s work and less about a support model. 

Missionaries Raising Support? 

So, is the LCMS sending missionaries to raise their own support? 

In short, yes. But they do not make the journey alone. 

Before they deploy to a field of service, LCMS missionaries build a support network. It consists of individuals, families, and congregational partners who support the missionary in any number of ways. 

Network partners will pray for their missionary regularly. They might give financially, either one time or ongoing. A network partner might encourage her missionary with regular notes. I have one supporter who writes me a little note after every newsletter. She’s an incredible blessing to me. Network partners often pray for the work of the entire region as well.

To build this network, the missionary and his family will travel throughout the United States presenting to congregations, visiting individuals, hosting booths at conferences, and more. He will explain the work the Holy Spirit has called him to do abroad, and he will invite his hearers to walk with the LCMS in sending him on this journey. 

Once the missionary raises enough support, he is “green-lighted” for deployment. His regional director in consultation with Mission Advancement and Missionary Services will send him to his field of service. 

Not a One-Man Show

Now, from the above description, it might sound like the missionary must build this network all alone. It almost sounds like a one-man show. But nothing could be further from the truth. 

The Office of International Mission in St. Louis provides extensive training on methods and practices for support raising. They help the missionary build a presentation; staff from the field share pictures and videos for the missionary so he can accurately share what Christ has called him to do. 

Furthermore, the Mission Advancement team of the LCMS provides numerous invaluable services. They collect, track, and provide documentation for donations received on the missionary’s behalf. They often provide calling services to help the missionary schedule visits. Upon request, they will perform mailings to potential donors and provide lists of LCMS congregations who might be interested in supporting the missionary. Without the support of the Mission Advancement team, the task of building a support network would be incredibly difficult. 

Caring for the Network 

Once the missionary has deployed, the work of maintaining the support network begins. In grateful response, a missionary will write regular―ideally monthly―newsletters for his supporters. He writes thank you notes for financial support and keeps in regular contact with his network supporters. 

But that’s not all. 

Usually, the missionary returns to the United States every other year for a period of “Home Service.” At one time referred to as furlough, this return provides the missionary and his family time to recuperate and reconnect with the support network. 

The missionary will present at congregations who have supported him. He will connect with individual and family supporters. If needed, he will make new connections and broaden the network. And, he and his family will take some time to visit with family back in the United States. 

Making the Mission Happen

Of course, this model is not perfect. No one said it was. The task of pre-deployment support building takes courage, determination, and tenacity. In short, it’s hard. 

And at the same time, the NSM model happens to be the best way to deploy missionaries for service around the world. Now, there’s a lot more you can find out about this model. Please consider looking at my Askins Network page. It explains in a bit more detail what a strong network looks like. 

You can also read more at LCMS website. Mark Hoffman wrote an excellent, detailed white paper on the model and its history. If you really want to know what it’s about, read that. 

EDIT: Please also see this article put together by the LCMS Comms team

Finally Something Special

As I promised, a special gift. First off, thank you for taking time to read this article. Now you can help those in your congregation learn more as well. I’ve taken this article and summarized it for a church newsletter or announcement. If you have a missionary coming to visit, download the article, personalize it, and send it to your pastor or secretary to publish in your congregation’s newsletter. It will help your fellow members of Christ’s body understand just how we as The Lutheran Church―Missouri Synod support our missionaries around the globe.