According to a popular Christian magazine, only approximately 20% of evangelical churches in America have a missions conference. I seriously doubt that the percentage in independent Baptist churches is much larger. I have had the opportunity to participate in over 1,300 missions conferences in the past 30 years. In many churches, this is the most exciting week of the year for their church. For some, it is more of a tradition than it is an impact meeting. Since the last command of the Lord was a command to evangelize the world, this certainly should merit at least five days during the year when the primary emphasis of the entire church is worldwide evangelism.
1. The Purpose of the Conference
- To inspire: (to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on; to motivate; to spur on; to draw forth or bring out)
- To enlighten: (to furnish knowledge, to instruct, to give spiritual insight to)
- To encourage: (to give hope or promise to)
- To enlist participation in missions:
1. Members inspired to go as missionaries
2. Members inspired to pray for missions
3. Members inspired to give to missions
2. The Planning of the Conference
- Missions conferences should be planned well in advance. Next year’s conference should already be well into the planning stages by the end of this year’s conference.
- Plan to involve enough people to make the conference successful without one person doing all the work.
- Plan for the missionaries’ lodging and transportation.
- Involve people from each aspect of your church: Sunday school, youth, ladies, deacons, senior saints, Christian school, etc. A good way to do this is by having various meetings take place in conjunction with the missions conference such as:
1. Ladies meetings: this is one of the highlights for ladies of the church and for the missionary wives.
2. Men’s prayer breakfast: this gives the men of the church an opportunity to interact with the missionaries and to pray with them.
3. Youth night: a time when the missionaries meet with the youth of the church. It could include pizza or light snacks. (I have found that this usually works best before the Friday evening service.)
4. Missionaries should be used in classes of the Christian school as well as in the chapel services.
5. Senior saints meeting: older people like to eat and so do missionaries. A lunch with the seniors can be a very profitable time.
6. Missionaries should be used in the Sunday school classes.
3. The Personnel
Invite enough missionaries to challenge and encourage your members, but not more than your church can properly take care of.
When inviting missionaries try to get some from all stages of missionary work. You should have some come that are veteran missionaries, some that are on deputation, and at least one missionary that your church currently supports.
Conference speaker or speakers
The speaker should be a person who has a passion for missions and who will preach on missions. To have preaching that does not center on worldwide evangelization in the conference will be counterproductive. It is a missions conference, therefore the main thing is missions.
There is no shortage of those willing to speak at missions conferences, and thinking about the following types of speakers may help you as you select a speaker.
- Mission personnel: representatives from mission organizations
- Pastors: those who have an outstanding missions program and can communicate the needs to others
- Evangelists: those who have a record of helping and being involved with missionaries.
- Veteran missionaries: those who have been successful and are able to inspire others
4. The Program for the Evening Services
- The music should be missions-centered and inspirational.
- The choir should be used every night.
- Congregational songs should be carefully chosen.
- Missionaries who have musical abilities should be considered for specials.
- Using children’s choirs and other groups from the school and the youth group will encourage attendance at the conference
- The invitational song should be appropriate for the occasion.
- Have a missionary or missionaries share a testimony during the service.
- In addition to the live testimonies, schedule time for a missionary presentation/video.
- The missionary should be informed far enough in advance so that he has time to set up and be ready to go before the service starts. Also, make sure you coordinate your equipment with that of the missionary.
- The music and testimonies should not take so long that your speaker feels the need to hurry though his message.
- When possible, displays should be in places that would encourage people to interact with the missionaries before and after the service.
5. Providing for the Missionaries
The conference should be planned in such a way that it is not only a blessing to the church, but to the missionaries as well.
- As you plan for the lodging, don’t forget the families of your missionaries.
- When wives are to be involved in meetings you should provide care for their children.
- It can be a great blessing to the members of the church and to the missionaries when the members are encouraged to provide gifts for the missionaries or when the ladies are taken on a shopping trip with money provided by the church.
- Encourage your members to use whatever skills they have to help the missionaries as well. Services such as auto repair, beauty shop opportunities, computer help from church staff, and other services that can be supplied by the church for the missionaries can be an encouragement both to those who provide the service and to the missionaries.
- Financial assistance should be considered long before the conference starts. Plan for their travel expenses, love offerings, offerings for special projects the missionaries have, and regular support. There are many ways to raise the needed funds:
1. A definite amount should be designated from the missions budget on a monthly basis and put into a fund for the conference.
2. Take offerings for several Wednesday nights before the conference starts.
3. A special offering can be taken at the end of the Sunday night service for the special needs of the missionaries.
6. Conference Commitments
At the end of the conference, you should have a definite time for people to commit how much they will give to missions over the next year. As part of the giving commitments, it is helpful to ask people to commit to pray for the missionaries over the course of the next year—after all, prayer is the most important need that missionaries have.
7. Conference Evaluation
After the conference has ended, you should ask yourself several questions to help you identify ways to have a better conference next year:
- What was a special blessing during the conference?
- Were there any problems that hindered the conference?
- How can we improve on the weak points?
- How can we make the good points better?
The missions conference is an absolute necessity if we are to maintain the kind of intensity that is needed to keep the church inspired to do the thing that Christ has commanded us to do. It can be and should be an exciting, blessed time for the church and for the missionaries.