Mission Work and Mission Workers

A quantitative profile of mission work and mission workers in 2010 has recently been published by ADBC Publishers, the imprint of Brierley Consultancy, which undertook the underlying research on behalf of ReachAcross (formerly the Red Sea Mission Team), the mission agency devoted to ‘helping Muslims follow Jesus’.

The data derive from a questionnaire sent to 3,000 UK churches, of which more than one-fifth responded. This was not intended to be a statistically representative sample but was skewed towards larger churches (which were more likely to be able to maintain mission workers) and the ‘Affinity’ churches which already supported ReachAcross.

Responding places of worship defined contemporary mission work in terms of three roughly equal categories: spiritual (church planting 17%, discipleship 19%), community development or relief work (33%), and specialist ministries (youth work 17%, medical work 14%).

Not all churches supported mission workers, but, of those which did, the average number of workers was three, ranging from two for churches with Sunday congregations of less than 200 to seven for those with over 350.

The average number of mission agencies supported by the churches was six. 24% supported fewer than three, 32% between three and five, 30% from six to ten, and 14% eleven or more.

88% of the mission workers were partially funded by their supporting church and 6% were fully funded. 6% overall were not financed by their church, rising to one-quarter among long-term workers in their 70s. 83% of churches had a mission budget which averaged 13% of the church’s total income.

17% of the mission workers supported by responding churches were located in the UK, 16% in other parts of Europe, 29% in Africa, 17% in Asia, 9% in Latin America, and 14% in other places.

22% of the mission workers served in an independent capacity on their chosen mission field. The remainder were connected with a mission agency, half of them with a major agency and half with a small and less well-known one.  

20% of the mission workers served in a short-term (less than two years) capacity. They were mostly in their upper teens or twenties, often working overseas during a gap year. The average age of a long-term worker was 46, with the oldest workers tending to be supported by the smallest churches.

Final pastoral authority over mission workers was felt to be exercised by the supporting church in 21% of cases, jointly by the church and the mission agency in 42%, and the mission agency alone in 32%.

Copies of the 16-page pamphlet Mission Workers in the 21st Century by Peter Brierley can be obtained from ReachAcross, PO Box 304, Sevenoaks, TN13 9EL, price £2.60 (inclusive of postage and packing). Cheques should be made payable to ReachAcross.

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