How to Survive on the Mission Field: Let’s Reverse the Statistics

Man overlooking water

A statistic that is very troubling to me is that 80% of all missionaries will never finish one term on the mission field, or if they do, they will not return for a second term (a term is considered a three-and-a-half year period). I heard this while I was in missionary school and the first thing I said to myself was, “No way! That statistic cannot be true.” I thought about the testimonies I heard the first day of school by the students. Callings were explained, scripture was read, and testimonies were shared about God’s leading to missionary school. I was impressed. At our graduation exercise everyone was excited to go forth into the ripened fields of harvest. I was sure my class of 1980 would do a great work for the Lord. I believe that as a class we were a blessing to many people in different parts of the world, but the 80% attrition rate held true even for us. Many left the field after six months; most were gone by the one year mark. Out of twenty-eight graduates I can only think of three that are still full-time missionaries. As I saw the fallout, I began to ask why. I also began to think and say, “This has got to be stopped.”

Don’t Let it Happen to You

The sad truth is far too many are leaving the mission field before they finish their assignments. Missionary attrition is a huge problem. If the fields are white unto harvest and the laborers are few, we cannot afford to lose any of the few that are working cross-culturally. Using this blog over the next year, I will address some of the main reasons missionaries do not survive. My hope and prayer is that all missionaries would survive and even thrive on the mission field. I will be using research I collected and published in 1999 in my book, How to Survive on the Mission Field. I will also use Dr. William Taylor’s excellent book, Too Valuable to Lose.

Check in with me about every two weeks and I will have something for you. If you believe you are called to missionary work, read what I have to say and express your opinion. I want this blog to be interactive and I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

7 Comments on “How to Survive on the Mission Field: Let’s Reverse the Statistics

  1. Wow, I’m really excited to hear what you have to say. I have a feeling a lot of it will apply to ANYONE in ministry, not just missionaries!

    • I agree Kathryn. One verse that comes to mind for all God’s people is Gal. 6:9 which says ” And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” My prayer is that we will all finish the task God has assigned us.

      • This certainly hits home now that I’m working with a new group of teenagers. Ministry is challenging everywhere.

        • Ministry is challenging everywhere Lyn. I think when anyone accepts a call from God to do anything spiritual warfare begins. The devil is not going to sit back and allow his work to be undone without a fight. I will address spiritual warfare later in this series.

  2. WOW! It will take us a long time to fulfill Jesus statement in Matthew 24:14 with this being the case. I don’t want to be a Statistic, but I know how easy it can happen. My heart is stirred to pray and encourage others as well as myself to stay the course.

    • Wendy,

      Since statistics change, you will have to track down some recent data. The 80% number was widely circulated in 1980. Our graduation class from missionary school (1980) mirrored those numbers pretty closely after 3 years. When I wrote the book in 1999, I came across the 80% number again; I believe it was from the US Center for World Mission. If you track down a current number, please let me know. I hope this has improved. Blessings, Dale

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