A Review of Mapping Church Missions by Sharon R. Hoover

Is There a “Right Way” to Do Church Ministry?

Conversations about missionaries and missions strategy are commonplace in our home. We talk about the latest newsletter updates, who’s “home,” and who’s “back on the field.” We wonder about the members of our missionary family when we don’t hear from them, and we puzzle over big picture concerns in an era in which more missionaries are retiring than can possibly be replaced by new recruits.

In Mapping Church Missions: A Compass for Ministry Strategy, Sharon Hoover introduces a way of thinking about the genuine challenges of initiating and maintaining a program of global outreach that is in keeping with a biblical view of The Great Commission, while also taking into consideration the uniqueness of each body of believers. Her good work and varied experiences have helped her to produce a road map for intentional missions strategy that transcends personal interests and agendas.

Rarely are our burning questions about church practices able to be corralled with a pat answer. My husband chairs the missions committee in our church, and his life would be so much easier if shimmering golden percentages were handed down from heaven to guide missions policy: What is the ideal percentage of the budget to allocate to foreign missions and how much for local ministries? Approval of short-term projects would be a cinch if everyone could just agree that their purpose is outreach and impact on the field.  Or is it mainly for the development and growth of the participants . . .?

7 Continuums to Sort the Issues

Since pat answers are unavailable (and mostly unhelpful), Hoover has identified seven topics, seven conversations that need to happen and each one represents a continuum:

  1.  Is the church called to perform good works OR to to engage in activities that present the gospel?
  2. Is our highest priority to meet the needs we can see all around us OR should our focus be centered on the regions beyond, those who have never even heard of Jesus?
  3. Are we to direct our resources mainly toward emergency crisis relief OR will people best be served by long-term engagement once the crisis has passed?
  4. Which is most necessary:  Tangible investments such as money, clothing, and vehicles? OR will an investment of time and talent be more valuable in the long run?
  5. Can short-term ministry teams work effectively on the field OR is this nothing more than Christian tourism?
  6. Is the focus of ministry a matter of serving those who are sent to minister OR those who will receive that ministry?
  7. How much risk is acceptable in planning a ministry? Is safety an obstacle to fulfilling the Great Commission OR should “common sense” prevail?

These seven questions are a wise starting point for conversations that assist local church leaders in  discovering and then maintaining their location on these key bandwidths for missional engagement. Sharon Hoover asserts that “we need to check our compass bearing frequently to confirm that our direction remains true to our initial calling. As time passes and we become familiar with the terrain, we are tempted to set the compass aside. But when we do this our kingdom-focused navigation gets off track.”

“If You Want to Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want to Go Far, Go Together.”

Driving south on I-95, my Kindle illuminated the front seat of our car as my husband and I made an impulsive trip to L.L. Bean one August evening. I had brought Mapping Church Missions: A Compass for Ministry Strategy along for the hour’s ride because I wanted to get his input, but soon found myself reading great chunks aloud. The questions stimulated conversation and the well-conceived scenarios at each chapter’s end acted as both mirror and light.

Sharon Hoover has developed a resource that is thought provoking and will challenge any individual who is excited about the call to build God’s kingdom. However, she has also constructed a compass, a tool for groups who need to have monumental conversations that will help them get their bearings, clarify their thinking, and ensure that they are traveling in line with both the truth of Scripture and the passions and callings of those who are on the road together.

Many thanks to Intervarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Mapping Church Missions: A Compass for Ministry Strategy, simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

43 thoughts on “Is There a “Right Way” to Do Church Ministry?”

  1. So many questions, Michele! Did you and your husband come up with any answers in your trip to LL Bean? Our church struggles with this, too. We participate financially in world ministries through money we give to our denomination and focus our missions on local needs. We have several missions we support throughout the church year, most of them ongoing. We have to constantly remind ourselves to keep the gospel in the forefront, otherwise we are no different than a benevolent Rotary Club or Kiwanis. It is a challenge!

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    1. Yes, balance is so key, and Sharon’s approach to the issues in this book forces the reader to look (without judgment) on the entire spectrum of available strategies. And since I’m talking to a Mainer, I will also say that small churches have the unique challenge of stewarding their limited resources, both financial and human!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Michele, these are fascinating questions, ones that every church needs to sit with and pray over. The face of missions and how we ‘do’ missions has surely changed in our lifetime, but the heart for missions continues to beat strong.

    If ever the world needs Jesus, it’s now. With a granddaughter contemplating a third return to Belize next summer and friends who are contemplating coming home from Kenya after 40+ years, this is a subject dear to my heart.

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  3. Very interesting thoughts, Michele! Thank you for sharing about this book. The harvest is so plenteous, but sadly the laborers are still so few. Jesus felt the burden when He was here. May He send forth more laborers, and may many respond to the call as Isaiah did, “Here I am. Send me.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. These are great questions, Michele, but I wanted to answer “yes” to them all! Lol! And I love that you and your hubby discussed this book while making your road trip to LL Bean! That’s so cute and inspiring at the same time! Thanks for sharing about Sharon’s book. Another great resource and read! Pinning!

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    1. Yes, I can see this being a great resource for churches at the outset of planning their strategy, and also for those who want to stay on target with their initial vision and goals.
      Thanks, Beth, for sharing it!

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  5. This sounds like an important book. The questions you listed are vital. I have wondered aloud about number 5 but was never able to phrase it so succinctly. And question #1 is another one that concerns me greatly. Thanks for sharing this resource and for posing questions that all churches need to be discussing.

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    1. What I have walked away from the book with is a better understanding of the questions behind the questions. Sharon has taken a step back and her research and experience have allowed her to ask questions on the meta- level.
      So helpful!

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  6. Thanks for sharing this book review. It looks like the author put together a well-thought out list of questions to help the local church assess where they are at with missions and how they are approaching it.

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  7. I can see how some of those questions might be answered differently for different situations, times, or people. A mission trip for a group of teenagers might be primarily focused on their growth, development, challenge in seeing the needs of the world, but a mission trip of skilled contractors going to help on a building project would be focused on the need at hand – though hopefully there would be some crossover with the teens still ministering to others and the contractors growing spiritually and in their relationships. But it’s so good to think through these aspects instead of jumping in blindly.

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    1. I completely agree, Barbara, and I think that’s one of the strengths of this book. It opens up the conversation by priming the pump with scenarios and the sensible notion that no one is going to end up being labeled “wrong” in the conversation.

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  8. Michelle, these are great questions without easy answers. Lot’s of prayers are involved. I love that your husband oversees the Missions of your church. Have you yourself been on a mission trip? Where does your church send missionaries? Our church is sending a mission team to Puerto Rico in November. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. All my outreach experiences has been local, but our church has sent teams to Jamaica and we’ve had individuals go several other places on a short -term basis. I love that we support missionaries all over the place, and one of my favorite times of year in our church calendar is the missions emphasis month when we display flags in the sanctuary representing the countries where we have missionaries.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Such important questions here, Michele. It’s so easy to lose sight of what’s important when faced with cultural differences and be tempted to fit in. Checking our compass often is a good way to think about how to navigate these issues.
    Blessings to you,
    Marva | SunSparkleShine

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    1. We respond in subtle ways to our culture AND to the people we do life with. I think it’s okay for us to disagree about where we land on some of these continuums. The important thing is to stay on course and to honor the passions and commitments of those involved while staying true to Jesus’ directive in the Great Commission.

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  10. Those seven questions are thought provoking for sure. I can imagine the conversation that took place between you and your husband. As I was reading your review, my mind wandered to another launch team book I am currently reading: Shannan Martin’s, Ministry of Ordinary Places. She takes us no farther than our own neighborhoods to minister to others. She calls us to be intentional right where we are. I imagine the two books could possibly be good companions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, these are the questions that live underneath the questions–the ones we spend valuable minutes dissecting with committees and colleagues. I’m sure Sharon’s book is going to save some time and frustration for a lot of church members!

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  11. Normally when I read a set of questions, it is easy to pick out the clear yes or no. I struggled with each set because both can have their benefits. Short-term goals centered on people in the community can lead to long-term goals reaching all across the world. God needs both, but individual churches have to know where their focus is at any point in time. Great article.

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    1. I agree, and that’s why I think Sharon is so wise to introduce us to the idea of a continuum, a sliding scale for each of those 7 very important decisions. There are definite mandates in Scripture for fulfilling the Great Commission, but HOW we do it is largely left up to the church.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This sounds like a fascinating and well-thought out book! Our church is big on global missions–which is great–but I also see the value in long-term relationships and mentoring those we help rather than just arriving, helping out in an emergency, and leaving Dodge.

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  13. First of all, I absolutely love that your family cares so much about missionaries! Sometimes, we felt very alone and a little forgotten out there. Second, this book looks great! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com!
    Tina

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    1. I was just saying to my missions-chair husband that this would be a good book to put in our resource boxes where we keep gifts for missionary visitors to choose when they come to our church. It’s good reading for both sides of the equation.

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