SUPPORTING MISSIONARIES AS THEY PREPARE:
Local pastors play an essential role in the preparation of missionaries. Their support and encouragement can prove invaluable for those feeling the call of God to missions as they face a myriad of issues in the process of confirming their calling, seeking necessary training, and making the transition to overseas mission work. Pastors are encouraged to take an active role in this critical period of a missionary's life or provide a leader or elder in the church who can do so.
A lower level of pre-field screening and preparation has been found to have a direct correlation with higher preventable attrition in the research project of the World Evangelical Fellowship Missions Commission, Reducing Missionary Attrition Project (ReMAP). (For more information on the project and its results, see Too Valuable to Lose: Exploring the Causes and Cures of Missionary Attrition, edited by William D. Taylor.) Due to the tremendous human and financial loss that preventable attrition causes, pastors are encouraged to work diligently with prospective missionary candidates to assess their readiness for service, address weaknesses before they leave for the field, and assist them in finding adequate training for the ministry that they feel God is calling them to. Shepherd's Staff Mission Facilitators have an excellent blog post about the need for proper missionary training.
Member Caravan has an excellent book, Helping Missionaries Grow, available online here. The first section of File 3 on their website gives valuable insight into the process of candidate selection, stressing the importance of confirming the individual's call to missions, assessing their ability to execute the resposibilities of the role to which they feel called, and providing them with guidance and accountablity as they go through necessary preparations.
Sending pastors should be aware of the various missionary training programs available today in order to point possible candidates in the right direction as they prepare for the mission field. Many of these programs are listed on the Missions Training Programs page of this website, under the Missions Preparation tab of the For Missionaries section. Pastors can also assist candidates in finding appropriate books to assist in their preparations here.
BUILDING A SUPPORT TEAM:
Building a strong support team is an absolutely essential step in missions preparation. Serving as Senders by Neal Pirolo provides an excellent overview of the support team that needs to be developed by missionaries before they leave. Pirolo provides a model of support team that includes not only financial and prayer support, but moral support, logistics support, communication support, and re-entry support. Further book suggestions on raising support and building a support team can be found here.
Finally, missionaries with children must consider the education of their children before they leave for the field. The Exploring Options page of this website provides links to organizations that give advice about the educational options available to missionaries serving overseas. Of particular note is the Professional Association of Cross-Cultural Consultants in Education which offers an online course to assist families in exploring their options and developing an education plan for their family. More information on their course can be found here.