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You’ve been called into missions, awesome! And now the only thing standing between you and the field God has called you to serve in is missionary deputation.
If the idea of traveling around the country visiting different churches to ask for money scares you a bit, don’t worry. That’s a completely normal feeling. The truth is, you are attempting to do something impossible.
Impossible for you that is. If you try to do deputation on your own, you will fail.
But, we serve a big God. A God who delights in doing the impossible. So what is impossible for you and I is absolutely possible with God. And because of this, deputation is something you can survive.
To help you get on your way, here are nine practical missionary deputation tips that we learned along the way. Most of them involve doing deputation with kids, since we have such a large family and that’s how we roll.
But regardless of your family size, you should find a tip or two that’ll help you on your way.
1. Pray Often
You can’t do this alone. You need to pray for your ministry, your travels, your family, the churches you are visiting…
Pray often for each aspect of deputation. Prayer helps you stay in tune with God, and can help you with your attitude, your expectations, and with every aspect of life.
Also, pray as a family. If you have children, get them involved in the prayer. Share prayer requests, pray for your sending church, your supporters, and the churches where you’ll be going. Pray together, it will draw you closer as a family and help everyone feel like they’re an essential part of the team.
2. Don’t Take Unresponsive Pastors Personally
Deputation isn’t easy. If it was, each missionary would fly through it and get to their field in no time.
Unfortunately, deputation is hard. Pastors are hard to get a hold of. You will call have pastors you call multiple times, leave lots of messages for, finally get a promise of a callback, and then nothing. No call. No answer when you try. It’s like they blocked your number or something.
As hard as it is, try not to take it personal. It’s not that they don’t want to talk to you – it could be a million other reasons that you’re not aware of. So don’t dwell on it. Instead, pray for the pastor and move on. You can put that one on your list to try again in a few months if you want.
3. There Isn’t a One Size Fits All Plan for Deputation
Just because something works for one missionary doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your approach.
Try connecting with pastors via email. If that doesn’t work, pick up the phone and call. Try snail mail. Or connecting on social media. We had some good connections with pastors via Facebook Messenger.
Mix things up and see what works for you.
Don’t try to copy anyone else’s style or methods. You and your family are unique, as is your ministry. You have to see what works for you and what feels comfortable.
4. Always Bring Snacks
If you’re on deputation with kids, always have snacks in the car. If you’re on deputation without kids, snacks are probably still a good idea.
Food can take a grumpy child and turn that frown upside down. It can help calm kids down between Sunday School and morning church. Or help tide them over while the church sets up for a potluck after church. (Sometimes those take forever!)
Snacks are also essential if you go into a church that doesn’t arrange for lunch. That way, you don’t have an empty stomach all the way back to your hotel/house/whatever.
Make sure the snacks aren’t messy, or you’ll then have to change your kids whenever you let them eat. We stuck with simple snacks that were shelf-stable so we could leave them in the car. These include:
- Fruit snacks
- Fruit roll ups
- Small bags of nuts
- Single serve bags of crackers (the younger kids really like graham crackers)
We also always keep a pack of water bottles in the car. Dehydration causes a lot of problems, including grumpiness. Make sure you and the kids drink plenty. The water also helps because the water in some places you stay will probably be pretty bad tasting. At least we had a hard time with this, since our well water at home is so fresh and didn’t taste like some of the chemicals you find in cities…
5. Prepare to Be Embarrassed
Whether you have kids or not, something embarrassing will happen on deputation. You might as well expect it, embrace it, and get over it. Missionaries are just regular people – sinners who have been saved by grace. They’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. So we make mistakes, and do the wrong thing at times.
So if your child:
- Asks someone how old they are
- Picks their nose and eats their boogers during church
- Throws a fit when it’s time to leave because they’re having fun with their new friends
- Tries to strip in the nursery because they’re too hot
- Has a toilet training accident
- Doesn’t use good table manners
Know that you aren’t alone. We’ve been there (and had so many other incidents we won’t discuss…)
If you’re embarrassed, don’t cause an even bigger scene trying to handle it. Just pray for wisdom, and move on. Life is too short to get stressed each time you’re embarrassed or you or your kids do something wrong.
And honestly, if the church is the type that won’t support you because your kids acted like kids then it probably isn’t one that’d be a good partner for you anyways. God has your supporters all figured out, so don’t tell your kids it’s their fault if you don’t get support there.
It’s okay. Your relationship with your kids is more important in the long run.
And if you’re totally embarrassed, the good news is that you probably won’t ever have to go back to that church again. So it’ll be okay.
6. Pick a Hotel Chain and Stick With It as Much as Possible
This was a piece of advice someone gave us at Candidate Seminar. And we’re very thankful for it. We picked a chain and each time we had to pay for a hotel room on deputation, we used our membership.
Over the years, we earned plenty of points. Especially since we almost always got two rooms to house the whole family. We picked Choice Hotels. Between their Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Econolodge, and other options, we almost always found an included hotel where we needed to be.
And as we stayed and earned points, we rose in membership status and got extra points and perks.
It also gave the kids some consistency away from home, because almost all of them are fairly similar so they knew what to expect. This was nice.
7. Let Go of Some Control
God’s plans for you are so much better than your own. So stop trying to figure out exactly how things are going to go. We had big plans trying to figure out when Bryan should stop working his full-time job. Or when we’d make our first family trip to the Acres.
But when it was God’s timing, we just knew. Bryan was able to step-down to a part-time position well before we anticipated. And he quit his job completely when it seemed almost crazy to others. But we knew it was time for full-time deputation, and God faithfully provided for our every need since then.
It’s a leap of faith – and deputation is full of them. That’s why tip #1 is so important. You have to pray and listen for God’s guidance.
God does provide, and you can trust Him to do so.
8. Keep a Journal
As mentioned in tip #7, God provides. But, sometimes in the midst of all the crazy that comes with deputation, it may feel like He doesn’t. Or that you aren’t supposed to be doing this since it seems like you’re just struggling.
During these moments, it helps so much to reflect on what God has already done. Keep your own journal with a simple page of answered prayers and times when God did something impossible to help you on this path.
Here are a few of the amazing ways God provided for us during deputation:
- Bryan was able to get time off for us to go to Candidate Seminar back in 2018 (We were gone for two weeks and he only was eligible for five days of leave per year. Praise God his employer let him take extra time off during the busy season)
- We had family volunteer to watch our crew during this time. With our special needs son Owen, babysitters are hard to come by. Especially for overnight stays. So having people watch them for two weeks was a huge answer to prayer.
- God provided a van for our family so we didn’t have to take two cars everywhere. Such an amazing blessing, and one we are so thankful for even now!
- God met every financial need we had. Since we started deputation, we’ve gotten completely out of debt, and are now saving extra funds for our outfit and passage to fix our house at Missionary Acres. When we had car maintenance to do to keep the van running well, God provided. If we had to pay for an unexpected night somewhere because Owen was having seizures and it wasn’t safe to travel, God provided. We have never been hungry or worried about where our next meal would come from during this process. God provided above and beyond, and we’re so thankful.
- We’ve had safe travels. Since we started deputation, we’ve driven from Washington State to Missouri several times. We’ve crossed Washington State so often the kids pretty much can tell you how to get to the Seattle area three different ways without thinking. And with all those miles behind us, and some yet to go, God has provided traveling mercies. We’ve had some close calls. And those are what always end up in our prayer journal – the snowy pass when roads were slick and we almost crashed. Or when traffic near Portland picked up and a car behind us almost hit us, but swerved into the ditch instead. So many examples of how God kept us safe.
And there are many others of course. God has provided for us for this entire process. And we can’t wait to see how He provides in the future. It’s exciting to watch impossible tasks get taken care of by God!
9. Be Flexible
Deputation doesn’t always go as planned, so it helps to not be too stuck in your ways. Expect the unexpected – be flexible and willing to change things up, even at the last moment.
Be willing to serve the dear folks in the churches you are in. Help how you can, and be available to share your ministry and preach if the pastor lets you. You might need to teach a Sunday School class, share your testimony, or join in on an activity day.
You will be stretched during deputation. You’ll get pushed outside of your comfort zone (a lot actually). And you will learn more abundantly how to lean on Christ alone. You can’t do it by yourself. But with God, you can.
Missionary Deputation: God Provides
This journey you are embarking on is impossible without God. As you embark on deputation and begin contacting churches and setting up meetings remember that God called you into missions. And if God orders something, He always pays for it, in His timing.