As a student, I know the struggle of choosing a school. There are so many factors to consider. There are various opinions that try to lead you in a certain direction, often with good intentions. However, when it comes to your personal decision to pursue missions, you need to be self-aware. You must also have an awareness of the schools and opportunities around you.
What is a missionary training school? A missionary training school is a school that specifically trains individuals for cross-cultural mission work. They prepare students through personal spiritual development, academic study of scripture and other resources, hands-on experience, and strategic planning and training.
My purpose in this article is to help you discern how to find the right school for you. I know that choosing a school and pursuing missions is not always an easy task. I want to make this process as easy for you as possible. Therefore, I have listed and explained practical areas of consideration. In addition, I am explaining the best mission schools to attend.
Finding the Right School for You
There are a variety of factors that go into choosing the right missionary training school. You are a unique individual. You have unique experiences, circumstances, giftings, and background. All these influence your life and the life that you will live in the Kingdom of God.
It is certain that God can use anything you have gone through for His glory and for good in this world. Thankfully, there are numerous training schools that work with different needs, and that are located across the globe. You have a place in God’s mission to reach the world.
You have a purpose to fulfill, no matter where you are located. God can use you. He can use your skills, weaknesses, and fear. He can empower you to wholeness and bringing wholeness to others. If missions is one of the ways He is leading you, there are some practical areas to look to discover where you fit.
Start With Prayer
I am all for practical steps and processes. I believe that they shed light into areas that we may otherwise overlook. In addition, I believe they lead us to make wise choices and decisions. However, we should never neglect the power of God in our decision making processes.
God works supernaturally. This is evident in creation and throughout scripture. He may lead you to a certain mission field, or organization. Start your decision-making process with prayer and see where the Lord leads. As you continue this process, ask the following questions and go to prayer concerning them.
Don’t get caught up in experiences of feelings. Rather, focus on God. Proverbs 3:5-6 states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Know Your Purpose
Initially, ask yourself, “What is my purpose?” Now, this is a broad question and many of us do not know the answer to this. Honestly, only God knows what our life will and won’t be. However, you can ask yourself what your purpose is at this time. This can help you sort through the process of making decisions in the here and now.
Reflect on what you can do now to bring the Kingdom to earth. Ponder what this might look like in the future. Create a rough draft of life to keep you accountable in doing the work of God. Hold this rough draft very loosely. Allow God to change your plans and work in your heart.
How do you want to serve God? Where are you gifted? How can you use these abilities to glorify God and love others this year? As you read scripture, what stands out to you? Where do you need to act in obedience? Do you need to challenge yourself to follow what scripture clearly states as important?
After asking yourself this question, research what the purpose and goal of the mission school are. Will their vision and mission statement work with what you feel God is calling you to?
Consider the Duration
Next, consider the duration of the mission school. Some mission schools occur for weeks, months, or years. The program might be entirely located in a cross-cultural setting. Part of the program might be local and the other half may be abroad. These are important to consider in light of your past experience and what you long to pursue long term.
Pros & Cons of Short-Term Programs
The following pros and cons are typical to short-term programs. Not all short-term programs will meet these expectations. However, in general, this table represents what tend to be the benefits and issues. I have heard this feedback from various sources about YWAM, the World Race, and other gap year programs.
|You will grow closer to Christ and develop a personal discipline of scripture reading and prayer.||Time will often not allow you an in-depth study of scripture, theology, and doctrine.|
|Community is developed.||The community may last for only a season of life.|
|You learn the basics of mission work.||Your training is not extensive enough for long term work. You may have felt ill equipt for the work you undertook during the program.|
|It is an introductory approach to cross-cultural work. This is perfect for those interested in exploring the realm of missions.||It may be beneficial to attend an additional training school to gather more insight, wisdom, knowledge, and training.|
|You glean practical skills.||There aren’t as many long term opportunities or accreditation for a career.|
|The time is fruitful on various levels.||The time wasn’t as fruitful as it could have been if there were more time and preparation.|
|You could continue serving in the organization. There may be a possibility to serve as staff.||There may not be as many outside opportunities.|
|More time may be spent on the field with hands-on experience.||You may not have as much knowledge to use on the field.|
Pros & Cons of Longer-Term Programs
In the same way, there are pros and cons of long-term programs. Long-term programs are typically over a year long. They can be years in length. An example of long-term programs are those available through universities and mission agencies that provide international residences.
|Valuable tools and information will be acquired. These can be beneficial in the long term.||More time may be spent in the classroom setting.|
|Graduates will be better able to critically think and sort through issues. They will have knowledge and insight into the otherwise unknown.||The focus can become caught up in theology, knowledge, and discussion. Action may not be as prevalent during the time.|
|Individuals may become more grounded in wisdom and strategy.||The length of time may create impatience in the zealous and passionate.|
|Those who study longer tend to have more longevity in the field.||Less time may be spent on the field during the school.|
|Connections and networks are developed.||As with any ministry, the bigger it gets the more communication and relational skills are needed to keep things on the right path.|
|Long term mission work can be established through one agency or school. If not lifelong, the time spent could be years.||Leaving people and locations that have been familiar for years can be hard. Starting over in a new place after graduation is difficult for some individuals.|
|Degrees can be earned and used for a long term career. Degrees and qualifications can bring greater opportunities to work in closed countries.||Earning a degree can be expensive. Individuals will have to decide if the expense is worth it and if they will be able to pay off any loans.|
Consider the Cost
Moreover, you should consider the cost. It seems that money is always a factor, even when we don’t want it to be. The reality is that most, if not all mission schools and programs have a financial cost. This is to cover travel expenses, lodging, food, provisions, books, classes, additional resources, and the expenses of the organization.
Cost is a factor because it may determine the length of the school you can afford. Many mission schools follow a model that teaches students how to raise funds. Organizations such as YWAM and Bethany Global University prepare their students in practical ways to ask for and raise the financial support needed for their internships.
However, in universities, there are additional costs. For example, Bethany Global Universities’ program is two years in the States for training and 16 months overseas. The 16 months are funded by the student’s local church, family, friends, peers, and others through partnership development. While on campus, tuition is covered but students are required to pay for room and board.
At other universities, students are required to pay for both tuition and room and board. Some individuals will inevitably go into debt if they follow this course. While debt isn’t always bad, too much debt can be. If the debt cannot be paid off in an efficient manner, these individuals may become tied to it.
They may not be able to go on the field as a missionary until it is paid. Furthermore, ministry and mission careers do not tend to pay a consistent or abundant salary. For this reason, those who are in debt may have to work a different job to pay off their debt before they can serve in ministry full time.
Be Aware of the School’s Credibility
In addition, before choosing your school, you should be aware of the school’s credibility. Not all institutions professing Christianity are true Christian organizations. They may have begun that way but that doesn’t mean they continue to follow scripture in all areas of life.
Furthermore, you want to go somewhere that the leaders have experience. Go to a school where the professors and teachers have been missionaries. They can teach you much more than those who simply have book knowledge.
Thoroughly read the statement of faith and beliefs of the school. Consider the mission statement, vision, and history. Look for any red flags. If it is a university, you may be interested in whether or not it is accredited. Not all mission colleges are accredited and that is fine. However, for the type of work you may desire to do, an accredited degree may be necessary.
Research the Curriculum
In the same vein of thought, research the curriculum or the resources that the school uses. If you can get this information first hand from the school, it is best. Consider the curriculum at various organizations and compare that to what you need to learn and what you have already learned.
Present Skills and Qualifications
Present skills and qualifications are beneficial to missions, even if they aren’t the stereotypical ministry qualifications. Skills with business, teaching, counseling, health, organization, finances, strategy, etc. have their place on the mission field.
If you already have a degree in one of these areas, it may not be necessary for you to get another Bachelor’s degree. You may want to get a Master’s degree in intercultural ministry or missions. Or, if you already have various degrees and life experience, a short term program may be suitable enough preparation for long term missions.
Opportunities During and After
Next, consider the opportunities you will have during and after the school. You want to challenge yourself to grow. You want to use your life for all that is worth in the Kingdom of God.
Do not sell yourself or the Kingdom short by settling for less than you can give through the power of the Holy Spirit. Pursue something that is practical and beneficial in the here and now, as well as what will be impactful for the future.
The Best Missionary Training Schools
There are not many missionary specific training schools or universities. In fact, there is only one accredited university that educates its students with the sole purpose of missions. There are various means in which this is done, whether through education, business, social justice, intercultural ministry, and church planting. I will be uncovering more about this school in this section.
Moreover, there are training programs that do not provide functional degrees. They do provide useful experience, insight, and education. There are future opportunities available even without a degree. When it comes to missions, you do not need a fully accredited degree. However, the greater the education, often, it is better.
This is not to say that we aren’t consistently learning. Especially on the field, individuals are practically receiving additional education through their surroundings, experience, and personal study. They may not gain recognition of this through an institution, but they are learning and growing all the same.
Bethany Global University
Bethany Global University (BGU) is the only accredited university that focuses solely on missions. It is located in Bloomington, MN. It is true that graduates will have a reliable degree and opportunity to purpose other ministry opportunities and secular careers. However, the University exists to “take the church to where it is not, and help others do the same.” There are many things that make Bethany Global University stand out.
Even Loren Cunningham of YWAM attests that “Bethany has a rich heritage, a spiritual DNA of faith, international fruitfulness, and a great future ahead.” Many who complete a YWAM DTS come to BGU for additional training.
- Tuition costs $0 out of pocket for students. Tuition is covered through the work college model and private donors.
- Degrees are fully accredited and functional.
- The Bachelor Degree involves a 16-month overseas internship. Students gain first-hand mission experience, language study, and ministry opportunities.
- The main areas of ministry are with unreached people groups.
- There are 3 different double major options for a Bachelor’s degree.
- 4 additional minors are implemented with the Bachelor’s degree.
- There are 3 different tracks for Master’s degrees.
- Gap year programs are available and earn students 30 college credits.
- Certification courses are available.
- The Associate’s program is highly beneficial and also includes an 8-week internship.
In the blog, The Only School Focused Solely on Missions/Missionaries, BGU is explained in further and greater detail. This article thoroughly explains all the degrees and opportunities.
University of the Nations
University of the Nations is associated with YWAM. Although it is not accredited to provide typical degrees, it is extremely beneficial to those who want to pursue missions and ministry. Much of University of the Nations is first-hand experience. It is located globally, therefore, students gain almost immediate cross-cultural experience. Here are some additional details about the school.
- Students can study for a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science.
- Course fees are not covered through the organization but students are able to fundraise their support if needed.
- 160 nations and over 100 different languages are being reached.
- There are 600 different locations, expanding to all continents.
- Students work with physical relief programs, spiritual development, church planting, and various other realms of ministry.
YWAM is the shortened term to describe Youth With a Mission. There are YWAM bases throughout all contents, numerous countries, and states. The main vein of YWAM is called a DTS. This is a discipleship training school. In this school, students are discipled and taught about God, His work, and their place in it. During this school, students spend half the time in the classroom and the other half in ministry.
There are secondary schools that graduates from the program can re-enroll in. These go to deeper depths and can focus more specifically in areas of ministry. Those who graduate from YWAM may take a leadership role and start a new YWAM base.
- YWAM does have a cost. This various mostly on the location.
- Those who do YWAM typically fundraise.
- DTS programs can last anywhere from 6-9 months.
- Unreached people groups are a focus, however, the work of YWAM is not limited to unreached people groups.
- There are urban ministries, cross-cultural ministries, adventure ministries, and ministry with the most oppressed and vulnerable.
- YWAM exists to spread the gospel in all realms of life.
In my blog, “The Best Missionary Schools in the Country”, I list and explain additional colleges, universities, programs, and schools available. You may also benefit from reading the blog “Missionary Careers: Colleges, Sending Agencies, & Outlooks.”