Ministry Support Teams: an in-depth look

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:2-3

MST members

An MST is a vital network of support that may be made up of people from the mission worker’s congregation, family, friends and community. It is usually a group of six to eight people with a strong interest in missions and a love for the serving worker. If the worker has close relationships in more than one congregation, the MST connects people from each congregation to support him/her.

MST members share responsibilities so that no one is overworked. Following are sample roles that VMM recommends; adapt and adjust to fit your situation.

  • Team leader: a unique role in helping the MST work together to support the worker. At first, the MST looks to the worker for direction, but as soon as possible, the team leader helps the team take responsibility for meeting the worker’s various needs and gives administrative oversight
  • Church communicator: ensures that two-way communication is happening between the worker and the home congregation
  • Pastoral care provider: gives spiritual support; connects the MST to the church leaders
  • Prayer facilitator: circulates the missionary’s prayer requests and leads prayer network
  • Finance coordinator: monitors finances in cooperation with the congregation’s treasurer and the VMM regional director

For workers serving long-term, the following roles may be needed:

  • Newsletter manager: receives and distributes communication from the worker to supporters
  • Children’s advocate: if missionary children are old enough to have interested peers, include them in supporting the family

Members of the MST will:

  • Encourage/counsel the worker in seeking the Lord’s leading.
  • Assist in communicating with supporters.
  • Pray for both the worker and the team in mission.
  • Take primary responsibility for raising funds and maintaining balances while the worker serves.

Starting the team

As a potential mission candidate begins to seek the Lord’s leading about the call to service, he/she should contact:

  • someone from congregational leadership
  • several spiritually close friends and family members

These people should be willing to pray for discernment and form the core of the Ministry Support Team. As God leads the candidate to seriously consider service and begin the application process with VMM, he/she should:

  • Add others to the MST, beginning to develop the kind of support that will help maintain strong connections to family, church members, and friends.
  • Pray with the MST about the possible assignment, the necessary preparations, and sharing the vision for ministry.
  • Arrange for the MST to meet with VMM’s regional director to talk about the MST’s role, the worker’s ministry, and how VMM can help support the MST’s efforts.
  • Meet with the MST finance coordinator and leaders in the congregation to set up an account for finances, decide how it will be managed, and discuss how the church would like to be involved in financial support. Then, the missionary candidate should work with VMM to set an initial budget.
  • Meet with the MST to plan ways to connect with people through mailings, special events, presentations, etc., to raise interest in the worker and his or her specific mission. Together they should:

    Develop a mailing list of possible supporters.
    Design printed materials and other items to share vision with potential supporters.
    Plan special programs or cultural events to share the vision.
    Talk with church leadership about opportunities to connect with people.

NOTE: These steps may take place before VMM approves a worker for service, but actual fundraising should not begin until VMM has appointed the worker.

The MST life-cycle

When the candidate is approved for service, the MST is formed as people accept the worker’s invitation to serve in particular roles.

When the worker is preparing for service, the MST:

  • Makes plans for sharing the vision
  • Organize events to acquaint the church community with the culture where the worker will minister.
  • Research and pray for needs in the outreach location.
  • Invite a former worker from the outreach location to share experiences with the home congregation(s).
  • Develop brochures, posters, or other informational items to share.

Finds what things need to be in place before service departure

  • Identify ways for the missionary on the field to share information, photos, and other items with the team, for them to share with others
  • Decide how the newsletter will be assembled and distributed.
  • Help with packing and other details
  • Have a “send-off” party for the worker

Takes charge of raising finances before the assignment begins

  • Write a letter introducing the worker, explaining who they are and how they are raising support for the worker’s assignment. This letter can include the budget amount, a pledge card, and information about how donations are handled. It should give a date for people to respond by, so the MST can determine if they need to make other mailings or contacts. The worker can write an accompanying letter, explaining the call to service and vision for the ministry. The MST can send these letters to a list of interested people the worker and MST develop.
  • Maintain contact between the MST finance coordinator and the church treasurer to be sure that pledges are coming in as expected, and to send the appropriate amount of funds to VMM.
  • Discuss special “thank you” events or ways of showing appreciation to those supporting the missionary with prayers and/or finances.

When the worker is serving, the MST should:

  • Communicate regularly with the missionary to provide encouragement and connection with events at home.
  • Share the missionary’s experiences with the congregation and other supporters.
  • Circulate prayer requests through the prayer network.
  • Continue in prayer for the ministry, the missionary, and their family.
  • Help to arrange any special events or service projects involving the congregation and community.
  • Thank financial supporters and keep them informed about the ministry.
  • Identify any shortfalls below the expected budget and contact new supporters to meet the need.

Developing a prayer network

Regular, committed prayer is foundational to the worker’s call and ministry.

We suggest the worker and MST gather a network of at least 12 persons who feel called by God to intercede for the worker and the ministry. Because the network does not need to meet together, its members need not be determined by geographic proximity.

Develop the prayer network as early as possible, even as the missionary begins exploring service possibilities.

The MST prayer facilitator serves as a vital link between the worker and his/her network of prayer supporters. Together, the worker and prayer facilitator should develop a system for smooth and prompt circulation of prayer items from the missionary to the network. Also remember to include the prayer network in the distribution of regular mailings, such as newsletters. Frequent contact with the network of prayer supporters will position them to intercede more effectively.

In addition to praying for specific items, prayer facilitators organize people in the network to commit to prayer for the worker on a certain weekday. This way, the prayer network provides support by ensuring that at least one member is praying for the worker every day. As you develop plans for strategic prayer coverage, seek the creative inspiration of our infinitely creative God!

Return from service

Returning to the home culture is a difficult transition; the MST can help with resettlement details. Typically, MSTs:

  • Take time to listen as he or she shares stories, experiences, and personal changes
  • Help the missionary understand his or her new environment by sharing the changes/struggles in their own lives and the life of the community/congregation
  • Help with physical needs, such as moving in, finding transportation, shopping, getting utilities connected, and knowing about new businesses
  • Find job opportunities for the mission worker(s)
  • Reconnect the mission worker with the home congregation; for example by arranging opportunities to share in small or large groups

How MST finances work
  • VMM develops a budget that is appropriate for the area of service and as close to actual costs as possible.
  • If VMM has funds to contribute toward the support, these will be deducted from the budget.
  • VMM finalizes the budget and determines how much financial support, for each year of service, the MST needs to raise.
  • If the assignment’s actual costs exceed the amount requested in the budget, VMM will communicate with the MST and additional fundraising efforts will be developed.
  • If the actual costs are less than the amount requested by VMM, the extra funds will be redirected in consultation with the mission worker(s).
  • If the church receives more funds than the mission worker needs according to the budget, the church may consider doing special projects to support the ministry in consultation with VMM. Examples are: work teams, pastoral visits, projects, etc.
  • If the pledged funds don’t come in as expected and the MST has difficulty raising the funds, VMM works with the congregation and MST to find a way through the situation.

Prior to the worker’s departure, VMM will:

  • Define the location and ministry with the worker, which can guide prayer and communication with interested supporters.
  • Organize training events to prepare the worker for service, usually during the summer preceding departure.
  • Make staff persons available to work with the MST and the congregation.
  • Help to coordinate departure logistics: immunizations, travel arrangements, visas, etc.
  • Produce prayer cards to help communicate with supporters.
  • VMM’s finance department has additional resources regarding handling contributions.

During the term of service, VMM will:

  • Provide regional retreats to help support the mission worker and connect him/her with personnel and the broader vision for that region.
  • Through regular evaluations, help the worker identify areas of stress and growth.
  • Support the worker through regular administrative and pastoral visits.
  • Train the MST to help the worker during the re-entry process.

When the worker(s) returns from service, VMM will:

  • conduct a completion interview to evaluate the missionary’s time of service and invite feedback about the experiences on the field
  • arrange for counseling when needed
  • organize a re-entry retreat for returning mission workers, in collaboration with other Mennonite agencies
  • serve as a resource to the MST for any concerns they express

Contact us for more information about MSTs.


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