Investing in Yourself Through Ongoing Learning: A Missionary’s Path to Growth

Oct 31, 2023

Investing in ourselves. That’s a concept that wasn’t talked about much in the earlier days of missions. We now know that a healthy missionary (spirit, soul, and body) is able to stay longer and serve better. But even in those earlier days, many missionary heroes recognized the importance of growing and learning spiritually. Now we get to add to that growth our souls and bodies. To thrive as missionaries and be able to give our best to those we serve, ongoing learning becomes an essential part of what we are called to do.

In a recent Modern Day Missionaries podcast interview with Mark and Julie Morgenstern, founders of Grow2Serve and former missionaries, they share how ongoing learning can make a huge difference in our ability to serve well and be well on the mission field.

Pre-Field Training vs. Learning as We Go

Many of us remember those days of pre-field training (for those of us who had it). We crammed our heads with all sorts of knowledge, thinking we were well-prepared for whatever lay ahead. But once we hit the field, it sometimes felt like all that valuable information slipped through our fingers. Ever been there? We pause and scratch our heads, “Did they even talk about this in training?” But pre-field training is just the beginning of our learning journey.

As time goes on and culture shock sets in, we realize there’s so much more we need to know. That’s where ongoing learning comes into play. It’s like the secret sauce that helps us adapt and thrive in the real world.

Just in Case Learning vs. Just in Time Learning

Learning isn’t a one-time deal; it’s woven into the fabric of who we are as believers. Think about it like marriage. Before tying the knot, we devour books and attend seminars to build a strong foundation. But imagine if we stopped seeking new wisdom after the honeymoon phase. In fact, the learning makes even that much more sense once we’re living out the reality of marriage! 

It’s the same for missionaries. Before we set out, we read books or get training or take language classes, and we imagine what will be like when we are actually there. And then, suddenly, we’re there! Every story and example in those missions books now jump off the page when we read them, because they have become our reality.

Mark & Julie gave us the concept of “just in case” learning versus “just in time” learning. Before we leave for the field, some of us overload with info––because we might need it someday! But realistically, we can’t remember everything without real-life context. “Just in time” learning is where it’s at. When we face actual challenges, we’re motivated to learn and apply what we need right then and there.

Where to Begin

How do we know where to start when it comes to ongoing learning? Here are a few great collections of missions resources to get you started.

  • Modern Day Missions Weekly Newsletter This email comes out Monday mornings and is chock full of great resources curated just for missionaries, as well as the link to our most recent podcast episode.
  • This was created by Grow2Serve and is like a one-stop shop for missionary learning. Here you’ll find blogs, videos, courses, and book reviews from various sources all in one place for your convenience.
  • Global Trellis This website has monthly workshops, quarterly challenges, weekly articles, and a large library of workshops, books, and other resources just for missionaries.
  • Here you’ll find an extensive collection of resources and links to resources on just about any topic you can think of in missions.
  • The Missions Experience This list of missions books and links to organizations serving missionaries is excellent! 

ALSO, don’t forget to check with your own organization! They might have hidden gems in their resource library. Additionally, having a mentor or coach to guide you toward specific learning resources can be a game-changer.

See Learning as Part of Your Work, Not an Extra

We get it – being a missionary means juggling a million things at once. But once we realize that power of learning, we can begin to treat it as an essential part of our work, rather than an extra task. Two big things to remember: prayer and learning are not distractions; they’re foundational to our ministry.

Prayer has a powerful impact on our work, and learning enriches our capacity to make a difference. So, let’s carve out time for both, and remember, we’re not cheating our work by doing this; we’re actually enhancing it.

Embracing Curiosity and Humility 

Being curious and willing to admit we don’t have all the answers are must-haves for missionaries. Curiosity fuels our desire to understand the people we serve and to deepen our relationship with God. Plus, embracing our ignorance keeps us humble, which is vital for our calling. 

Keep in mind that learning isn’t one-size-fits-all. Some of us thrive on deep conversations, while others enjoy browsing the internet with purpose. The key is to be open to many different ways of learning.

Turning Learning into Action 

Learning isn’t just about gathering knowledge; it’s about making real change. Whether we’re watching a podcast, reading a book, or having a conversation, let’s ask ourselves, “What can we do differently because of this?” Share what you’ve learned with others, tweak your schedule, or start conversations to put your newfound knowledge into action. 

In a nutshell, let’s not see ongoing learning as an extra burden, but rather a crucial and empowering part of our mission. Let’s embrace curiosity, stay humble, and be open to various learning experiences. Our journey is one of continuous growth and change, not just for ourselves but for the communities we serve. Together, let’s embark on this exciting journey of purposeful, ongoing learning!

If you’d like to watch the full interview with Mark and Julie Morgenstern, you can find it here:


Resource Articles