A Guide For The Journey

Guide For Long-Term Missionaries

Our step-by-step process for equipping you & helping you get to your mission field.

STEP 1: EXPLORE YOUR CALL

UNDERSTAND MISSIONS

Missions is the risky, rewarding work of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to every people group where it has not yet been heard. It is also the establishing of viable churches in every place to carry on that same work of reaching, teaching, and sending.

Unlike most people in the West who have a Christian friend or neighbor who can share the gospel with them, more than 6,500 people groups throughout the world have little-to-no access to the gospel. That totals about 3 billion people who are searching for hope, but have never heard about Jesus and the salvation he offers.

Are you being called to tell them?

“…go and make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 20:19

Recommended Reading

  • Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper
  • Radical by David Platt
  • Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur
  • Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen

SEEK GODLY COUNSEL

“In an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14b)

We believe making decisions in isolation isn’t healthy. God’s mission is too big to be accomplished alone. We encourage you to seek spiritual counsel from trusted advisors like your spouse, family, mentors, and friends — and most importantly, your pastor. ABWE doesn’t replace the church’s job as a sender. God has ordained the local church as the selecting, training, and sending outpost for his mission. Instead, we aim to function as your church’s sending arm. We will work hand-in-hand with your church to advise you and get you to the mission field where God has called you.

Here are some steps to start the conversation with your pastor and spiritual leader(s):

  1. Share the burdens, circumstances, and insights God has given you recently.
  2. Ask them to join you in prayer for your next steps.
  3. Invite their honest feedback on what they have observed in your life and faith.
  4. Find out if your church has a process for selecting/sending missionaries or if it has a particular agency it prefers.
  5. Request to meet more than once as your journey develops.
  6. Seek and schedule opportunities to share your heart with your church’s staff, elders, or missions committee.

CONNECT WITH YOUR CHURCH AND DO MISSIONS NOW

No one becomes a missionary on the flight to the mission field, and being an engaged and active member of your church is an important part of training for missions. Missions is not only sharing the gospel — it is also exporting the church itself, as God’s vehicle for his mission, to where few churches exist.

Are you also sharing your faith with your friends, family, and neighbors? Have you ever reached out to people of other cultures in your community? In this diverse new world, missions opportunities are all around us — and you can start training for missions now.

Recommended Reading

  • 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
  • Gaining by Losing by J.D. Greear

PRAY TO DISCOVER WHERE GOD IS LEADING YOU

God’s call to a particular mission field can be as diverse as the people he calls to go there. For some, it comes in a moment of clarity, while for others it’s a long process of questioning, testing, and prayer. The important thing to remember is that we put ourselves in a position to listen to God. Regular prayer, Bible study, and involvement with your church are great ways to get your heart in the right position.

Also, pay attention to how God has made you. Do you have a heart for a certain country, ministry, or people group? Has your life path trended toward a particular vocation? These are frequent ways God gets our attention and leads us to his desired destination.

Even if you have no idea where God is calling you, we have decades of experience in helping candidates understand their calling. Don’t be afraid to continue your journey — step out in faith and let God lead you.

Recommended Reading

  • Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur
  • Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen

STEP 2: APPLY TO BECOME AN ABWE MISSIONARY

1. GET TO KNOW ABWE

You may have an unwaivering passion for missions, or you may just be curious. Either way, we want to walk alongside you throughout your journey. We are passionate about connecting your heart and talents with missions opportunities because we believe God can use your unique skills to share the hope of Jesus Christ with the world.

For nearly 90 years, we have been working to spark global missions movements by sharing God’s story of hope, building communities of faith, and serving the world with love. Our hope is that these global missions movements extend beyond ourselves, where local leaders are trained, mission-minded churches are planted, and believers are compelled to carry the message of Jesus to every nation — and we’d love for you to join us.

Get To Know Us Better


2. DECIDE HOW LONG YOU WANT TO SERVE

Whether you're in school, looking to explore missions, or ready to serve for the long-term, we want help you get to the mission field for any length of time.

SHORT-TERM SERVICE

We know that not everyone is able to make a long-term commitment, which is why we created our Adult Short-Term program for those who want to explore or confirm God’s call into missions.

LONG-TERM SERVICE

While making a significant impact can be slow, we have seen that those who give God their time often get the blessing of seeing the seeds they've planted bear fruit.

STUDENTS

We provide students with information, guidance, and opportunities to connect their passion and skills with missions, and we do this through meaningful internships and cross-cultural mission trips.


3. START THE ABWE APPLICATION PROCESS

First, read our doctrinal statement. If you feel your beliefs and goals align with ours, then let your pastor know you are beginning the application process with us.

If you’re confident that you want to proceed forward with ABWE, please register and complete our Preliminary Application. This application asks for your basic personal information, personal salvation testimony, citizenship status, prior ministry experience, sending church information, education, employment history, local church membership, and volunteer involvement.

ABWE Missionary Qualifications:

  • Testimony. You must have a salvation experience and reflect the essential characteristics of a Christian as found in Acts 11:24.
  • Citizenship. You must be citizens of the US or Canada.
  • Doctrine and Core Values. You must be committed to the Baptist distinctives and be in complete agreement with ABWE’s Doctrinal Statement and our Missionary Handbook and Policy Manual.
  • Church Membership. Church Membership. Your church membership is essential because ABWE’s partnership with the local church is essential to sending missionaries. We are honored to partner with churches who affirm and support our doctrine and policies.
  • Education. Educational requirements do exist but we offer in-depth trainings to help you meet these.

Once you have completed your Preliminary Application, our Mobilization team will call you with any questions and will contact your pastor. Our goal is to establish a partnership between you, your church, and ABWE.


4. COMPLETE FULL APPLICATION

If together we decide that ABWE is a good fit for you and your preliminary application has been approved, you may continue onto the Full Application, which will carry over information from your initial application and delve deeper into your experience, doctrine, family, and employment. After submitting, you will be notified by email regarding its approval status, and you may be asked for additional follow-up information regarding health, morality, personality, and more.


5. COMPLETE DOCTRINAL INTERVIEW

If together we decide that ABWE is still a good fit for you and your complete application has been approved, we ask you to do a doctrinal interview. The purpose of this interview is to ensure that you can articulate what you believe, support it with Scripture, and make sure that you are in agreement with ABWE’s doctrinal position. The interview is ideally held at your sending church with you, your pastor, church staff, elders, deacons, missions committee, and ABWE personnel.

The 1½-2 hour interview reviews the 10 major areas of systematic theology and is moderated by ABWE staff. All persons present are invited to ask questions and applicants may use their Bibles. Married couples are viewed as a team and can work together throughout the interview.


6. ATTEND NEW MISSIONARY ORIENTATION

All approved applicants attend our week-long New Missionary Orientation at the ABWE International Training Center in Harrisburg, Pa., offered each March and July. Those who choose to attend the March orientation will be required to come back in July for the Recognition Service, Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship training, and the Missionary Enrichment Conference — all of which are held immediately following the July orientation.

The purpose of New Missionary Orientation is to instill into our approved applicants a growing understanding of ABWE and our ministry philosophy, to complete the screening of potential missionaries, to discover/confirm God’s direction concerning choice of field, and to equip you for the next step of your journey to the mission field.


7. GET APPOINTED AND BEGIN PREFIELD PREPARATION

At the end of the July New Missionary Orientation, we hold a Recognition Service to formally welcome new appointees into the ABWE family. Your relatives, friends, and pastors are invited to attend this meaningful service as you officially begin your missionary career!

STEP 3: PREFIELD MINISTRY

WHAT IS PREFIELD?

On average, new missionaries spend 12-24 months on prefield as they raise the prayer and financial support necessary to go to the mission field and complete crucial ministry training and education. This is an important time of personal preparation and investment in those who are sending you. It is a time to learn to trust God to meet your spiritual, emotional, and material needs as you develop your support base and prepare to relocate.

At ABWE, we use the term “prefield ministry” to refer to this time between missionary appointment and leaving for the field because we truly believe that it is just that — a ministry. Prefield work provides amazing and unique opportunities for missionaries to minister to hundreds of churches and individuals. It is also an opportunity for you to challenge churches with the burden God has given you to reach the nations.

As you share your heart for spreading the gospel, you are able to evangelize, inspire, and challenge people to partner with you in God’s Great Commission — whether that is through financial support, prayer support, or joining you on the mission field.

OUR PREFIELD PROCESS

1. READING

Once you’ve become an ABWE missionary, you will begin a dual track of meeting both the fundraising and educational goals that are required to get to the field. All ABWE missionaries are required to complete at least five reading assignments in addition to required continuing education courses and training. View all pre-field reading assignments.


2. EDUCATION

To provide you with a solid foundation for missionary service, ABWE requires that all of our missionaries have taken college or graduate level courses. Most missionary candidates who come to ABWE have already completed some or all of these required courses, but for those candidates who have not taken these courses, we offer the following graduate-level courses onsite at ABWE's Home Office in Harrisburg, PA and through distance learning, and they can all be taken for graduate academic credit:

Methods of Bible Study

This eight-day course is designed to give you the confidence and skills you need to understand and apply any genre of Scripture.

Old Testament Story or The Roots of Faith — Old Testament

These courses take you through the Old Testament in a chronological narrative-focused style and provide a solid Biblical foundation for chronological Bible teaching as part of evangelism and discipleship.

New Testament Story or The Roots of Faith — New Testament

These courses take you through the major redemptive events that occurred throughout New Testament period and provide the Biblical foundation you will need to chronologically share this part of the redemptive story.

Basic Missional Theology

This is a two-part Bible course designed to provide you with an understanding of the doctrinal truths of the Word of God. Drawing on examples from a variety of cultures, the course illustrates the ways worldview, culture, and human problems influence the development of theology around the world.


3. MINISTRY EXPERIENCE

ABWE requires missionaries to have some appropriate type of supervised ministry experience.

If you don’t have the ministry experience necessary for field ministry, we’ll work with you to develop customized prefield ministry internships and mentoring opportunities to get the experience you need. Wherever possible, we try to include your sending church in helping to establish and oversee these supervised ministry experiences.


4. MISSIONS TRAINING

Because we want to help you succeed, we require certain trainings to help prepare you for ministry. This includes a five-day course called Essential Mission Components, which focuses on ABWE’s core ministries of cross-cultural evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. It also includes Field Preparation Seminar, which will equip you to transition to the mission field, adjust to living in another culture, and come alongside the existing ABWE field team.

Essential Missions Components (50% Support Raised)

This training is a highly interactive, week-long course held at the ABWE Home Office. Taught by a team of experienced ABWE missionaries who represent all major areas of the ABWE world, most of the training is done in small group, simulation-based settings designed to equip you for cross-cultural church planting that leads to national, regional, or even international church-planting and missions movements.

Field Preparation Seminar (85% Support Raised)

Long-Term Field Preparation Seminars (FPS) is held twice a year at the ABWE Home Office and focuses on equipping you to make the transition to the mission field, adjust to living in another culture, and adapting to the existing ABWE field team.


5. LINGUISTICAL PREPARATION

Because of the difficulty of learning a new language, we will evaluate your need for language preparation and will provide basic training to help you start this part of your journey to the field. If more extensive training is needed, we will recommend a language acquisition program.


6. CULTURAL PREPARATION

Previously acquired cross-cultural preparation is highly recommended for any mission field, and even required for serving on some fields. We will look at your cross-cultural experience, training, and knowledge of the culture where you intend to serve to help you prepare for ministering in your specific ministry context.

Every prefield missionary is required to conduct an online research study regarding the country where you plan to serve. Completing this “Country Specific Research and Eco-Factor Cards” assignment is a prerequisite for attending the Essential Mission Components (EMC) course.


7. FAMILY LIFE COUNSELING

Our interviews with missionary candidates often reveal a need for counseling. Whether it be in your marriage, financial concerns, or parenting struggles, our team of missionary care personnel is here to help you understand and overcome any issues that could derail your ministry and missionary life. ABWE’s Director of Prefield Ministries personally supervises the assignment and completion of these counseling assignments.


8. SURVEY TRIP

We strongly recommend that all missionary candidates take a survey trip to their intended mission field before they depart for missionary service. A survey trip gives you a special opportunity to experience the culture you’ll be serving in and get to know the team you’ll be serving alongside.

While a survey trip can happen at any point in your prefield journey, we recommend taking a survey trip early on. This will give you the ability to meet real people from your mission field, hear their needs, and share their stories with potential partners as you begin fundraising during prefield ministry.

STEP 4: DEPART TO MISSION FIELD!

You’ve finished your educational and training requirements, built a firm network of support, and now it’s time to go where God has called you.

We designed our prefield program to ensure that you are prepared and equipped to effectively reach the people of your mission field, but that’s not where we stop. Once on the field, you’ll integrate with your other ABWE teammates, and we will continue to support, aid, and guide you as you serve as a valued member of the ABWE missionary family.

Never forget that you have a mighty God, a loving church, a faithful support network, and a storied missions family who have your back. We are excited to see how God uses you to reach the nations!