What would we do without our support teams?! Most of us can’t even imagine trying to go at missions work alone. (And if you have done it, you know you never want to do it again!)
If you’re about to go on the field, building a strong support team of senders is one of the most critical things you will do. But even if you’re already on the field with a team, there are things you can do to make your team even that much stronger. We need strong teams to hold us up!
Ready for three key ways to build or strengthen your support team?
They come out of this premise: YOU are the manager of your support team.
Have you ever thought about it that way? Well, it’s true! You lead your team, whether you feel like a natural-born leader or not. Someone might be able to help you in this role, but no one can fully fill the unique shoes you wear as the missionary on the field.
So, the question comes, what kind of manager will you be? What does a great “missionary manager” look like?
1. Great managers show interest and care.
We’ve all had great managers and terrible ones, so think back to those experiences. What made the great ones great? One thing they likely did well was care about you! They asked about your family, your concerns, your wins, and your needs.
Missionaries, there is something some of us do that’s not great. We don’t ask questions.
We blaze ahead, sharing our stories of the field, feeling like if we just tell the best version of the stories or share the right statistics, we’ll win them over. We’ve got to pause and ask questions and care about their lives too.
(Now I know many of us have had the literal opposite experience where people ask zero questions of us and our support-raising trips end up being us listening in countless counseling sessions. So if that’s you, I see you, friend.)
But whether we are visiting supporters in person or communicating with them digitally, let’s remember to see them as people and friends. People give and pray and care out of relationship. If all your interactions with your support team are just transactional or via your newsletter, they will lose interest.
2. Great managers help their people find their strengths and utilize them.
A strength your support team members all have is that they give financially. That’s a given and should be celebrated.
But have you ever thought that they might be able to––and want to!––do more?
If we can move beyond seeing our supporters as more than check writers (or giving-button-clickers), we might discover that they have talents they would love to use to make a difference. Heck, we might well find we have a treasure trove of skills among our supporters! Can we give them the opportunity to use those God-given talents to impact those we serve and help us be more effective?
What if you created job-like roles for people on your team? Jobs where they could take something off your plate you’re terrible at that they would flourish at and finding meaning in.
Need some ideas? Let’s say you’re terrible at social media. You take the worst photos ever and you can never think of what to say. You can handle some replies and comments, but don’t make you post, please!
Wanna bet there is a person on your team who loves posting? (There’s always somebody.) What if you asked them to be your social media coordinator? Find someone who is trustworthy (who you don’t mind sharing some account info with) and who knows your heart (so when they post they sound like you), and commit to sending them a photo or two a week with a text or voice message describing it.
What if even coordinating is your truest nightmare of all and the idea of planning furloughs or fundraising trips keeps you up at night? Look for a person who would be willing to coordinate your visits with churches, where you will be staying, finding a car to drive, etc.
Does that monthly newsletter make you break out in sweat and hives? Find a person who rocks Mailchimp like a boss. Commit to a once-a-month meeting with the person where you share highlights and photos, and watch them come alive with purpose (and your hot flashes and itchy skin disappear).
Let’s tap into the expertise of our team members to lighten our load and maximize our impact. By recognizing and utilizing these diverse talents within our support network, we not only benefit from their skills but also create a more engaged and committed team that is excited that they are making a difference in more ways than just financial.
3, Great managers bring people together.
Effective managers don’t manage only individuals. They manage a team of people. Sure, they manage on a one-to-one basis sometimes, but the great ones create a feeling of team––a feeling of, we’re all in this together! (Cue High School Musical.)
How can we give our support team members the opportunity to get to know each other (f they want to)? We can do this through virtual meetings, face-to-face gatherings, or even just a good old WhatsApp chat. The more connected we are, the more we’ll feel like a tight-knit community.
During our trips to the States, we host in-person dinners for those who live close by where we cook killer food, share stories, and listen to theirs. One team member told me those dinners are one of the highlights of their year. Others look forward to seeing people they’ve met in the group who they only get to see in person at these events. They have become reunions of people bonded over a shared purpose.
When our team members get to know each other, it fosters a sense of togetherness and shared passion and purpose. When we build a supportive community, we both enhance our team’s morale and also inspire them to actively contribute to our mission. So the financial benefits are there as well!
Building and nurturing effective support teams for missionaries might sound like a daunting task, but it’s an investment that pays off in so many ways. As missionaries––and team managers–– we have a unique opportunity to spread our faith and enrich the lives of our supporters. By showing our team members real care, giving them meaningful roles, and connecting them not just with us but with each other, we can make the most significant impact and create lasting connections with our supporters. Let’s build winning teams!
For more ideas on this topic of team-building, check out a recent episode of the Modern Day Missionaries podcast with financial coaches Anita Bosworth and Allie Black.