From my interactions with college students, I think Katie is fairly typical; passionate about advancing the Gospel, but uncertain how to get started. Watch her interview and then I'll share some thoughts on this stage in the deputation process.
Deputation is much more than fund raising. It is the process of churches evaluating ones ministry, and sending that person out on the church's behalf to do the work of the ministry in a different part of the world. The primary role of sending and therefore accountability falls on the missionary's home church, but the other supporting churches to a lesser degree send and hold accountable as well. This is the stage for Katie's pastor to get involved. I believe pastors should be seeking people in their congregation to train for ministry (2 Tim 2:2). The fact that Katie is studying Missions at a Bible College should be a pretty good clue that she is interested in ministry. In some cases though, people fall through the cracks. In these instances the aspiring missionary should be proactive about reaching out to their pastor to make it known that they want to trained and discipled by the church.
In the interview Katie mentioned several big unknowns. What field will she go to? What agency will she join? How will she go about deputation? These are all questions that her pastor should be able to help her with or point her in the right direction. There's nothing wrong with the fact that Katie doesn't know the answers to these questions yet. I didn't know the answers to these questions when I was a senior in college. Unfortunately what happens far too often is that people at Katie's stage of life never figure out the answers to these questions, and thus never make it into ministry. Both pastors and aspiring missionaries should seek each other out and intentionally develop that relationship. Missions professors and missions agencies can play advisory or facilitating roles in these early stages, but the most important connection for aspiring missionaries is to their home church.
The first step in deputation is setting a direction.
Therefore, the first step in deputation is setting a direction. This should be done prayerfully and in consultation with godly counsel. Here is a list of what this stage could look like:
1. Formalize the relationship with your home church. This will look different in every church. They may label you an apprentice, intern, or missionary appointee. It doesn't matter what you're called, the important thing is that an understanding exists between you and the church that you are pursuing cross-cultural ministry under the church's authority, and that the church will assist, support, and guide you in that process.
2. Choose a mission field. Some people have had a burden for a particular mission field since childhood. Others though have a general passion for missions or maybe a passion for a particular kind of mission (such as Muslim people groups), but not a particular country in mind. The first person must be careful not to assume that just because they have been interested in a country for a long time that God wants them to be a missionary in that country. He very well may, but the aspiring missionary should prayerfully confirm that and make sure it is God's leading and not simply their own desires. In God's graciousness the two are often the same. The person in the second scenario should not be concerned that they have not known what country they would go to since they were 8 years old. God loves a willing servant. This person should pray through the needs they are aware of see if a burden develops for a particular field. If not, they may want to consider reversing steps 2 and 3. By choosing a missions agency first, they can make themselves available to the needs of the agency.
3. Choose a missions agency. Along with your home church, your missions agency will be your support team on the field. They make your life simpler in many practical ways, and give leadership and guidance to your ministry. It is important that you, your home church, and your missions agency are all on the same page when it comes to doctrine and philosophy of ministry. You may also want to consider an agency that has significant experience in the field you are going to or is making a concerted effort to send a team to the field you are interested in. It can also be helpful for deputation if your missions agency has a good reputation in the circle of churches you are most closely associated with. Sometimes a church is in a position where they do not need to delegate part of their sending responsibilities to an agency and are able rather to function as your sole sending entity. Even in these circumstances you should not ignore missions agencies especially if they have missionaries operating in near proximity to you.
Once you've set your direction, it's time to hit the road!
I'm excited for Katie and what the future holds for her. I think she has some natural instincts about deputation, but tune in next week to see how her ideas of what she will do on deputation compare with Luke and Anna Tanis who are currently on deputation.