I had the opportunity this weekend to spend time with three missionary families. Each of these families serve God in unique ways in different areas of the world. Each faces their own specific challenges and have adapted their ministry model to best fit the situation they are in.
One serves an impoverished inner-city where drugs and poverty have led to a corrupt crime-riddled culture. Divorce rates are very high and fathers have held very little accountability to their wives and children. Their mission approach is to focus on supporting men and women in small groups. By increasing accountability, they have seen a dramatic improvement in the families they minister to.
Another mission team servers an impoverished rural nation. They face many of the same cultural challenges (drugs, teenage pregnancies and split families). However, in their situation the families are often struggling to meet their minimum daily needs. These missionaries focus on meeting their most basic needs first, then teaching them the gospel.
The third team works in a domestic mission area where the people they minister to have become very disenfranchised by the church. They have a synical view of Christianity and the baggage that comes along with it. They are having to show them what authentic Christianity is all about.
What do these missionaries all have in common? They have come to the realization that mission work is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each have adapted their approach to meet the needs of the people they minister to. By meeting their specific needs, they are opening many more doors than if they followed a textbook method of mission work.
The lesson for us is that whatever your mission – whether work, church or any other organization – you need to adapt to the needs of those you are trying to reach. Whether that is customers or consituents, the old adage “adapt or die” rings true.