The Mobilization Pipeline: Adapting to New Realities

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The mobilization pipeline in mission work refers to the process and strategies employed to recruit, train, send, and support missionaries. Traditionally, this pipeline has been a well-established route for prospective missionaries, guiding them from the initial call to missions through to their deployment and service in the field. However, in the contemporary context, there is a growing sense that this pipeline is undergoing significant changes, raising important questions for both the upcoming generation of potential missionaries and the organizations that facilitate missions.

Before we start, we acknowledge that God is not limited in any way and can do amazing things within a group of people dedicated to following His call in their lives.  His Kingdom is not bound by culture, time, generational trends, or limited resources.  At the same time, many of our peers in this global endeavor are experiencing some shifts that are challenging us to ask better questions in hopes of aligning ourselves with where God is moving.

With that in mind, let's delve deeper into the evolving landscape of the mobilization pipeline:


The Drying Springs: The Changing Face of Recruitment

There is a widespread sense that the traditional avenues for mobilizing new missionaries are becoming less effective than in the past.  This might not be a “good” or “bad” thing, but might indicate a shift in how we recruit and prepare.  Here are just a couple of theories as to why this might be happening:

  1. Cultural Shifts:
    The upcoming generation often holds different values and expectations regarding career, calling, and lifestyle, which might not align with the traditional concept of lifelong missionary service.  Church philosophies are also shifting and in some cases are placing less emphasis on equipping people to go on long-term missions.

  2. Economic Challenges:
    Financial burdens, including student debt and rising living costs, can make the prospect of long-term missions daunting for younger individuals.

  3. Diverse Opportunities for Impact:
    Today’s generation is often acutely aware of the diverse ways they can make a significant impact without leaving their home country, leading to a broader view of what ‘mission’ can mean.


The Emerging Generations: Poised for Impact

While there are challenges, the upcoming generations (GenZ and beyond) are uniquely positioned to contribute positively to mission work.  Some of the key elements of this include (but are not limited to):

  1. Global Awareness:
    Growing up in a connected world, they have an innate global awareness and multicultural sensitivity that previous generations had to learn.
  2. Adaptability and Innovation:
    This generation is often adept at adapting to change and leveraging technology and innovation in various aspects of life — traits that can be invaluable in modern mission work.
  3. Passion for Purposeful Work:
    Many young people are driven by a desire to engage in work that makes a tangible, positive difference in the world — a mindset that aligns with the core of mission work.


Challenges and Opportunities: A New Missionary Mindset

The traditional values of “packing your coffin” and committing to lifelong service in a far-off land don’t resonate with many of today’s prospective missionaries. But this doesn't equate to a lack of commitment or willingness to sacrifice. Instead, it may signal a desire for a different kind of engagement:

  1. Short-Term and Specialized Missions:
    There is a growing interest in shorter, more focused mission engagements that leverage a person's unique skills and passions.
  2. Bi-Vocational Missions:
    The concept of combining a ‘secular’ career with mission work is increasingly popular, reflecting a holistic understanding of vocation and service.
  3. Local and Global Synergy:
    The new generation often sees the interconnectedness of local and global issues and may be drawn to models of missions that address systemic and global issues from both a local and an international perspective.


Reimagining the Pipeline

Given these evolving realities, mission agencies and churches are faced with the crucial task of reimagining the mobilization pipeline:

  1. Flexible Models of Service:
    Creating pathways for service that allow for varied lengths of commitment and diverse roles could make missions more accessible to a broader range of individuals.
  2. Holistic Support Systems:
    Addressing the economic and psychological barriers to missions by offering robust support, including financial planning, mental health resources, and ongoing professional development.
  3. Intentional Discipleship and Mentoring:
    This one won’t be a surprise… as it’s always been key for success: Investing in relational, long-term discipleship and mentoring that prepares individuals holistically for the challenges of mission work, which we can’t forget while we shepherd the next generation into their God-ordained work, regardless of location.
  4. Finding Leadership Paths:
    Create feedback paths to learn from those already in your pipelines and recruit staff members in the generation you are trying to reach (and give them a leadership role).  While many organizations are decades, and in some cases centuries, old… ideas are not limited to those in any generation.  Intentionally engage your staff or bring in leaders to help shape your organization for the next 20-100 years.  


Concluding Thoughts

The changes in the mobilization pipeline represent both challenges and opportunities. While the traditional model may be under strain, the shifting landscape opens the door to new, potentially more effective and contextually relevant forms of mission engagement.

This is an exciting opportunity to re-imagine sending within your own context.  Therefore, in this time of change, our prayer is that mission organizations and churches approach the task of mobilization with creativity, grace, and a deep-seated commitment to equipping the next generation of missionaries to participate in God’s work in the world in fresh and faithful ways.

As Henry Blackaby once wrote, “For you to do the will of God, you must adjust your life to Him, His purposes, and His ways.”  May we be people who are constantly seeking God first and willing to ask hard questions or evaluate ourselves to align with where He is working.


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