Summer missions needs boost
JEFFERSON CITY – Summer missions in Missouri is turning a corner. As part of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) new approach to collegiate ministry, the program that gives college students a taste of missions each summer is undergoing a facelift leaders hope will net even more kingdom rewards than before.
For Matt Kearns, student ministry director for the MBC, the first goal is to get out the word.
“Raising awareness is really step No. 1,” he said. “We’ve always had a lot of things going on in summer missions but we just didn’t have a lot of people that were aware of that. We needed to begin promoting it again and have someone on campus constantly pushing and reminding college students that this great program is out there.”
This summer, 54 Missouri college students gave up their summer breaks to lead camps and backyard Bible clubs, help out at Super Summer, host Vacation Bible Schools (VBS) across the state and teach in sports clinics.
“When I started talking to supervisors and folks in the field, I saw that we had a huge shortage of missionaries,” he said. “We had requests for 94 and received less than 60 applications. We couldn’t even come close to filling all the requests.”
Kearns is looking at ways to increase the summer missionaries’ presence.
“I think it’d be great to have 200 or even 300 summer missionaries on the field,” he said. “As it stands, we would be maxing out under our current system at 75 missionaries.”
Kearns began investigating the effectiveness of the program earlier this year and heard the answer loud and clear from local churches and associations: the summer missionaries program is absolutely vital.
“There was an overwhelming voice telling me of the positive effect summer missions had, especially at a lot of our smaller churches and associations,” he said. “They put a face on the Convention. When people think of the Missouri Missions Offering (MMO), they think about that missionary that came to their church and did a VBS.”
This information confirmed what Kearns knew from his own experience as a former summer missionary in Jefferson Baptist Association, his home association. This sparked the question of how best to place students closer to home – which would be more cost-effective and thus allow the MBC to fulfill more requests.
The current system essentially encourages churches and associations to recruit summer missionaries for the purpose of putting those names into a pool. Sometimes no one ended up assigned at a location that may have produced a number of summer missionaries.
“We feel like it will work better if local associations and directors of missions will recruit their own missionaries and then we as a Convention can help train and provide for them,” Kearns said. “I think that has helped us turn a corner on recruiting. We’re on the front end of a huge learning curve, but hopefully we’ll see the benefits of it next year.”
Kearns also wants the summer missionary experience to be about growth for the individual student as short-term summer missionaries continue to help the many rural Missouri Baptist churches.
“We realize that this is an entry-level program,” he said. “We want to give students a chance to be exposed to missions in-state, get experience, (and) rub shoulders with others who are ministry minded. Then we want to pour into these kids just as much as we get out of them. We want to teach and mentor them even as they serve.”