More and more Christian leaders are discovering what was missing from the past decades of mission strategies and methodologies and they are restructuring missions in ways that overturns a 100 years of missiological thinking. The new paradigm gets every member to think and act like a businessperson.  This means encouraging competition – and it is making a real impact.

Talk with enough frustrated young people. Poke your head into some of these new B4T/BAM start-ups or interview a young employee working overseas and you come away with a sense that mission is going to be very different in the very near future. As last week’s blog highlighted, young people are earnestly, diligently, maybe even desperately, searching for a new way to do mission.

What’s different?

First, there’s no job description. Traditional job descriptions maybe going the way of the typewriter. One young person told me, “Don’t hire me to do stuff, hire me for me for how you think I can contribute to your bottom line.”  Got that?  Hire people to be themselves.  This requires listening and working with people in whole new ways.

For example, good leaders begin the recruiting process with a written job description. This generally includes the required educational experience and technical skills. But great leaders do more than this. They look at the baseline of qualities of a position needed to impact lives and they recruit/hire those qualities. You don’t hire a person’s past, you hire their potential. Yes, the past can be an indicator of the future if the future is shaped like the past. Yet great leaders know the world is rapidly changing and the past may not indicate the impact good training may have on a person’s future performance.  Great leaders are either great trainers or surround themselves with great trainers who can train and reproduce themselves in the people they recruit/hire.  Much like professional sports teams that hire great athletes and then find the best position for the individual to play, great leaders hire quality and then allow the person to write their own job description.  So we write the job description after a person is hired, not before.

We also need to grasp that there’s less need nowadays for top-down, chain-of-command styles of leadership.  Everyone should be encouraged to contribute, to be involved. Everyone is expected take on responsibilities – to solve problems, cut costs, and reduce defects. Trendy companies don’t have employees, they have associates. They don’t have managers, they have coaches.

Most mission leaders want their people to make an impact. Instinctively they know that this requires great people. But few have ever taken the time to define exactly what they are looking for when it comes to the ideal candidate. We need be asking;

  • What kind of prospective employees are we trying to attract to our business/organization?
  • What kind of people will it take to get the results we want and our clients expect?
  • What kind of people do we want to surround ourselves with?
  • What kind of people will contribute to the culture we are trying to build?

Warm bodies are obviously not enough. Better-than-average won’t get us there either. Even really good people are insufficient. We need higher standards if we are going to achieve our mission.

When people join our business we no longer hire them to fulfill a job description, we hire them to do the work – the work being whatever needs to get done.  Once people start working, it becomes clear what they are good at and have a passion for. Then we build their job description around that.  We don’t hire people to do stuff.  We hire people to be themselves.

We are building a new paradigm and a new structure for missions. This new structure is relationally driven.  There is no centralized leadership; no centralized office.  People subscribe to values/standards and relationships – not programs, methodologies, or titles. Job assignments, overseas mission assignments are built around the individual and defined by the individual’s giftings and strengths, not rules or a predetermined mission structure.  Thus each person’s training and preparation; their pathway to the field, is different.  We recognize that each individual is unique so there’s no cookie cutter programs, so everything is designed to fit the individual.  This not only encourages the individual, but draws the leaders deeper into God as we need to know His will for each person.  The Word calls it watching out people’s souls, knowing we (leaders) must give account for those who are working with us (Hebrews 13:17).

The fundamental principles of this new paradigm are far from clear.  Yet we are well into the journey of a comprehensive rethinking of the business of missions.  Change is upon us.

PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.

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