By David Bennett
Throughout the years, many ideas have been used to promote missions in annual missionary conferences. We list some of those ideas with the prayer that pastors and churches will be helped and become more effective in their world missions outreach. No one church can do all of the following in any given year. These are suggestions that can be used from time to time to give variety to your conference, or can be evaluated in order to choose what best fits into your goals for the conference. You are free to make adjustments since there is no copyright on the use of these pages. If you do make a notable adaptation, please, let us know so that we can possibly add it to the site. Thank you.
I will deal with “Planning” in another section. However, let me say that many of the suggestions here assume that the conference will end on a Sunday. If your conference ends on a Wednesday then I suggest that you begin your conference on Saturday rather than Sunday and use some of these ideas to get off to a running start.
Missionaries and their children enjoy many different activities with fine Christian people in the churches they visit. Some of the activities you may want to consider during your missions conferences are the following:
A Saturday morning prayer breakfast is a “must” in every missions conference.
It may be held at the church or in a restaurant. However, if it is to be held in a restaurant the person responsible must make sure that there will be a room large enough for the group and that the atmosphere is conducive to spiritual things.
The spiritual time may be used in several different ways. You may ask the main speaker to give a testimony or preach. You may either give him a topic you want covered (like ‘Faith Promise” or “Grace Giving”) or let him choose his own topic.
You may ask the missionaries to give a personal word, maybe something they would not say in mixed company. Ask them to share a trial they went through and how the Lord used it in their lives. Ask them to share about their own involvement in giving to missions. (Be careful about using the term “Faith Promise” as it is possible that the missionary’s home church does not give on a “Faith Promise” basis.) Ask them to challenge your men briefly regarding prayer, giving, or correspondence with missionaries.
You may also ask your men to give testimonies about what past missions conferences have meant to them or about the blessings of this specific conference. Ask for testimonies of God’s provision for their “Faith Promise” or how they gave by grace and God met each need.
Make sure your missionaries know how they are expected to dress for this breakfast. It is best to let them know this at the beginning of the conference, during the orientation time.
Take advantage of your missionaries while they are with you and get them together with your men for physical and spiritual food.
I have seen God use the conference prayer breakfast in the lives of boys as well. I suggest that you invite all the boys to come with their fathers. Some boys may be coming to church without their fathers. It would be nice to assign them to sit with a man who does not have his sons with him. If you feel that you need to limit the size of your group then I recommend that those under 13 not be invited. It is an important time for teens to rub shoulders with missionaries and hear the testimonies of the men from the church.
If you have an international banquet on Saturday then it is best to schedule your ladies’ luncheon or tea on another day. Thursday would be best in this case. If you do not have an international banquet on Saturday then it is best to schedule your ladies’ luncheon or tea for Saturday since more ladies will be able to participate. It is wise to include your girls as well.
You may want to ask the conference speaker’s wife to speak or simply give the time to the missionary wives to give a testimony of some kind. You may be specific as to the subject, if you choose. (Refer to the Men’s Prayer Breakfast speaking ideas and make the adaptations for the ladies.) Other testimony ideas for women would include talking about the woman’s role on the mission field, hardships women face in a foreign culture, or difficulties with raising children on a foreign field.
It is best to let the missionary wives know on the first day of the conference what you will expect from them at this luncheon or tea. That way they can prepare adequately.
After the service on Friday evening, you may want all the missionaries or one of them specifically to speak to the young people. You should order pizza and plan for it to be delivered shortly after the service. Make sure there is someone responsible to receive the pizza and pay for it.
After eating, have a time when one or more of the missionaries can share a testimony or challenge the teens regarding missions.
You may also want to consider having a time when the teens can ask questions.
At some time during the conference, possibly Thursday, you can schedule an activity for the senior citizens to have more time with the missionaries.
Going out to a restaurant together is a nice idea. However, if you have a potluck type meal at church you may find the fellowship with the missionaries to be more profitable.
Missionaries can give personal testimonies and prayer requests for your older saints to pray about.
Another interesting idea is to have your people talk about the blessings of being involved in missions throughout the years through their prayers and/or giving.
Many churches have International banquets. They are held traditionally on Saturday nights but some churches have changed the banquet time to Wednesday, Sunday, or even Monday evening. Conferences that normally end on Sunday may want to try a Monday night closing banquet. Conferences that normally begin on Wednesday may want to start with the banquet.
Some churches ask the people to bring food while other churches have the banquet catered. Some churches ask the people to specifically bring international dishes. If possible, divide the serving line into four major areas: Asia and Asian food, Europe and European dishes, Africa and African food, and South America with typical South American cuisine.It is nice to appoint different Sunday School classes to be responsible for decorating a specific table with decorations from that area of the world.
Another interesting twist you may want to add to your conference is to request that your people dress up in International costumes typical of some country or region.
Rewards may be given to both men, women, and children for each of the following:
Best Dressed Outfit
Most Original Outfit
You could also offer rewards for the couple who dresses up the best in an International costume.
Be sure to take pictures of all those who dress up. Besides using the pictures for your own purposes, please, send me copies so that I may include some on my site for others to see the creativity of your people. Thank you.
This is a special recognition of the missionary wives for all they do on the mission field. Roses or a bouquet of flowers may be presented. Cards with money may also be an option. Baskets of toiletries, stationery, candy, etc. can be awarded.
One church had a lady decorate paint cans in pastel colors and lace. Then it was filled with items for the missionary wives and single women. Each woman received her own beautiful can filled with goodies.
The presentation may be done by either calling the wife or wives to the platform or by taking the gifts to them at their seats.
Some churches ask the missionary husband in advance to write an article about his wife and all that she means to him in their ministry. This article may be read publicly, either by the missionary husband himself or by another designated reader from the church.
This programmed activity is one of the most emotional missions activities you have ever experienced.
Missionaries may be asked to bring an extra pair of shoes to church. Then their church shoes are removed and either men or boys of the youth group are assigned to shine their shoes for them. As you can imagine, this serves to teach several lessons. The missionaries receive the benefit of freshly polished shoes.
I recommend that the missionaries be asked to bring all of their shoes that need polished. The more people involved in the shining, the better.
Pastor Greg Carlson's church, Allegan Michigan, sent me an idea I thought might also be of interest to you. He said:
One year we gave a gift certificate to each missionary to a franchise shoe store. Our theme that year was "How Beautiful Are the Feet of them Who Bring Good News."
Often times the missionary parents are honored, rightly so, but the children are left out. Some churches have remedied this in different ways. One way is to have a special offering just for the MKs. This offering is announced ahead of time and everyone is asked to contribute.
The MKs may be brought up front during the offering. You may ask all the MKs to sing a song like “Jesus Loves Me” or one from the hymnbook. You may also ask some of the MKs, in advance, to prepare special music in the language of their native country to be presented during the time of the offering.
Another idea that is similar to this one is the following. Ask your Sunday School classes to take up a change offering for several weeks before the conference. Present this change offering to the MKs at the end of the conference.
Of course, the offering should be divided equally between all the MKs present in the conference. Although it takes more work, it is impressive to MKs to receive the offering in change, or all in pennies. At the end, the treasurer may offer to each MK to exchange the change offering for a check in the same amount. That is easier to travel with than a ton of pennies.
Although the following idea scares many pastors at first, this idea put into practice has been the cause for much joy and rejoicing in many churches and to many missionary families.
Each evening of the conference, ask the missionaries to stand on the platform and to file by the podium and list three outstanding material needs that they have presently or expect to have soon. Give each missionary 1-2 minutes to explain their individual or family needs. Do this every evening.
Ask the church folks to pray about these needs and also to do their best to meet these needs over the next few days. As needs are met each day, request that the missionaries thank the church publicly in the very next service. As needs are met, ask the missionaries to add other items to their needs list and relate them to the church the next night.
It is surprising how God uses His own in the pews to meet the needs of those going abroad to preach the Blessed Story! Your people will find tremendous joy in meeting real missionary needs on a daily basis and seeing the great gratitude of the missionaries. The missionaries will experience a fresh revival of faith in seeing God meet their needs through your church members.
(Caution: Be prepared with a few boxes of Kleenex in order to wipe away the tears.)
Some churches take on a large missionary project during their missionary conference. This may be the purchase of land, a radio station, or taking up funds for a new church building or Christian School expansion somewhere. It may be for the printing of thousands of Bibles or millions of tracts in a foreign language. It may be for the purchase of an airplane in Africa or a boat for an Amazon ministry.
The choice of the project must be made in advance of the conference since there are many missionaries begging God for financial help. A thorough evaluation must be made to determine which missionary has the greatest need or which need are you, as a church, able to take on entirely as a project.
The one strongly suggested factor that we recommend be a part of your project choice is that you pick a project that will be represented by the missionary who is requesting the financial help. In other words, that missionary should be present in your conference so that he may be presented with the check at the end.
Some projects require $300,000 while others require only $80,000 or even less. Maybe your church can take on two projects of $10.000 and $3,000 each. Whatever the case, that must be a church decision and should be determined before the conference. Let the church know, in advance, of the project coming up during the conference. Ask the church to be praying about it, as well.
Be sure to remember from time to time the needs of your Mission Boards who may need to expand their headquarters or office facilities, and requesting funds for such.
Also, consider the special needs of missionaries working in countries who have recently experienced natural disasters such as volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Your project money may open many doors otherwise closed to the Gospel.
Keep your eyes open during the year to the needs of the world and of your missionaries. Read their prayer letters carefully, combing them for special needs such as vehicles, audio-visual equipment, appliances, and church furniture. There are many projects worthy of your investment. Be sure to invite to your conference a missionary who presently has these types of needs.
It is exciting, and also emotional, to come to the end of a conference and to be able to present a missionary or two with a huge check in the amount of the offering given, which hopefully will be more than the goal set.
Ask the missionaries involved in your conference for a personal list of both needs and wants. Tell them to make out a Christmas list for you. You may or may not want to add some conditions or restrictions to this list.
I strongly suggest that this request be first made in writing and in detail as to what exactly you are thinking. Then do a follow-up verbal contact to ask if the missionary family has any questions about the specifics.
Most missionaries feel awkward about making a list of this kind. Still others may not want to seem “selfish” or “presumptuous” in making a “Wish List.”
Let the missionaries know that you want the list as a suggestion list, and that you don’t know what the church will do in relationship to the items listed.
Some churches budget money for the buying of the gifts. These churches then choose folks from the church to go “Christmas Shopping.” Some or all of the items listed are bought. Sometimes even more things are bought for those missionaries who were modest in making their “Wish List.”
Other churches display these lists in a visible place in the church a month or more ahead of the conference. People can read over the lists and make their own choices, according to their own personal financial abilities, as to what they want to be responsible for buying. Some churches print each item on little cards for the members to pick up and then become responsible to buy that item for the missionary.
Christians who love missions and love missionaries get a lot of joy from being a part of the conference in this way because they are having a part in the personal life of those missionaries.
These gifts are taken to a specified place at the church for the conference. A special “Missionary Christmas” night is chosen for the distribution of the gifts.
Some churches even decorate the place with a Christmas tree, wreathes, candles, and full Christmas decorations. This really makes it seem like Christmas for both the giver and the missionaries.
Some have provided Christmas goodies on tables for all to snack on, complete with hot chocolate or hot apple cider. I, personally, have been impressed with the creativity and love shown by God’s people who love having a part in blessing God’s servants who take the Gospel to a lost world.
Distribution may be done by family, by age, or however you deem best. I strongly recommend that the Christmas distribution be done at a time when all the church can see the excitement, joy, and tears of the recipients. This encourages your folks to be involved even more and rewards them for their faithful giving to world missions.
This is another way of honoring the missionaries, which is similar to the Missionary Christmas, except it is done without the Christmas theme and decorations. You may want to decorate however with umbrellas and spring shower colors.The motive behind “Showers of Blessing” is the same as that of the “Missionary Christmas.”
If your church honors your missionaries with gifts during the missions conference, but you have found a different, unique way of doing so, please, let us know about it. Thank you.
This is NOT what you think. I personally experienced this one and found it to be a very interesting idea.
Schedule a time when your missionaries can give a 5-10 minute testimony. Ask them to tell about one or two lay-people God has used in their lives in some great way. It may be a Sunday School teacher or a PATCH CLUB worker. It can be an older saint in the church who prayed faithfully for them or a bus worker who brought them to church through rain or shine.
Remember, they must talk about lay-people and their Godly influence on their lives in the past. It cannot be about pastors, evangelists, camp speakers, or missionaries. That defeats the purpose. So what is the purpose of this activity?
The purpose is to encourage your lay-people in their own specific ministry to the younger generation in your church who one day may be missionaries. One never knows who is sitting in front of them; it may be the next great soul-winner missionary to China in the making.
Hearing missionaries talk about the effect of the lives of lay-people in their own lives is a wonderful motivator to those in your church who may think that their ministry is not very important or may presently be discouraged by a lack of expected results.
Now that is not all. There is more. Read on.
The pastor, or other responsible person, should then take note of the names of these “un-famous” lay-people and make up certificates of honor in the names of those spoken about by the missionaries. These certificates are then placed on the wall of the church to remind the folks of the humble service rendered by some dear saint years ago who had a tremendous impact on this one who is now a missionary!
We suggest that a banner of some type be prepared and placed on the wall above the certificates. This banner could read: Wall of Fame.
The pastor then has a wonderful opportunity to encourage all the church people in their present ministries to keep doing their faithful and humble duties because one day missionaries will go out from their classes and bus routes to serve the Lord as missionaries.
At the end of the conference, you may want to keep the Wall of Fame for a reminder to your people of their importance. At some point, you may desire to remove the certificates and send them or give them to the missionaries to be distributed to those lay-people who are still alive and would be blessed to know their lives were honored in your missionary conference.
If your church has a Christian school, it is highly recommended that you take advantage of your missionaries and strive to build a missions burden into the lives of your students. Probably, many of your students are members of other churches and will not receive the benefit of your missions conference unless you schedule activities for the missionaries with the school. Here are some ideas.
A. Schedule the missionaries to speak in the individual classrooms to the students. Some classes may be combined, if desired. Both missionary men and women may be used to speak. It would be wise to ask each missionary couple about this before scheduling. In addition, some missionary kids, MKs, are very good speakers and can relate to your students at different levels. Some MKs tend to relate life on the mission field to the students better than their parents can.
B. Schedule the missionaries to speak in your chapel period each day. Experienced missionaries have more stories to tell than they have time to tell them in your conference. Give them the opportunity to share those stories with your students. Their parents may not have the benefit of hearing those stories personally from the missionaries but, who knows, maybe that afternoon your students may be relating all kinds of missionary stories they heard in school to their parents.
C. Have your students prepare a special program to present to the missionaries. One school divides the missionaries among the older classes. Each class is responsible to build a float that is decorated to represent the country to which the missionary was called. Chairs for the missionaries are set on the float. During a chapel period, either in the parking lot or in the gymnasium, the missionaries are asked to occupy the appropriate float decorated for them. Some students from each class pull the cart-float around the area while the students sitting or standing around throw confetti on the missionaries. The missionaries are treated as heroes and the students learn the importance of serving God and treating God’s servants with honors.
One must be creative to come up with an idea of what to use for a float. Some carts used for stacking chairs make for good floats. Some churches have farmers who have tractors and trailers that can be used as floats in the parking lot.
D. One school had different classes prepare a meal for different missionary families: one missionary family per class. Special music was prepared to present for the missionaries. The classrooms were decorated for missions conference. It was a blessing! Of course, the missionaries ate together with the children.
E. Train your students to carry international flags and have a flag parade at the beginning of each chapel period or evening service.
F. Classes may be asked to do a special project relating to a foreign country. This project may be presented in a chapel period during the conference or even the week before, in preparation for the conference. Projects may include flags, maps, population, capital and major cities, currency, living conditions, and other pertinent facts. Be sure to include the names of the missionaries the church supports in that country. Classes may want to write ahead of time and get information about the works from the missionaries themselves.
G. Missionaries often speak about “inflation” and the loss of support. However, few students understand the true effect inflation has on the native church or on the missionary enterprise. Request a missionary or two to do a special class on the subject, giving details, and examples of how it works. Give the students a test on the subject. (This may also be something you should consider doing with the adults of your church. A special time slot could be scheduled just for this.)
Missionaries love stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army. One church asked everyone to bring to church everything that they might sell in a yard sale or donate to Goodwill.
A team of trustworthy volunteers was established to receive the goods and evaluate the items as to their usefulness and appropriateness. That which was worth offering to the missionaries during the conference was kept. Other things were then taken to a donation center or thrown away. (One would think that no trash would be brought to the church for distribution but different people value different items in different ways. That is one reason for the evaluation team.)
Everything that was worth offering to the missionaries was made clean and presentable. A room at church was designated to become the “Goodwill” distribution center for the missionaries during the conference. Some things were placed on tables while other things were hung up. Some remained on the floor or were placed on sheets laid out on the floor. One would almost think he/she was inside a real “Goodwill” store. The missionaries were then allowed to make appointments and go through the “store” and take anything they needed for personal and family use.
Once the missionaries had all shopped once, then a second round was allowed for those who wanted to take things for their national people. (Not all missionaries need to do this while some from poorer countries love to take things back to their national pastors and Bible School students. Let them take as much as they can haul away and use on their field.)
At the end off the conference make a final donation of everything left over to the Goodwill or Salvation Army in your area. That way you do not have to store anything until next year.
Other ideas are in the making by people just like you. I am now waiting to hear from you, and others, with new and fresh ideas to be added to these pages. Please, take time to help us to be a help to others who are seeking creative ideas for their annual missions conference.
In case you desire to write me, you can send me an email. If you prefer to call me, my phone number is (423) 322-7995.
God bless you as you seek to promote missions for the glory of Him Who is the Lord of the harvest.
If you have any questions or comments regarding the program ideas presented here, please, feel free to write or call. We are here to serve you and will do whatever we can to help you to make your missions conference a spiritual success.