By Ken Berding

This post is for people who are praying seriously about the possibility of serving overseas in long-term cross-cultural missions. It may help you assess where you presently stand in terms of “readiness” for such a ministry assignment.

Look through the questions I’ve drawn up here and try to honestly assess where you presently stand regarding preparation for long-term missionary work. These questions reflect the types of questions often posed to candidates by mission agencies.

Biblical / theological readiness:

  • Has the candidate had at least one full year of formal biblical and theological training (or equivalent)? (More could be necessary depending upon the type of ministry toward which one is heading.)
  • Can the candidate articulate what he or she believes about biblical doctrine, and is such an articulation in line with both the agency’s and their sending church’s doctrinal statements?

Spiritual readiness:

  • Does the candidate show consistency in studying the Bible? (Is there evidence that the Bible is foundational in the candidate’s life?)
  • Does the candidate exhibit a pattern of prayerfulness?
  • Is the candidate committed to fellowship with and learning from other believers in the local church?
  • Is there evidence of growth in the fruit of the Spirit and other Christian qualities (such as humility and teachability, both of which are vital on the field)?
  • Is there evidence of growth in wisdom?
  • Is there evidence of an attitude of service toward others?

Emotional / relational readiness: 

  • Does the candidate show evidence of emotional health?
  • Is the candidate self-disciplined; that is, will he or she pursue his or her calling in a setting where there might be fewer external requirements?
  • How flexible is this candidate?
  • Is there evidence of willingness to submit to God-given authorities?
  • How likely is it that this candidate will work well on a team?

Vocational readiness:

  • Is the candidate adequately prepared vocationally for the particular area of service toward which he or she is heading? (Recognizing that there will be a wide variety of preparatory needs here, a list will have to be drawn up individually for each candidate. Examples: linguistics, nursing, teaching, mechanics…)
  • Is the candidate ready for language learning and cultural adjustments? (There are a variety of ways to acquire readiness in this area as well.)

Research readiness:

  • Has the candidate carefully looked at and prayed through options for locations and spheres of ministry and become adequately educated about those locations and spheres?
  • Has the candidate carefully looked through possible missions organizations with which to serve?

Marital / family readiness:

  • Does the candidate show evidence of a healthy marriage (if married)?
  • Does the candidate show evidence of being at a place of peace in his or her present calling (if single)?
  • Does the family (if children are involved) seem to be both spiritually and physically healthy enough for living under the stresses of a cross-cultural environment?
  • Does the candidate have family responsibilities in the USA that will hinder his or her ministry overseas?

Ministry readiness:

  • Has the candidate shown faithfulness and effectiveness in ministry in the local church?
  • Has the candidate pursued opportunities to serve in cross-cultural environments in order to grow in this area (examples: short-term mission trips, tutoring in English to immigrants, urban ministry)?
  • Does the candidate share his or her faith with unbelievers?
  • Are there other ministry experiences that have helped prepare the candidate for overseas service?

Church connectedness readiness:

  • Is the candidate adequately connected to the worship, fellowship, and ministries of the church so that there are enough people in the church to pray for this person while overseas?

Stewardship readiness:

  • Is the candidate debt-free (or on a clear trajectory to being debt-free)?
  • In general, is the candidate’s financial house in order? That is, does he or she live within a budget, demonstrate regular habits of generous giving, reveal modest spending habits, and otherwise exhibit prudence in this area of life?

Christian character readiness: Does the candidate exhibit the characteristics expected of overseers in 1 Timothy 3?

  • Above reproach
  • Husband of one wife (or vice versa)
  • Temperate
  • Self-controlled
  • Respectable
  • Hospitable
  • Able to teach
  • Not given to drunkenness
  • Not violent, but gentle
  • Not quarrelsome
  • Not a lover of money
  • Manages his own family well
  • Sees that his children obey him with proper respect
  • Not a recent convert
  • Having a good reputation with outsiders

Are there any areas of "readiness" that you think should be on this list that are not?


For more, visit the Good Book Blog, a seminary faculty blog from Talbot School of Theology.