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What Training Should I Receive as a Missionary?

What Training Should I Receive as a Missionary?

AUGUST 2, 2021    |    4 MINUTE READ

So you’ve said yes to Jesus, or are at least considering the call to serve as a cross-cultural missionary. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16–20) has become personal to you, and you’re excited to be a part of what God is doing around the world. But how do you prepare for this amazing, daunting, fulfilling, and challenging experience? Although you’re eager to get to the place God has called you, it’s essential to do everything you can to prepare before you go. Statistics show that proper training before serving as a missionary increases your ministry effectiveness in a different culture and helps you stay longer wherever you serve. But what does that training look like, and how long does this preparation take?

A smiling woman takes another woman’s blood pressure.

Training increases your effectiveness as a missionary.

Formal Education

Depending on where you’re going and what you’ll be doing, you’ll most likely need a college degree. What degree you should pursue is up to you. Our advice is to major in a degree you’re passionate about and that can be used in the marketplace. Whether it’s accounting, education, the arts, or medicine, you’ll be able to offer a marketable skill wherever you go, especially in creative access locations.

A great way to add a missions perspective to your degree is to minor in or take a few courses in missions or biblical studies. Through these courses you’ll be able to learn more about your Christian faith and about other major religions. You’ll also be able to study topics such as evangelism, contextualization, and cross-cultural communication. These courses will help you learn how to use your degree in a cross-cultural setting and do so through a missions mindset.

A group of people gather outside for an event.

Missionaries use a variety of resources as they serve.

Missiological Training

If you have the ability to go back to school or have the time to take a supplemental course in the midst of life, you can take a course or courses in missiology to learn the methods and purposes of missions. You’ll be able to learn from the lives, examples, and even mistakes of missionaries who have served before you. You will also be able to learn how to do missions well, learning how not to create dependence and how to share the Gospel appropriately in different cultures and contexts.

One course that may interest you is the Perspectives Course. This fifteen-week course can be done in person or online and is a detailed study of four different “perspectives” in missions: Biblical, Historical, Cultural, and Strategic. One valuable component of this course is that you can learn from many different speakers who teach from their personal experience in missions all over the world.

Another training option is MomentumYes, which is video-based and is designed for churches, small groups, and individuals.

A group of people pray for a young man during a service.

It is vital to develop a team of people to support you through prayer.

How to Build Your Support Team

Most missionaries are dependent upon the financial and prayer support of others as they serve in ministry. This is very counter-cultural, especially if you’re from a country that values financial independence. However, this dependence creates an opportunity for others to be a part of what God is doing where you’ll be serving.

If raising funds will be your reality, be sure to receive training on how to do this well. This training should include the biblical basis of raising funds and help you understand the difference between transformational and transactional giving. You want to be able to help others learn and grow in their missions journey, as well. God may use you to expose others to the bigger story that He is writing in the world.

Even if you expect to be a marketplace missionary who is funded through a different job in another country, it is still vital to develop a team of people to support you through prayer. You are not meant to go through this challenging time alone. You will need a group of people who are dedicated to pray for you.

A woman sitting and talking with two small children

Learn how to share the Gospel in different cultures and contexts.

Cross-Cultural Training

Culture is such a small word in English, but it represents a complex system of beliefs, behaviors, traditions, and values of a people group. Understanding culture is key in building relationships with people and in sharing the Gospel with people in a way that they will understand and value. That’s why it’s so important to receive training on how to serve in a different culture.

Learning these skills is quite impossible on your own, so we recommend going through training with a group of people, and even relocating for several weeks to focus solely on cross-cultural training. For families, this is a great opportunity to learn together. Children need to be prepared, too, because they will definitely experience some drastic changes of their own. The Center for Intercultural Training (CIT) and Mission Training International (MTI) are just two examples of groups that specialize in training missionaries for cross-cultural service. Each of these groups require that you relocate for four weeks or longer to not only discuss relevant cross-cultural topics, but to experience similar situations that will help you learn how to live in a different culture.

A teacher and four students posing for a picture in a classroom

Being able to speak in someone's heart language opens doors for relationships.

Language Acquisition

Learning a new language is often key when serving in a different culture. Being able to speak in someone’s heart language opens doors for relationships, along with conversations about life and faith. It also shows how much you care, as you’ve taken the time to learn another language in order to build relationships with others.

Often, you’ll undergo intensive language study once arriving in your ministry location, but it can also be helpful to learn how to acquire a language even before going. Normally, language acquisition is closely pared with cross-cultural training, and is an option both at CIT and MTI mentioned above. You may think that taking the additional time to study how to learn a language isn’t necessary, but you should definitely take advantage of it, as it will set you up for success when you do further language study later.

A group of teenagers sits around a table for an event

It’s important to receive training on how to serve in a different culture.

Practical Experience

Even if Jesus has called you to eventually serve in a different culture from your own, that doesn’t mean you should wait until then to start doing ministry. What are you doing now to help you prepare? Get involved with a local community center, teach English to non-native English speakers in your area, begin a Bible study in your neighborhood, or disciple a new believer in your church. These experiences will provide you with essential, real-world training that you can apply to any future ministry that you have.


PRAY: Ask God to show you where to go for help in this process. Reach out to the person He places on your heart (perhaps a leader in your church or a missionary you know) to discuss how God is leading you to serve in cross-cultural missions. Ask them how you can get involved in your community now and see what resources and training they’d recommend as you prepare for future missionary service, then pray for discernment.

GO: You’re probably eager to continue or even begin your journey. We'd love to help you take the next steps if you feel called to be a missionary. Visit our resources page to learn about books, podcasts, and small group studies to help you prepare for missions service.

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