"This has never been done before -- at least this way," Childers, an International Mission Board missionary, said about the five-day training event to equip churches to get directly involved in long-term missions.
The IMB's International Learning Center in Rockville, Va. will host the Jan. 13-17 sessions.
"The main reason for doing this is because the number of missionaries we have in the Americas is less than half what it was in 2008," Childers said. "As that number decreases, we still see that the task is not finished, so how do we get the job done? We need U.S. churches to become fulltime partners.
"This training will help us get to where we need to be and help our churches be better prepared to do missions," he added. "This is the same basic training our IMB missionaries get."
Missions College is an intensive training for churches and individuals already involved or interested in long-term engagement in international missions. The focus is on the Americas, but people who are drawn to other parts of the world are encouraged to attend, since the basic principles are the same.
"It's a great time for churches to interact with IMB missionaries," Childers said. Time is set aside for visits with missionaries around meals and fellowship segments. IMB President Tom Elliff and missionaries Bible storying proponent Grant Lovejoy, IMB Americas missions leader Terry Lassiter and others who serve in the Americas will lead the conference.
Childers said the Americas is "one of the first places many churches consider when they look at missions," encompassing everything in the Western Hemisphere, south of the U.S., including the Caribbean.
"One of the misconceptions is that the Americas have already been evangelized," Childers said, "but our best statistics say that only about 5 percent are Christ-followers. That means about 95 percent of the people in the Americas do not know Christ."
The schedule includes three tracks for training, all of which will be practical, with each participant practicing what is taught:
-- Partner connect training will prepare churches for long-term missions involvement.
-- Community transformational training focuses on human needs, such as medical work. One segment of this focuses on equipping nationals to do ministry instead of sending teams annually.
-- Chronological Bible storying as a key method of evangelism and discipleship in a variety of cultural settings.
"As your IMB missionaries, we've had volunteers working with us for decades, but we're trying to help our volunteers become partners," Childers said. "The basic idea is that instead of a church sending one group of 20-30 people one time a year, we are asking them to consider sending four to five people about four or more times each a year. It is amazing the difference it makes."
There are national conventions in most of the countries where IMB missionaries serve. Missions College will explain how Southern Baptist churches can work with the national convention's churches, which Childers describes as "a very important element of empowerment."
"We want to help Southern Baptists reach their goal of reaching the lost. We want to see lives changed and New Testament churches planted. That does not usually happen quickly. It takes time and it takes a long-term investment."
Jerry Rankin, president emeritus of the International Board, began saying about 10 years ago that there will never be enough missionaries to fulfill the Great Commission, which Childers said was "given to the local church, so how do we make that happen?"
"We have churches going, and doing some great things, but some are not doing such great things," Childers said, lamenting that some congregations are making the same mistakes that some missionaries have made through the years.
"We want to help churches see some of the best practices -- see what has not worked, avoid some of the pitfalls and be able to understand the key elements in doing missions effectively," he said.
"One of the biggest mistakes churches do involves money," Childers noted. "I think a lot of Americans, when we go overseas, we're not prepared for the poverty that we encounter. To be there and experience it breaks our hearts and we want to help. But many times the way we help ends up hurting."
Childers tells mission teams, "If you are 100 percent certain that God has told you to , then you need to do it. But, if you are not sure that God has told you to do it ... you need to be extremely careful and think about the implications of that. Throwing money at a need -- buying buildings, paying pastors -- causes jealousy among national pastors. It creates an unhealthy dependency. It can create a lot of problems."
Missionaries know it is easy to give money and material things, but it is harder to give time and, thus, we are asking churches to give more of their time. A physical presence, Childers said, is more valuable than a financial investment.
"The IMB was created to help Southern Baptists do missions, not to do missions on behalf of Baptists. So, we are getting back to our roots, with so many people who are going and who want to go overseas. We want to help facilitate them to extend the Kingdom of God."
The Missions College training is part of a strategy to prepare churches for healthy, effective mission involvement. "We hope churches will send a team to the conference who can attend different tracks and get the full picture," Childers said.
Online registration can be accessed at https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1273925. For more information, contact Anne Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org, 804-219-1019.
K. Allan Blume is editor of the Biblical Recorder (www.brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Copyright (c) 2013 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net