Excellence in Missions: 7 Standards [INFOGRAPHIC]

Reading Time: 2 minutes

We’re all about bringing you tools you can use to truly go there, serve Him, and love them well. So we’ve partnered with Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission to bring you today’s (totally printable) infographic: 7 Standards of Excellence in Missions.

Then why do standards like these matter?

You might feel frustrated, too, by patronizing “help” that actually hurts. Or by work that makes us feel better but makes them worse. Or by global work that continues cycles of poverty. Maybe you’re angered by missions trips cannibalizing local employment, or blind to cultural norms so people are turned off to the Gospel. [su_pullquote align=”right”]Christianity, done well, doesn’t destroy culture. Christianity makes culture come alive–and development, too.[/su_pullquote] read more

A Missionary Budget: What Costs Does it Include?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

missionary budget

Wondering what goes into a missionary budget (which, when you’re raising support, can feel overwhelming)? We let you peek behind the curtain with some opinions of other global workers.

“A missionary Budget may cover all the costs of sending the missionary, not just what YOU need to live.”

A missionary budget may include all the expenses of fielding the missionary. Besides a salary, budget categories might include

  • taxes
  • health and life insurance
  • retirement
  • travel expenses (including cost of home assignments)
  • administrative expenses (including the costs of communicating with supporters, and often a certain percentage that supports the mission agency’s home office)
  • training costs (e.g. language school)
  • purchase or rental of property
  • purchase and maintenance of a vehicle.

It’s also wise to include some kind of surplus account, or perhaps a 5% buffer built right into the budget in anticipation of

  • lost support, cost of living increases
  • changing exchange rates
  • inflation
  • an emergency fund and/or insurance that covers medical evacuation

All this can add up to a daunting amount.

But trust me: Cutting corners is not worth the savings.

Being well prepared will help you and your family avoid some of the stress of arriving on the field and not having what you need. 

Most mission agencies include some kind of “admin fee.” What these fees cover varies considerably. A high admin fee may include some of the expenses listed above. A low one may suggest these items are listed elsewhere in your budget.

Editor’s note: If you’re considering going without a sending agency (and budgeting is one of your reasons), be sure to check out our series on the pros and cons.

It’s tempting to cut out things like contingency and retirement funds, but if missions is your career, you may regret neglecting such things.

Online resources you may find helpful: sample missionary budgets, basic budgeting forms, and How Much Is Enough?

Answer from Marti, who’s served as a mission mobilizer since 1995, including more than ten years with Pioneers.

“If married, both should get a salary.”

A missionary candidate recently asked me if I thought it was better for a married couple to both be counted as legal employees. Should just the serving member of the couple be paid, to simplify payroll even if both are working as missionaries?

Our organization issues W-2’s to my wife and I with half of our total income per year. I think it’s more respectful of our partnership to do it that way and honor my spouse’s major contributions to the work. That was our original reason.

We’ve discovered strong financial reasons along the way too.

When you are negotiating your budget with your agency and others, it’s to your advantage to present the full force of your contribution i.e. two full-time workers. Although people might remember there are two of us, it is to your financial advantage to remind them of the income you both are earning together.[su_pullquote align=”right”]For the Scripture says…“The laborer deserves his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:18)[/su_pullquote]

Many missionaries, even if they start under the traditional model of only one marriage partner as the breadwinner, evolve eventually to give both spouses a significant responsibility in the work. There can be a tendency for some to forget that you are working not just 40 hours but 80+ hours as two workers.

Employing both partners accrues Social Security credits for that partner, too. I’m not sure, but I believe this means she’d have higher income in retirement than if she wasn’t an official employee.

Consider, too, that liability insurance and taxation “safe harbor laws” (allowing return to your home state for a number of days without being taxed) likely don’t extend to a non-employee legally.

Answer from Sam in Taiwan, who has served with Beyond and Joni and Friends for well over a decade.

“your MISSIONARY budget is hopefully designed for your longevity on the field, from veterans who’ve realistically counted the cost.”

Raising an amount so much higher than a salary may surprise you. Why’s this necessary? You may be raising the actual costs it takes a business to employ a person (which can be an additional 100-180% of a salary)–plus costs intrinsic to being a successful global worker. 

These expenses may include costs like

  • overhead for project costs for your ministry. For example, if you hope to run a supply distribution for at-risk children, you may be raising costs to maintain that programming. The more independent your project is from your sending organization, the more likely you may need to raise those project costs.
  • travel expenses.
  • your computer, software, internet, desk, chair, phone, office space, etc. Some agencies don’t already provide these.
  • member care. These costs cover critical mental and emotional support for the challenges of living cross-culturally and more challenging circumstances. There are a vital component to your longevity, and should be factored into your budget (or your organization’s).

[su_button url=”https://www.goservelove.net/emotionally-healthy-agency/” target=”blank” style=”3d” background=”#00779b” center=”yes”]Don’t miss CHOOSING AN EMOTIONALLY-HEALTHY MISSIONS ORGANIZATION[/su_button]

Editor’s note: When considering what to relate to potential financial supporters about your own budget, see this post, “RAISING SUPPORT: 2 COMMANDMENTS OF SHARING BUDGET NEEDS”. Sometimes missionary budgets are difficult for non-missionaries to understand without passing undue judgment.


Obviously, lower administrative fees in a missionary budget help reduce your overall budget. But typically, more moderate to high admin fees include more benefits and services that help keep you going on the mission field.

Other thoughts to keep in mind:

  • Different sending organizations have very different philosophies of budget-setting (ranging from frugal to robust, job-based or needs-based). They also have varying levels of control over budget-setting.
  • Ask your organization about categories or aspects of a budget you don’t understand.
  • Keep in mind that the amount may seem overwhelming when you’re raising a high support goal. But your budget is hopefully designed for your longevity on the field, from veterans who’ve realistically counted the cost.
  • It’s also far easier to raise support before your first departure–and much harder to raise from the field and even during travel back to your passport culture. So go well-funded from the start!

Answer from John, the Human Resources director for Engineering Ministries’ International’s offices around the world.

Like this post? You might like

How to Overcome Obstacles and Get Fully Funded

“Is there any way other than begging for financial support?”

The Fix: For What Might Be Broken in Your Fundraising


Go with a Mission Agency–or Go on Your Own?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

mission agency

After 30-plus years as a missionary, I have seen the wide and wonderful diversity in the people God calls to be missionaries! And everyone has different expectations about how they will go overseas and what kind of mission agency or “sending structure” they will use.

Some folks are so determined to do things their way, there’s no way they will survive working within a mission agency.

Others are totally committed to doing things as a team and won’t go without a sending agency and a team.

And there’s everything in between.

Determined to do it on your own and in your way? Consider these questions.

See this post on critical tasks to have in order if you choose not to go with a mission agency. Keep these in mind, too:

  • How will you receive donations and receipt them with an IRS-approved receipt? How will that money get to you in [insert vast and distant land, possibly without reliable wi-fi] and be exchanged for currency you can use?
  • What kind of visa will you apply for to stay long term?
  • Consider trauma-, evacuation-, disaster-, and oh-no-level situations in which a mission agency normally provides support and seasoned, educated protocols.

Who will find you and help your wife bail you out of jail when you disappear one day because you were involved in a traffic accident?

There are countries where, when there is an accident that results in someone being seriously injured, the driver involved is simply taken to jail until the person gets out of the hospital. And “no” you don’t get one free phone call. Sometimes those countries have a special “chauffers’ jail” where you can go instead (if you paid for that policy). These actually feed you and provide you with a blanket.

(This post has more on these kinds of situations, which some churches acting as sending agencies have found themselves ill-prepared to handle.)

  • Are you aware that your passport nation taxes often change when you live overseas a certain number of days a year? Will you have to pay income taxes in the country you go to live in?
  • Are you planning to make every cultural blunder yourself or will you learn from others you’re connected with?

In light of this…

I need to ask–why re-invent the wheel? There are people who have been there and done it. And you will get much further down the road faster if you benefit from their experience.

Let me be clear: No mission agency will be a perfect match. There will always be things that you just have to live with. Be diligent to search beforehand for a match on the priorities most important to you.

Still not convinced? A number of groups help provide legal coverage and financial services to free you up for ministry. Find them here.


What questions should you ask in choosing a solid mission agency?

For those of you already convinced, start with What is a Missions Agency and Why You Should Use One? You’ll find ideas to consider as you align yourself with a quality sending entity.

But how will you choose an agency that is a good match for you? What questions should you ask? That’s where the following articles shine!

We also are aware not all of you will go as traditional missionaries. Don’t miss our BUSINESS AS MISSION (BAM) :: BUSINESS FOR TRANSFORMATION (B4T) page.

  • Grace Bible Church in Houston offers a thoughtful article (created originally by Christar) with 11 topics to explore regarding your agency–and notably, why they’re so valuable to ask about.
  • The former Arab World Ministries–which merged into Pioneers–produced this valuable pdf outlining the value of going with an agency and how to choose an agency.

Right questions = seeing beyond the answers

As with any decision involving mutual commitment and working together, asking the right questions will help you get the info you need to make a wise decision. But it also hopefully gives you a feel for the ethos and values of the sending organization you are considering.

Ask questions of the home office staff and also ask questions of the folks who are on the field actually doing the ministry. That will round out your picture. The folks on the field usually will give you more details and be a bit more candid because they live there and know the complete story.

Wishing you the best as you walk this path!

Global veteran David Armstrong. He’s set foot in 15 countries. David confesses Crepes and Waffles in Bogota, Colombia is one of his favorite restaurants. 

Don’t miss his post on building community overseas.



Choosing an Emotionally Healthy Missions Organization

Reading Time: 4 minutes

emotionally healthy

Missed our last post on Emotionally Healthy Missions? Grab it here!

When you’re headed overseas, it’s easy to underestimate the effects your organization’s health could have on the ability to thrive overseas.

As I type, I think of the friend who called me recently, voice throaty with tears, as she discussed their lack of ability to care for her after stepping off the field.

Or I remember my conversation with the missionary couple who felt they had no option but to leave their organization once they’re on the field.

I think of a young mom who felt her agency had far more interest in “the mission” than they did in the missionaries themselves.

I remember the friend that arrived with her family of five in-country for the first time, but were simply dropped at a boarding house with no cash, no meals for the first night. The whole family went to sleep on an empty stomach.

Feel Free to Date Around

Unfortunately, looking for an organization is a bit like dating. Everyone’s got their best foot forward–and is often unable to see the friction inevitable in a future “marriage”. 

And keep in mind–there’s no perfect partner on either side. The trick is to go in with eyes wide open.

[su_button url=”https://www.goservelove.net/go-overseas-organization/” target=”blank” style=”3d” background=”#00779b” center=”yes”]WONDERING IF YOU SHOULD EVEN GO WITH AN ORGANIZATION IN THE FIRST PLACE?

We weigh critical pros and cons.[/su_button]

How can you set yourself up for a wiser partnership when it comes to the emotional health of an organization?

1. Think bigger than a shared mission–and get intuitive.

Finding a good organizational fit can’t only be about a similar mission and proper theology–because no one wants to share a mission, but deal with unhealthy conflict management, possess few resources to care for trauma, or feel like their org doesn’t really listen.

When dating, I remember looking at the guy’s clothes, observing how he carried on a conversation (do I have to drive the convo constantly? And is he genuinely interested in me?). I watched how he tipped, how he treated the wait staff.

Bring that kind of intuition into your interactions with your missions organization. Chances are, the person who’s interviewing you or answering your questions won’t be the same person managing you or living down the street when you’re overseas.

Gather as much intuitive information as you can, sorting out how each individual changes the dynamic of your interactions and your impression of the agency.

[su_button url=”https://www.goservelove.net/meet-agency-series-fit/” target=”blank” style=”3d” background=”#00779b” center=”yes”]Grab our MEET AN AGENCY SERIES to start your search in the right direction.[/su_button]

2. To find an emotionally healthy agency, Ask Good Questions.

Consider asking questions like these to narrow down your choices to an agency that’s more emotionally healthy.

Questions to ask yourself

  1. How much does this organization value appearances over authenticity?
  2. Do their rhythms and expectations allow great margin for missionaries to replenish and serve from the inside out?
  3. How do I anticipate resting, finding community, being personally discipled, finding personal enjoyment, and otherwise creating an emotionally healthy environment that helps me stay as long and as emotionally healthy as possible?
  4. Who are this organization’s heroes? Of whom do they speak more negatively? (What does this tell me about their values?)
  5. How truthful and realistic does this organization seem?
  6. Do I agree with their approaches to evangelism?
  7. What do I identify with about this organization? What turns me off?

Questions to ask the organization

  1. What infrastructures are already in place for
    • training
    • on-boarding once you arrive
    • debriefing
    • member care
    • trauma care
    • emergency evacuation (physically, but also emotionally)
    • holding staff accountable
    • manager training (Pro tip: healthy management is often taken for granted…until it isn’t there)?

    2. How has your organization and its goals changed to respond to the changing face and theology of missions? (How are you doing missions differently now than you used to?)

    3. How have you dealt with burned-out missionaries in the past?

    4. How do you work to increasingly partner with nationals?

    5. What’s the missionary community like in the area(s) we’re considering? Are there children our kids’ ages? What are the educational possibilities?

    6. Can you offer us any anonymous examples of how you’ve dealt with conflict or missionaries’ “red flags” (porn addiction, severe anxiety, depression, etc.) while on field?

    7. What are your expectations for emotionally healthy home assignments, including

    • timing
    • how we would spend our time while in our passport country
    • ways to replenish ourselves and address needs harder to meet on the field (counseling, etc.)?

    8. What ways do you help missionaries succeed cross-culturally? Who will introduce us to the country cross-culturally?

    9. How do you partner with other organizations interdependently?

    10. What options will be available to us if we need counseling?

    11. For what matters (e.g. with extended family) do you encourage missionaries to return to their home countries temporarily or long-term?

    12. Describe your prayer support system.

    3. Consider your singleness, gender, and unique family structure.

    Questions for Singles

    Elizabeth, a missionary with SEND International for over 37 years, advises these questions for singles:

    1. How are singles, especially single women, viewed in your organization? Can they hold ministry leadership positions?
    2. If singles are part of a team, is there a good balance of singles and married couples?
    3. How is the support structured for singles? Is it assumed they will live with another single or do they have the freedom to live alone?
    4. What are your policies for a single marrying someone from their country of ministry?
    5. Is a single woman treated at all differently than a single man? What is the difference?

    Also, if you are dating or engaged, how does this affect you joining that agency?

    Questions for Families

    Families might also consider questions like these:

    • Jesus sent his disciples out in a minimum of twos. How do I see our family connecting with other like-minded families in the area we hope to go?
    • What are expectations for standards of living, e.g. appropriate and inappropriate levels of comfort?
    • If my marriage or a child needs immediate help with emotional issues, what are our options?
    • What’s the expectation of involvement for missionary spouses?

    Find even more questions to ask of agencies here and here.

    We want to hear from you.

    What questions do you find it critical to ask to find an emotionally healthy missions agency?

    Comment below!

Meet an Agency: Steiger

Reading Time: 8 minutes

We heart this new, ongoing series–a virtual trip to the coffee shop with organizations to help you go there, serve Him, and love them even better. (For more thoughts about why you might join an agency–and a handful of reasons you might not–make sure to check out He Said/She Said/You Say? “Should I go overseas with an organization?”, both the pros and the cons.)

Today, we’re grabbing a nitro cold brew with Steiger, a powerful worldwide organization seeking to bridge the gap between the Church and youth around the world. They first captivated our staff at Go. Serve. Love with a stunning video on how they’re specifically using the arts in European cities. 

Part of our passion here at GSL is to mobilize even those of you who never saw yourself going overseas with the way you were made. Get ready to break out of the missionary mold, y’all.


Steiger is a rapidly-growing, worldwide mission organization that is called to reach and disciple the Global Youth Culture for Jesus.

Our primary purpose is to bridge the gap between the Church and the Global Youth Culture. We do this by raising up missionaries and equipping the local church to proclaim the message of Jesus in the language of the Global Youth Culture, and establishing long-term teams in cities through creative evangelism, relevant discipleship, and local church partnership.


Steiger’s story began in 1983 in Amsterdam, at the height of the European punk rock movement. David and Jodi Pierce began a Bible study there, on a barge known as Steiger 14 behind the Central Train Station, reaching the city’s punks and anarchists.

Shortly after, David started a band called No Longer Music (NLM), as a tool to communicate the Gospel of Jesus to these young people who would never step foot in a church.

Over the years, NLM has served as a pioneer, going into previously unreached or difficult to reach places, and has been the catalyst for a worldwide movement. This has led to the creation of ministries, the planting of new churches, and the surging rise of a wave of Jesus followers who are passionate about bringing Christ’s love to those who would not otherwise experience it.

In 2003, in response to the need to raise up the next generation of radical missionaries, imparting to them the lessons and principles learned in over 20 years of front-line ministry, David and Jodi Pierce started the Steiger Missions School. As a direct result, a worldwide missions organization focused on reaching the Global Youth Culture was born.

Steiger Statistics: September 1, 2017 – August 31, 2018
  • 81 missionaries/staff, 160 team members and 359 volunteers
  • 13,422 attended Steiger training events
  • At least 103,655 reached* with the Gospel in 21 countries
  • 1,056 new discipleship relationships** established

*Reached: The number of people who have clearly heard the Gospel message proclaimed in person through Steiger’s ministry activities. Does not include people reached via mass media (social media, TV, etc), though Steiger will begin tracking these numbers in 2019, nor does it take into account the indirect reach of the church partners that are trained by Steiger.

**New discipleship relationships: Verified individuals who have indicated a decision to follow Jesus and have participated in Steiger’s ongoing discipleship activities. Does not factor in those who indicated a decision to follow Jesus, but with whom we were unable to verify engagement


In recent years, Steiger has witnessed significant growth, as God has afforded us unprecedented opportunities to reach hundreds of thousands of unchurched young people all over the world.

Steiger’s strategic focus is to bridge the gap between the Church and the Global Youth Culture by establishing long-term teams in cities around the world.


A Steiger City Team

A Steiger City Team is a dynamic, missionary team specialized in reaching the Global Youth Culture of a key urban center through creative evangelism, relevant discipleship, and local church partnership.

Because it both unifies and mobilizes the Church, these Steiger teams are a small, yet powerful catalytic force that can impact entire cities.

Each Steiger City Team:
  • Develops a culture of seeking God through prayer, Bible study, worship, and bold faith
  • Establishes a regular, relational presence in the secular scene of its city
  • Engages in weekly, creative evangelism
  • Creates spaces such as community houses and weekly informal Bible studies, which foster discipleship
  • Hosts at least one annual, large-scale evangelistic endeavor, which may include an evangelistic concert, interactive art exhibit, online campaign, or other creative means of outreach
  • Offers at least one annual mission training event—a Steiger seminar, Compact School, or conference
  • Establishes a network of church and ministry partnerships throughout the city
  • Invests continually in new leaders, who will plant new city teams

In 2018, Steiger’s 10 city teams, with the support of catalytic ministries, reached at least 103,655 people with the Gospel, and established 1,056 new discipleship relationships.

Steiger’s philosophy is to disciple new believers “where they are,” in order to truly foster a culture of disciples who make disciples, who make disciples.

These new disciples are taught how to be followers of Jesus in their “scene” (ie. culture) and are soon involved in the action themselves. In fact, they often become the most effective evangelists of all, having an impact far beyond the direct reach of Steiger’s teams and missionaries.

Moah’s story

One such example would be Moah Barboza of Sao Paulo, Brazil (pictured to the right) . He was the lead singer of a popular band in the hardcore music scene when he heard the Gospel preached by a Steiger band in a nightclub. He was so moved that he asked the lead singer to “teach him about Jesus” after his band’s rehearsal every week.Steiger

This resulted in the beginning of a Bible study in a bar for both Moah and all his friends, and eventually led to him joining a local church and being baptized, while never leaving the scene (and his influence there) behind. Since then, he has grown in maturity and has become an effective evangelist in the secular music scene in Sao Paulo, leading many to Christ and starting numerous Bible studies.


Moah with participants in one of the Bible studies he leads

Steiger’s vision is to establish 100 City Teams around the world by 2025, who are both reaching 1,000,000 people and engaging in 10,000 new discipleship relationships annually.




Steiger Union team praying before the Compact School in Moscow Russia, March 2019. read more

Meet an Agency: Engineering Ministries International (EMI)

Reading Time: 6 minutes

We heart this new, ongoing series–a virtual trip to the coffee shop with organizations to help you go there, serve Him, and love them even better. (For more thoughts about why you might join an agency–and a handful of reasons you might not–make sure to check out He Said/She Said/You Say? “Should I go overseas with an organization?”, both the pros and the cons.)

Today, we’re grabbing a chai with Engineering Ministries International (EMI). You’ve seen them in posts like these:

And get this: they’re not just looking for design professionals. Read on.

Tell us what your organization specializes in. What are you passionate about?

EMI is passionate about involving design professionals in the Kingdom of God. We specialize in showing architects, engineers, construction managers, surveyors, and others how to use their God-given professional talents and training to serve communities and the Church around the world.

Our vision is “People restored by God and the world restored through design.” You will find EMI teams coming alongside Christian charities and groups seeking to live the gospel in unreached communities. These teams use their technical experience to support God’s work of spiritual restoration.


How long have you been around? How large is your organization? What reach does your organization have globally?

EMI was incorporated as a 503(c)3 in Colorado Springs, USA in 1983 with a handful of people. Our second location was in north India in 1998. EMI has grown to over 150 staff in 11 teams at 10 locations since.

A few other stats:

  • Staff work in teams located in Canada, Cambodia, India, Nicaragua, Middle East-North Africa, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, the UK, and the USA. These teams are a blend of local and international staff.
  • EMI staff and project teams work on roughly 90 projects per year – projects like schools, hospitals, ministry centers, children’s homes, water projects, disaster response, and more.
  • There are various levels of engagement at EMI. Internships and Fellowships are a way for students and professionals-in-training to join EMI for a period. EMI’s short-term project trip model allows seasoned design professionals to make a significant contribution in a 10-14 day design trip.

Tell us one story that excites you from what God is doing through your organization?

We could talk about hospitals being built in North Africa, Ugandan construction workers taking baptism, growth of EMI’s design professional network in India, or how God has upheld our team in Nicaragua over many recent challenges. But the story behind the banner photo above is exciting in a different way. It’s not because of its uniqueness or sweeping impact, but because it is so common at EMI.


Photo by Paul Grandinetti, Kenya

Here we see two old friends. Volunteer water engineer Bruce Burton (left) first met Tenwek Hospital’s water treatment manager Shadrack Langat during a previous EMI project trip to Kenya in 2011. Since then he’s been keeping up with Shadrak, who would sometimes ask Bruce’s advice as he manages the Hospital’s water treatment facilities. Joyfully reunited at Tenwek in 2018, the two were inseparable – sharing joy, laughter, burdens, and engineering skills to build one another in Christ.

It is through little interactions of humility in friendships like these that God builds strong community despite the distances and differences between His people. This is a picture of discipleship at EMI in its simplest, most typical form. We are the body of Christ at work in the microcosm of the design professions–and it is exciting!

5 words to describe your organizational culture. Go.

A Civil Engineering intern teaches an Architectural intern at a recent survey seminar in Cambodia.

  • Design.
  • Discipleship.
  • Diversity.
  • Team.
  • Service.

What is distinctive about your organization?

=&5=& Design professionals are job- and task-oriented. EMI made discipleship and professional mentoring a core value because we want be generous with the skills God gave us. We do want to see the job done, but we know God has called us to build others up spiritually and professionally as we do it.


Workers raise the frame of a temporary clinic in Bangladesh. EMI designed the Master Plan for the Primary Health Centre at this site. read more