The Strategic Role of Operations in Missions

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Our family vacations have steadily grown as spouses and grandchildren have been added to the mix of our already-large crew. With that comes more opinions and needs to consider each time all of us head off somewhere. The preparation and planning have also adapted to scale this growth. My dad now creates a detailed itinerary, outlining the full schedule for each day (hour by hour) so that everyone has a run-down of each day’s events and can prepare accordingly. While this does not anticipate every question or prevent every hiccup, it does keep everyone generally headed in the same direction and has eliminated much of the would-be chaos.

In a different, but similar way, as our organization has continued to grow, by God’s grace, the need for more operational support has also increased. My goal is to situate this specific work of Operations within the larger work of Reaching & Teaching. While several persuasive arguments can be made for the role of an agency in long-term missionary sending, a big piece of that is the operational gap that it fills, both for the sending church and for the individual workers. The mission of Operations at Reaching and Teaching is the same mission as each individual unit on the field and the organization at large. That is, to make mature disciples, establish healthy churches, and train local leaders. The narrow focus of that in Operations means thinking carefully and strategically about how to steward the resources entrusted to us, alleviate our workers of unnecessary burdens, and provide structures to sustain the work happening on the field.

While the specifics of our tasks in Operations are different, the same Great Commission is what fuels our work too. First Corinthians 3 talks about the different forms of labor in the work of ministry, but also points out that God is the one to bring about growth. The same is true for Reaching and Teaching, even in Operations. We strive to be diligent laborers who think carefully and strategically about the operational needs of the organization, but then ultimately trust that God will bring the fruit as he pleases (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).

Steward

Reaching & Teaching has been entrusted with many resources, by God’s grace, and we want to help the organization steward them well. Giving thought to processes and systems is a way of stewarding our time, money, and people to accomplish as much as possible with what has been entrusted. Many of us have been part of institutions where operations were neglected and have felt the strains of poor administration. Our aim is to support our workers well by implementing systems and processes that will serve them and set them up to flourish in their work.

Alleviate

Much of what we do in operations is necessary, but time consuming and tedious work. It’s not work that can’t be done by workers themselves, but it is work that often does not have to be done by them. We want to free up and alleviate our workers of these tasks so that they can devote their attention to the primary task at hand—gospel proclamation and local church ministry.

The role of deacons within a church context has been a helpful framework in thinking through the role of operations in the mission of Reaching and Teaching. While we are not a church and our workers are not elders (at least, not necessarily), the principle and relationship of the roles are similar. Acts 6:1-7 recounts the creation of a sub-set of servants within the church whose primary focus was administrative in nature. The elders of the church were becoming bogged down in the daily administration of the church. They decided to delegate these responsibilities to a particular group who could give the thought and oversight necessary for these important, but time-consuming needs. Their goal was the same—the good of the body, but their assignment was different. Verse 7 notes that the result was that “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied.” Similarly, in Operations, we want to anticipate and address any obstacles that would divert attention from the primary task at hand.

Sustain

There are many practical considerations for families and individuals headed to the mission field, and often to a greater extent because of the contextual obstacles that can come with life overseas. Securing visas, budgeting for an unfamiliar place, raising support, and taking care of regular life responsibilities are all necessary things that workers must think through before deployment. We want to assist with making these arrangements stateside so that they can be freed up to focus their attention on learning their new language, building relationships, and investing in their local church on the field.

Some days this looks like refining policies, or sharpening communication, or rethinking onboarding processes. It looks like assisting donors, managing the many financial components of support-based work, providing HR support, and implementing structures that support specific needs that arise with our workers. The Operations teams desires to be a resource for our people, providing a level of support that propels their work forward.

Just as the gift of administration is channeled toward the building up of the body (Ephesians 4:12), so the work of operations is channeled toward fueling the work on the field. The work of administration is just a means to an end—all nations worshiping the Lamb as described in Revelation 7.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen. (Revelation 7: 9-12)

Madelyn Crawley

Madelyn serves as an Operations Manager at Reaching & Teaching and is grateful to provide administrative support to RTIM’s missionaries and stateside staff. She recently graduated with her Master’s degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and currently lives in Fayetteville, AR. She loves being a member at University Baptist Church and furthering the mission of building healthy local churches across the world.

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