When it comes to deputation, we should work like it is all up to us, but pray and trust God like it is all up to Him. New and veteran missionaries alike all have different experiences with deputation. For some the deputation trail is long and arduous. Traveling long distances, poor receptions, the stress of phone calls, long winded questionnaires are all common complaints against the deputation model. Many of these problems can be improved or avoided all together if one sticks to a few principles of doing smart deputation. This is an article was written for the missionary to deal with the common complaints against deputation and offer advice for a less stressful and more fruitful experience.
The Good About the Endless Phone Calling
The meeting begins over the phone. There are a number of factors that pastors give for their reason to take on a missionary. One pastor told me that it simply was my persistence in calling after many failed attempts in reaching him. Before scheduling us, over the phone, one pastor said, “You sure sound excited about getting over to China.” But also on the same note, my father who is a pastor told me a certain young man called him, but his excitement seemed less than genuine, “he was a little over the top, it sounded fake.”
There is something good about having to call pastors 8-10 hours a day during deputation before getting to the field. You may not have a natural knack for talking to people or presenting yourself in charismatic way, but all of us can use the practice. You’re ability (or lack thereof) to talk to people, motivate them, persuade them will be carried with you onto the field. People will respond to an emotionally engaging leader over one who has difficulty remaining positive, being friendly, and showing love.
Having to sit in a room all day dealing with countless answering machines, disinterested pastors, and secretaries has a way to simulate the need for special kind of discipline. This discipline no doubt plays over into the mission field where you must deal with disinterested people. People you are loving and serving will look to you to be a leader, and so you must start being that leader before your first phone call.
Don’t lose heart, stay focused. Deputation works if you do. We must pray as though our support is all up to Him, but we must also do our part and do the work as though its all up to us. The work you do on deputation will set a precedence for the discipline and persistent work that is needed on the mission field. If it is necessary to get out and beat the bushes to have people come to the church you are starting, then the same is true about raising support and getting meetings. So don’t be discouraged, God will bless the persistent diligent work.
The same factors of church planting are also at work in calling and getting meetings. You will get tired, you will want to quit, you will want to call off early, but the only way to get meetings is persistent calling, just as the only way to get people to come to church is persistent inviting. Let me use the last portion of this section to share some tips that worked for me:
- Buy a voice recorder. A part of the discouragement comes from wasted time on making dozens of calls only to get an answering machine. So what do you do? Leave a message or get the next call ready? The answer is both. In the 20 seconds it takes to prepare the next call, you can use a voice recorder to leave a simple “exciting” 20 second message. In the message tell them your name, rank, and serial number as well as where to find your information online. Using Cluster Maps (or something similar, Google analytics) you can track who visits your website, and be ready to give them a call back when they do! This way those answering machines won’t feel like a waste of time.
- Keep accurate notes. Everything just seems less frustrating when you know who you’ve called and what was said and what the Pastor’s name is. Part of being friendly and personal with people is to bring up things in conversation that was said last time. It doesn’t have to be all business. Practice talking to them as though you are talking to a friend, but keep it professional.
- Especially if you are based out of the north east or south east United States, you should focus 80% of your calling to a 6 hour driving radius of your home base. There are plenty of churches in that radius to raise whatever your recommended support level is and more. This will significantly reduce uneccesary stress of who to call and driving too far. If you’re like me and don’t like to stay in people’s houses, prophet chambers, or budget inns, then you will enjoy being only 6 hours or less from home. You can always make the drive. Also, you are setting yourself up for a less stressful furlough when you need to visit your churches once again.