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Bridge Builders: Fun and meaningful ways to support missionaries besides giving money

Bridge Builders: Fun and meaningful ways to support missionaries besides giving money

When you think about supporting a missionary, you probably think about money. Missionaries do need financial support, but they also need support in a host of other ways. Their whole person needs care — not just their bank account. And you can fill that gap.

Why is it important to support missionaries? The front lines of gospel ministry can be a dark and lonely place. Before moving to India, missionary William Carey said, “I will go down into the pit, if you will hold the ropes.” A spiritual battle rages on the mission field, and missionaries need a team at home to hold the ropes as partners in the ministry with them.  

How to support missionaries - free guideAre you a sender? Get a free guide with practical ideas for supporting global workers before, during, and after their service.

Maybe you don’t have the means to be a monthly donor. That’s okay! You can still be a meaningful part of their support team. Here are ways to support missionaries that don’t involve giving money.

Spiritual support

Pray for them and their work

The best and most important way to support a missionary’s ministry is through prayer because “prayer does not equip us for greater works; prayer is the greater work,” said Oswald Chambers. The apostle Paul regularly asked the New Testament churches for prayer support (Romans 15:30-32, 2 Corinthians 1:11, Ephesians 6:18-19, Colossians 4:3-4, 1 Thessalonians 5:25, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2).

Prayer does not equip us for greater works; prayer is the great work

— Oswald Chambers

Not sure what to pray for the missionaries you know? These Scripture passages are a great place to start. Pray for the fruitfulness of their ministry, for protection from the enemy, and for their personal well-being. Pray for their host country and the locals around them. Read their newsletters and pray for their requests. Find more prayer requests for global workers. Be sure to let them know you’re praying — that’s one of the greatest gifts you can give them.

Share biblical encouragement

Most missionaries have a strong and vibrant faith, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to loneliness or burnout. Just like you, they need spiritual community, which they may not have on the field. Share with them what you’re reading in your own quiet time, Scripture verses that are encouraging to you, or things God is doing in your life. Additionally, here are words of encouragement from the Bible you could share.

  • “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
  • “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10).
  • “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).
  • “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
  • “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…. If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:18, 31-32).
  • “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28).
  • “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
  • “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
  • “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Relational support

Write encouraging words to a missionary friend
Taking the time to a letter, email, or text of encouraging words for missionaries can be a lifeline to someone on the mission field.

Stay in touch

Many missionaries suffer loneliness on the field or feel forgotten by their friends and family back home. One of the loneliest moments is sending a newsletter and hearing nothing in return. You don’t have to be best friends with the worker to reach out to them. Whether you reach out via email, text, video call, or social media, they will appreciate hearing from you — guaranteed!*

You may be unsure what to write to a missionary friend. Don’t overthink it. Here are some ideas of things that will help them feel connected.

  • Share updates from your own life — projects at work or at home, vacation plans, and seasonal activities.
  • Send photos of your kids, pets, or travels.
  • Tell them about a ministry you’re involved with or what God has been teaching you.
  • Trade recommendations for books, podcasts, recipes, or gardening.
  • Write out a prayer or verse you’re praying for them.
  • Ask about something they shared in their latest newsletter.

Advocate for their ministry

Raise awareness about the missionary and their work at your church and in your circle of influence. Missionaries often struggle to promote themselves due to physical distance or their humble nature, so they need people like you to speak up about the great work they’re doing, share their prayer requests, and encourage others to support their ministry. You could also start a care team at your church to share the load of keeping in touch and coordinating physical support.

Help them transition “home”

When a missionary returns permanently after serving for years on the field, what once felt like home doesn’t feel like home anymore. Friendships have changed and people have moved on with life. The once-familiar culture now feels busy, disorienting, and impersonal. Be patient with their struggles. Ask questions to help them process. Take time to be a friend to them in this stressful season of their life.

Emotional support

Ask good questions

Missionaries carry the emotional weight of listening to and counseling people in their local context, but they don’t always have someone to do the same for them. Reach out regularly to ask how they’re doing. Ask good questions to show you’re genuinely interested. Create a safe and trustworthy space where they can share their heart without judgment.

Here are questions to ask a missionary to help them process their emotions and boost their mental health.

  • What inspired you to become a missionary?
  • Have you faced any cultural misunderstandings and how did you handle them?
  • How do you build relationships and trust within the community you serve?
  • What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing right now?
  • What do you see God doing that’s encouraging you right now?
  • What are the greatest joys or rewards of being a missionary?
  • How has your own perspective and faith evolved through your missionary work?
  • What have you learned about yourself and about God during your time as a missionary?
  • How do you navigate the balance between sharing your faith and respecting the beliefs of the local community?
  • When was a time God answered a big prayer? What big prayers are you praying right now?
  • What goals or dreams do you have for your ministry’s future?

Questions to ask a missionary

Speak intentional words

It’s easy to make small talk (and there’s nothing wrong with small talk). But most missionaries have high emotional intelligence and desire deeper, more intentional conversation. You may wonder what to say to someone going a mission trip. Here are some encouraging words for missionaries.*

  • Thank the missionary for their service.
  • Tell them something you’ve learned from them or appreciate about them.
  • Share a blessing from Scripture, such as Numbers 6:24-26.
  • Be specific about what you’re praying for them.
  • Remind them of God’s faithful character and his numerous promises throughout the Bible.
  • Write a letter reiterating what you say in person so they can carry it with them and reread it later.

Physical support

Volunteer your skills and expertise

Being a missionary is kind of like being an entrepreneur — they wear a lot of hats, from ministry strategist and language expert to Bible teacher, counselor, travel agent, data coordinator, accountant, communication specialist, fundraiser, videographer, IT manager, and host extraordinaire!

Your skills or hobbies could be a huge blessing to an overwhelmed missionary. Tell them what you’re good at and volunteer to help them with those tasks. Your assistance with anything from coordinating travel plans to researching a new tech purchase will allow them stay focused in their areas of gifting and be more effective in ministry.

Send a missionary care package
Brighten your missionaries' day by sending a care package to them and their kids with fun, unique, and thoughtful gifts from home.

Send missionary care packages

Small reminders of home can be such an encouragement to workers serving on the mission field. But you don’t have to wait until they’re overseas — you can send them off with meaningful keepsakes. Here are good going-away gifts for missionaries:

  • Letters to open when they arrive (Pro tip: Collect notes from people in your church and send a package of 30 notes for their first 30 days.)
  • A gospel-focused devotional (Recommended read: New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp)
  • A designed print of their favorite Bible verse (find them on Etsy)
  • A journal to record their observations and reflections during their first year
  • A subscription to Audible or Spotify for when their language-learning brain needs a break
  • Recipes for the home-cooked meals they’ll miss most
  • Luggage tags and packing cubes

For those already on the field, here are fun, unique gift ideas for missionary packages at Christmas, for a birthday, or anytime:

  • Small holiday décor items, like wall signs, foldable paper lanterns, ornaments, and garland
  • A package of their favorite candy or snack
  • Spice packets like Ranch dressing mix and taco seasoning
  • Games to play with local friends that don’t require the English language (i.e. cards, Rummikub, Pictionary, etc.) or that will start conversations (i.e. Soularium from Cru, TableTopics, etc.)
  • Notes of encouragement
  • An Amazon gift card for personal or ministry use

If you’re not trying to surprise them, ask them for a list of items they need or want and set up an online registry for people to purchase gifts and have them shipped directly to them. This way you can organize groups gifts for big-ticket items like a camera, a new laptop, or musical instruments for their local church.

Explore other ways to encourage missionaries at the holidays.

Don’t forget the kids! Here are ideas of gifts for missionary kids:

  • A photo book of people back home (especially other kids) with a note from each person next to their photo
  • Children’s books in English
  • Stickers and craft supplies
  • Activity books
  • Glow sticks or balloons
  • Snacks they can’t overseas, like microwaveable macaroni and cheese
  • A package of their favorite candy (no chocolate!)

Host them in North America

When they’re visiting on furlough, offer to host them or help them find housing for their time in North America. This can be one of the most stressful tasks for missionaries, but you can take the burden off by finding a place for them. Bonus: Locate a car for them to borrow and they’ll be set up for success!

Host a missionary family while they're on furlough
Support missionaries returning home for furlough by hosting them or helping them find missionary housing during their stay.

Visit them overseas

If possible, visit your missionary on the field so you can encourage them in person. Be more than a tourist — serve alongside them and offer hands-on support in their day-to-day ministry. Experiencing their world first-hand will also grow your heart for the ministry, making you a better prayer partner and advocate even after you return home.

Financial support

Mobilize your network

Missionaries who serve overseas for years or decades often find it difficult to make new connections in North America. You can help by introducing them to people who may be interested in their work. Put them in touch personally or host a gathering for several people at once to establish connections with potential donors, volunteers, or collaborators.

Make non-cash gifts

Did you know there are ways you can contribute financially without giving cash? You can donate livestock, gifts in kind, stock and mutual funds, retirement assets, or a portion of your estate. Learn more about these options or contact us today.

Every missionary needs encouragement. However you choose to offer support, know that every effort you make will leave a lasting impact on their life and ministry! You’re not only helping a brother or sister, but you’re becoming an indispensable partner in fulfilling the Great Commission. So, let’s hold the ropes and extend hands of solidarity to missionaries around the world, knowing that together, we are advancing God’s kingdom and spreading his love to every corner of the earth.

*A word about security
While missionaries need your proactive support, those serving in sensitive areas also need you to communicate with them in a security-conscious manner. Words like missionary, ministry, and church may be off-limits. Each scenario is unique, so ask your worker what’s okay and what’s not. Follow their example, and if in doubt, leave it out.

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