The mission partner lifecycle

Jamie Read

The life-cycle is an elementary part of a child’s education. Remember The Very Hungry Caterpillar? 

We are hardwired to think in terms of the developmental stages of living organisms. 

Nothing is static, whether frogs or butterflies, companies or congregations. Everything is on a trajectory: birth → growth → stability → decline → death. 

Have you thought about the lifecycle of a mission partner? 

There are stages in a mission partner’s development, beginning with acceptance into a mission organisation and subsequent missionary life. Most will return to their home country for retirement or continued service. 

For ease, we could classify these stages in this way*:

i.     Idealist  (pre-departure)
ii.    Learner (1-2 years in location)
iii.   Established (3-7 years in location)
iv.   Experienced (7+ years in location)

Or less favourably in this way:

i.    Ignorant
ii.   Survivor
iii.  Workaholic
iv.  Pessimistic

In Acts 13-14 we see the mission partner lifecycle in just three stages:

i.    Commission 
ii.   Mission
iii.  Recommission

In Acts 13:1-3 Paul and Barnabas are commissioned for service from the church in Antioch. 

From 13:4 – 14:25, they journey through Cyprus, Pisidian Antioch and then on to Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. The church’s global mission is underway. 

Finally, they return to Antioch in 14:26, reporting on the door of faith opened by God. It is from this point that both are recommissioned for their second missionary journey (15:35-41).

These three stages shape our reflections on the mission partner life-cycle. 

Churches, individuals, mission partners and mission organisations can think about their partnerships through these three stages.

There is continuity and discontinuity across each stage. For example, practical help put in place before departure may well last the course until return. Equally, it will evolve as the mission partner becomes more established in their mission service.

Adjusting our expectations as partners could be the difference between a flourishing and mutually beneficial mission partnership and one that drifts, eventually running aground.

Find out how you can help mission partners in the commissionmission or recommission stages.


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Jamie Read

Jamie was Director of Misison Partnerships at Crosslinks from 2016 – 2021. Before this, he was a Crosslinks mission partner in South Africa and worked in local parish ministry in the UK. Jamie now works with St Nicholas Church in Sevenoaks.