12 Ways to Assist Returning Southern Baptist Missionaries

I seldom write a post that relates only to my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, but this one does (though believers of many denominations could help with the needs listed in this post). I love missionaries, and many I know are now making prayerful decisions about retiring from the field. These are heart-wrenching days, and I encourage Southern Baptists to consider ways to assist these folks who’ve given their lives for the nations.

  1. Give God a blank check. That’s been the theme of International Mission Board president, David Platt. If these missionaries are giving God a blank check and asking Him to fill in their calling, all of us need to do the same. My wife and I are praying, “Lord, we want to help retiring missionaries. Fill in the check to show us how.” I’m convinced Southern Baptist believers, local churches, institutions, entities, associations, and state conventions should do the same.
  2. Pray for the missionaries. Many are right now asking the question, “Lord, what do you want us to do?” I know many of these folks. They’re some of the godliest people I’ve ever met, and I have no doubt they want to do whatever God wants. Pray He would give them clarity – and then provide for them as they follow Him wherever He leads.
  3. Contact the International Mission Board’s “transition team” to learn more. Several former missionaries and staff are ready to connect missionaries with churches, institutions, and people who want to assist. You can contact that team at transitionteam@imb.org.
  4. Provide housing.  If you have empty missionary houses, unrented apartments or condos, or open vacation homes, make them available for some time for these missionaries.
  5. Give up a car.  Perhaps you have a seldom-used vehicle available. Or maybe you can even purchase one to donate so a returning missionary won’t need to buy an automobile.  
  6. Provide ministry jobs. Obviously, this issue is the big one.  If your church or institution is seeking someone to join your staff, remember that hundreds of veteran missionaries will be available within the next several months. Don’t limit your search to stateside candidates only. In fact, you might consider waiting a few months before making a decision to see if God might connect you with a returning missionary. 
  7. Provide other jobs. Many of our personnel have skills beyond ministry-related skills, and they bring talent, experience, and a Christian spirit to the room. Their very presence in your company can make a difference.
  8. If your church is affiliated with a Christian school, reduce costs for the offspring of returning missionaries. Every tuition discount will help globally-minded parents who want their children and teens to be educated in a Christian school – and having the global perspective of these students will strengthen your school.
  9. If your church has a counseling service, make that service available. Most transitions are difficult at some point. This one will include not only leaving people and countries that are dearly loved, but also returning to an American culture that is itself overwhelming. For some of these folks, simply having the opportunity to talk to somebody might be important.
  10. Sacrificially give through your local church. Financial realities have led to this voluntary retirement offer. My wife and I have, I believe, given sacrificially over the years through our tithes and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Yet, have we given as sacrificially as we should have? That’s a question we are now asking. 
  11. Pray again for all of our missionaries. Even those who remain on the field will be saying “good-byes” to mentors, leaders, friends, “aunts,” and “uncles.” They usually understand that heartache because of the nature of their work, but the large scale of these decisions will likely compound the anguish.  
  12. Remember that the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) is still in effect. I realize this last point sounds almost contradictory to the rest of this post, but I can’t ignore either reality: many missionaries will retire, and we’re still called to take the gospel to the nations. The God who calls us will also help us figure out how to get there.


  • cindyjenkins says:

    Such a great list, Chuck!! Thanks for writing a very wonderful post that shows your heart for God’s work!!

  • Lissa says:

    This is thoughtfully and sensitively written, Chuck. Thank you for posting this. The only thing I want to add is that those who accept this VRI package are not “retiring” at all — more accurately, this is a severance package without retirement benefits.

  • Tony Biancardi says:

    We sometimes forget that all man’s programs are destined to fail, but God knows exactly what he’s doing and will bring his creation to glory in His time.

  • Scott says:

    Warm *grateful* greetings from West Africa!
    After twenty-one years overseas, my wife and I along with our high school aged child, will soon be returning to the US and, yes, it’s without a home, without a vehicle, and without full-time employment; however, just as clearly as He called shortly after I met Him as Savior, His call has come ringing clearly again.

    The Lord used Southern Baptists to take care of us these past twenty-one years plus the ten years of finishing college, seminary, and serving a church in preparation to “go,” and I believe His people will rise to the occasion.

    Brother Chuck, *thank you* for sharing the first of these twelve ways.

    I appreciate you!

    For His Glory,

  • Angela Powell says:

    Hi from France and thanks for this list Dr. Lawless! We’ve been surprised to find that there are SB churches that know NOTHING about what’s happening with the IMB which means there’s nothing they are doing (i.e. praying, preparing, etc.) It’s really shocking and we’re glad to see that prominent, influential men like yourself are trying to make sure people are aware and are seeking what they can do and the roles they can play as we all face this crisis together! We always appreciate you and the wise counsel you give to us and to churches and pastors around the world (and even mentioned you, and wise counsel you’ve given Greg this last year, in our last newsletter!!) Blessings to you and Pam!

  • How would we contact the returning missionaries to help place them? My church needs a youth director/minister/worker badly. We’re 4 miles from a Class 4A school in Alabama, and in spite of the county’s population, we can’t find anyone called to serve this growing population. I’d love to speak with my deacons about the possibility of working with a returning missionary (and/or family) to see if we could arrange something.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      In the post is an email for the IMB transition team. If you’ll email them directly, they can give you guidance. 

  • Sharon says:

    As a secular worker, I was hit hard by the economy in 2008 and I just think it a real shame that this economy has now hit the missionfield – one area that I would think would be semi-immune….but unfortunately a telling sign of the direction our country has taken as of late! I’ve only heard of this b/c I am friends with a missionary who has shared all of this – and passed it along to as many people as I could. Fortunately, our provision is not from a job, or people – but from God. He will provide, and He will use us….and ultimately, His will will be done, and people will still be reached!

  • This is just so painful. Missionaries and ministers lost their homes at Glorieta, also; where there was a hotel at that conference center we could have used to lodge our missionaries. We must stand together and help one another, as a denomination.

  • Tony Myers says:

    Good article, helpful for churches to think through. Our church had 2 missionaries return this year. I’m not in a SBC church. Besides #3 I’m sure how the post is specific to SBC churches. Be encouraged, I found it helpful.

  • Brent Lay says:

    On November 11, Tennessee Baptist unanimously passed resolution in support of a grassroots movement described at Millionmoreby34.com. The strategy calls for redeployment of 400 returning missionaries to serve in full time positions as Directors of Training in 400 Lead Churches. Thanks for sharing the word. Brent Lay, Tennessee

  • Brian says:

    I read this article in September 2015. I sent some email. Yesterday (February 2015) a returning missionary couple arrived at my home to stay while visiting family, worshiping, and exploring new opportunities. It is a joy meeting them and hosting them – on such a small planet – we have an immediate shared connection to one of their mission fields! Thanks for writing Chuck!

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