Deciding what missions organizations to serve in can be an overwhelming experience. I remember all the options I looked into and pursued before coming to the missions school I am currently enrolled in. There were so many options and I didn’t know where to begin, but here I am now on the other side of it with a lot of research under my belt. So that is why I have written this post, to make it much easier and stress-free for you!
What is missionary volunteer work? Missionary volunteer work is not confined to any specific area of work or expertise, it is rather any avenue by which a Christian is enabled to share the Gospel in a cross-cultural context. There is a vast array of ways for Christians to volunteer in missions work and examples of this range from medical aid and teaching English to working with orphans, painting buildings and digging wells. The options are endless.
Before we get into the types of volunteer work and opportunities, I want to break down what a missionary is so that those who are exploring missions, can break off any misinformed presuppositions that many, including myself, have held or still hold.
Definition and Purpose of a Missionary
A little while back I was having a conversation with my unbelieving friend about Christianity and ministry, and I listened as she expressed her apprehension about getting involved because she felt that stepping into a ministry role would equal giving up her desire to do nursing and/or business and other various passions in her heart. She believed that Christianity, missions, and ministry, equaled the forsaking of all things that burned in her heart.
I share this because I believe many have this same belief.
While mission work requires self-denial, I don’t believe that it means we are called to lay aside gifts and talents that God has given us, instead, those gifts and talents are given to us to be used for the glory of His name.
This means that in missions work, we are not confined to the traditional image of orphans and digging wells. While this is most definitely a necessary and Biblical method of missions work, there are many other needs that must be met alongside this one. It’s important to understand this because many Christians turn away from the idea of ministry/missions because they believe the things they deeply desire to do will not be found overseas.
But it is quite the contrary.
The purpose and definition of a missionary is to share the Gospel message of Christ with the lost and unreached people of the world, if we are doing good things but not impacting them with the word of God and offering the salvation that comes through Christ, then our work is pointless. This is central to the Christian and the missionary’s life and opens up a world of possibility.
Different Types of Missionary Volunteer Work
So now that we know there are endless ways to serve in the mission to spread the Gospel globally, let’s look at just a few of the ways to volunteer in missions.
One of my good friends who is a Physicians Assistant has a huge heart for missions work and went on a 10-day medical mission trip to Africa. The experience was life-changing as she was able to share the Gospel and touch lives through medical care.
Medical missions focus on specific areas depending on the trip that you choose and partner with. Generally, the emphasis lies in providing health education to communities that are limited in their access to information, providing relief and filling the needs of communities that are unable to easily access medical aid or supplies.
Other areas of focus gravitate towards partnering with local hospitals that are in need of help, supplies, and training. Medical missions are generally geared toward nursing/medical students and medical professionals, while some offer trips for pre-med students who are interested in pursuing a career in medicine.
Evangelism missions trips are completely focused on getting the word out in bold ways. When I was 21 I went to Ireland as my first mission trip and the focus was evangelism. I played worship music on my guitar and sang in the streets as my team members prayed and preached the Gospel to passersby, we went to local elementary schools and shared the Gospel through skits, preached in the church, etc.
It was a stretching experience, and I learned a lot. This sort of mission trip cannot be done the same way in every country however, since some countries have outlawed proselytizing, and still others are hostile to Christians and the Gospel message.
Another avenue to pursue in missions is found in labor and building. Many youth mission trips are centered on labor work such as painting, building, digging trenches and/or wells, farming, and more.
Not long ago my church put together a mission trip and asked that people who have contracting/building skills join so that they could go and build the new school that some missionaries had received the funds to build.
There are different areas of focus depending on the need that the mission trip is going to meet, so if this something you would like to get involved in, there are many different routes that will fit the area you are skilled in and able to offer help in.
Teaching English as Missions
TESOL, which stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, is a mission focus that can lead to both short term and long term missions work. Many missions organizations do not require a certificate in this field, but people who are interested in teaching English overseas will benefit greatly from receiving extra training in this area, and many programs offer on and off the field training.
Different Ways to Get Started
The above are just four ways to get involved in missions work and give us a brief framework of some of the options and interworkings volunteer work overseas. And this now leads us to the next step… how to get involved and volunteer in missions?
Volunteering Through Your Local Church
The local church is more often than not the place where the desire to “go,” is ignited in our hearts. It can start with joining a Summer mission trip when you’re still a teen in youth group or as an adult, either way, the local church is a powerful tool in teaching believers the importance and power of missions.
With this, the local church is an incredible way to get volunteer in missions, as the Bible shows us that they are the ones who send, support, and raise up other missionaries. Start with your church to find out how they are involved and can assist in sending you to the nations.
Volunteering Through Sending Agencies
Next up is sending agencies. These organizations are formed for the sole purpose of sending and supporting missionaries both long-term and short-term.
Sending agencies have all the connections; if your church is unable to send you, getting connected with an agency can fling wide the door to hundreds of opportunities. Most sending agencies have dozens of locations and areas of focus to choose from with many different duration options so that everyone has a chance to partner in God’s mission.
Volunteering Through Discipleship Programs
The next and final way to get connected that I will list here is the discipleship program route. Before the Lord led me to Bethany Global University, to learn about and train to be a missionary, I considered and looked into pursuing multiple volunteer opportunities through places like YWAM, World Race, and Iris Global.
What’s really cool about going through one of these programs is that you are working with a close team of people for an allotted amount of time, ranging from 2 months to a year, where you are being discipled and getting training WHILE doing missions work. The testimonies and friendships that come out of these programs are beautiful and inspiring. And they provide training that lasts throughout your life.
Organizations to Get Involved In
So now that we know the sky is the limit in missions and have laid the groundwork for it, I have put together a list of missionary organizations for you, so that it’s easy to jump right into serving.
The following organizations have been listed in alphabetical order, and are included on this list because they all have a rich history in impacting the world for Jesus, while also providing huge variety to those who seek out mission volunteer work. If you’re worried that your schedule is too tight, or that there isn’t an organization to accommodate an obscure skillset or avenue you feel called to in missions, don’t worry, these organizations offer options that accommodate everyone.
Adventures in Missions
Adventure in Missions was established in 1989 and has taken over 115,000 people in the mission field over the course of the last 30 years. The goal of Adventures in Missions is solely focused on discipleship and sending people into the world to accomplish the Great Commission.
At Adventures in Missions, we exist to mobilize a generation of radical Christ followers, discipling and training them to establish the Kingdom of God. We use the vehicle of short-term missions and other discipleship programs to accomplish this.– Adventures in Missions
Seth Barns, founder and president of Adventures in Missions, created a model of sending that both equips those who are sent and provides dozens of options that enable all people to go. And in 2005 he founded World Race, an 11-month program that takes participants on a mission trip through 11 countries.
Adventures in Missions partners with established missionaries all over the globe and those who go help in various ways––teaching, providing disaster relief, construction, etc. whatever the need is of the location that you choose.
Bethany Global University
While Bethany is a university, I have listed it here because it is very unique in its function. If you’re interested in training and discipleship before heading out, at Bethany is the best place to start.
Students spend their first 2 years on campus learning Bible and Theology while training to be a missionary. At the beginning of Junior year, those who are pursuing a bachelor’s degree move overseas for 16 months to one of the 9 sites established across the globe. By the end of it, you will have earned a degree while also volunteering and working in the mission field.
Our unconventional approach to missionary training has worked effectively for over 60 years. Content in a classroom is important, but good content alone does not prepare effective missionaries. The top three characteristics that set effective missionaries apart from the rest of the pack are vibrant spirituality, they make disciples, and possess intercultural social skills.– Bethany Global University
If you are interested in something more to the point, BGU offers two other programs, the Associate’s program, and the Lead Venture program. I will cover Lead Venture in its own section.
The associate’s program is a two-year program and follows the same curriculum as the bachelor’s up until the final semester when students who are enrolled head to Honduras for 8 weeks. This is helpful for those who do not want to spend 16 months in a foreign country but also want the appropriate training and preparation.
All around, Bethany is the best organization I have found for missions work, and for a more in-depth look at their program, check out their website.
Frontiers was founded by Greg Livingstone in 1980, when the missions organization he was working for at that time, could no longer take in or send more missionaries. So the Lord led him to start another that would eventually grow into a massive sending and training agency, with workers in over 30 countries across 6 continents.
Frontiers is working to fulfill the Great Commission among Muslim people groups that don’t know the saving message of Jesus Christ. Our global priorities focus on the regions with the largest concentrations of unengaged Muslim people groups. To this end, we work to recruit, train, and send church planting teams to live in the Muslim world.– Frontiers
Frontiers’ heart is to reach the unreached, namely, Muslims. As part of their mission, they believe training is a key element, therefore they have many training seminars that those seeking to be sent by them can join before going. Livingstone’s sending organization offers short term, mid-term, and long-term opportunities, and focus on reaching Middle Eastern people groups.
Iris Global was started in 1980 by Heidi and Rolland Baker; this missions organization began in Mozambique Africa and over the course of 40 years has spread into 69 locations and 37 countries across the globe.
Most of Iris Global’s ministry takes place among the underserved, the destitute, the lost, the broken, and the forgotten. We are driven to see every man, woman, and child know the love the Father and by providing re- sources to feast on the very Word of God in their own language, we see extraordinary growth in their faith.– Iris Global
Just before coming to BGU, I was about to head to Europe to do a training school through Iris and this ministry is near to my heart, as some of my close friends have volunteered through them and come back with beautiful testimonies of the work that is being done through their ministry.
Iris brings the Gospel message through many avenues, such as medical aid, education, disaster relief, and more. They offer discipleship training, internships, and full-time employment. Whatever you choose, you will be enabled to transform lives and experience your own personal transformation.
Personally, I love this program. I think it is an incredible opportunity to learn, grow, and gain practical skills WHILE earning a whole year’s worth of college credits that go towards a bachelor’s degree.
Like college, yet unlike college. Through Bethany Global University’s LEAD Venture program you can earn a year’s worth of college credit while you discover your calling, make an impact around the world, and learn about God (and His Word).– Lead Venture
Lead Venture is a two semester gap year program that provides students with training during the first semester, both in the classroom and in the workplace. Then at the start of the second semester, students get to go overseas to South America and partner with established missionaries for 4 months.
During their time on campus, students will work on campus, as part of Bethany Global University’s work college requirements. This is dual purpose as it teaches life skills that can be put on a resume as well as pays the full cost of tuition to attend the program. Students just have to pay room and board.
I recommend this program to everyone who is looking for that next step but doesn’t know what to do yet, or is interested in missions but is not sure if a long term trip is the right choice yet. This program gets you acquainted with missions and helps to lead you to the next phase of life.
Mission Aviation Fellowship
MAF came to my school about a year ago to share with students their heart for the unreached and their mission to reach them. Their missions is to reach people groups who are in the hardest to reach places on earth and to provide them with education, technology, medical care, and more.
You’ll find MAF in the hardest-to-reach locations, where people live isolated from the rest of the world, cut off from the most basic necessities. Our highly trained pilots maneuver Cessna and KODIAK aircraft through rugged terrain. And while passengers might hold their breath, MAF pilots skillfully land at short, unimproved airstrips on the sides of mountains, in jungle clearings, or on tropical rivers—to bring medicine and doctors, disaster relief, education, evangelists, Bible translators, food supplies, agriculture and clean water projects, and more. Why do we do it? Because we’re passionate about sharing Christ’s love beyond where the road ends.– Missionary Aviation Fellowship
There are multiple ways to get involved with this ministry either by volunteering locally in the states or going overseas, they offer training in technological areas, as well as education and pastoral.
If you are interested in becoming a pilot and partnering with MAF, Prairie Bible College is partnered with them in their 2-year accredited aviation program.
OMF International focuses on ministering to the people of East Asia, and offer a wide range of opportunities to get involved in, from medical volunteering, Bible translation, children’s ministry, and much much more.
We serve the church and seek to bring the gospel to all the peoples of East Asia. Our work is as diverse as the places and people we work in and amongst. From church planting to missional business, student work to medical practice, we aim to present the gospel, in a culturally relevant way, through word and deed.– OMF International
OMF is a fantastic organization and works in over 27 countries across the world. This missionary organization was started by Hudson Taylor in 1865 under the name China Inland Mission, now OMF International. Their heart is for the lost people of Asia who are utterly lost in atheism and other various religions dominating their side of the world.
Operation Mobilization is another sending organization that focuses on sending missionaries to the unreached people groups of the world. Their hearts are geared towards rethinking the way missions have been done for the last several decades.
Western missions has traditionally focused on one method: believers leaving their jobs, going abroad to work in ministry and relying on those back home for financial support. Where this approach once saw millions come to know Jesus, it can no longer keep pace with the rapidly changing global landscape and the growing population of unreached people.– Operation Mobilization
They do missions through three primary ways: Marketplace Workers, National Workers, and Cross-Cultural Workers. OM seeks to train and send missionaries that are already locals in the community, to send workers who will take their marketplace work overseas and engage the unreached culture, and also send international workers (short-term and long-term) to spread the Gospel in traditional and non-traditional ways.
Samaritan’s Purse is a well-known organization that began with Bob Pierce in 1970. While Pierce was overseas lecturing at various universities in China, he witnessed love of God through women who were selflessly living amongst and caring for lepers. This broke his heart and reshaped into a vision that led to the forming of Samaritan’s Purse.
The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) gives a clear picture of God’s desire for us to help those in desperate need wherever we find them. After describing how the Samaritan rescued a hurting man whom others had passed by, Jesus told His hearers, “Go and do likewise.” For over 40 years, Samaritan’s Purse has done our utmost to follow Christ’s command by going to the aid of the world’s poor, sick, and suffering. We are an effective means of reaching hurting people in countries around the world with food, medicine, and other assistance in the Name of Jesus Christ. This, in turn, earns us a hearing for the Gospel, the Good News of eternal life through Jesus Christ.– Samaritan’s Purse
Today, Bob Pierce’s successor, Samaritan Purse’s current CEO is Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s oldest son.
Samaritan’s Purse has many avenues to volunteer, whether in local, stateside volunteer relief work or overseas relief work, teaching, medical aide, and more. They also offer internship opportunities in North Carolina, or overseas.
Samaritan’s Purse is a wonderful organization with a rich history and well-known leadership, and I highly recommend getting involved.
Youth With a Mission
YWAM is a bit different than the other organizations that have been listed here as they focus on the discipleship aspect almost more than any of them.
YWAM began in 1960, with hearts set on involving Christians of all ages, from 9-90, to carry out the Great Commission. They seek to train and make disciples who are equipped to take the Gospel to the darkest places on earth.
The Discipleship Training School (YWAM DTS) seeks to bring you into a more intimate relationship with God. It also gives you an opportunity to discover your passions and your part in God’s purposes for the world. It is for those who long to follow Jesus in new ways with a different perspective.– Youth With a Mission
A DTS is the main focus of YWAM and it stands for Discipleship Training School. YWAM has over two-hundred sites all over the world and each site offers basic Bible understanding as well as areas of focus like worship leading, specific locations, and more. YWAM is very unique and presents an array of opportunities that come from doing a single DTS, for instance, you can do a DTS locally or overseas and apply those credits to some universities to earn a bachelor’s degree.
YWAM is an incredible, ever-growing ministry that changes lives and nations. I have known so many people who have done a DTS locally and overseas, and their experiences changed their lives.