The last three weeks I have been taking a look at how different groups can help new missionaries be comfortable, feel loved and want to stay on the mission field. I started by looking at how people “from home” could help, then I turned the attention to the field and other missionaries on the field with them. In the last installment I looked back at “home” and focused on how mission’s committees can help out and now this week I look back to the field at the leaders within the organizations the missionaries are working. As I have said in the other installments of this series, while it is geared mostly to new missionaries, most of this works for missionaries of all levels of experience. In my experience here are some ways that leaders within organizations can help their new missionaries:
- Celebrate their arrival – Can you imagine a better way to start your life as an on-the-field missionary then to come off the plane to a welcome committee? That won’t always be possible and in fact will probably not be super feasible, but within the first few days of their arrival, celebrate. It doesn’t have to be anything major, but let them know you are excited they are here, because you are…or at least you should be.
- Establish clear guidelines – These will change from field to field, but no matter where the new missionary is working they are going to need to know what is expected of them. Do you work 40 hrs a week, can they attend an international church, can they run errands during the day (because the stores close early). What do you expect from them? Tell them. This will help them not stress over something they shouldn’t have to stress about when they get there. The clearer you are the better, but not every situation will lend itself to perfect clarity and that is ok. Be clear about what you can be clear about and let them know.
- Give flexibility and grace – Every new missionary is going to make mistakes and probably a lot of them so be patient with them and extend grace. Allow them to make mistakes and be flexible when it takes them a bit longer to do things than you thought it would.
- Introduce them to people with similar likes – You know people and you should at least partially know your new missionary so introducing them to people you know (inside and outside of your mission) who have similar likes and dislikes. This will allow them to establish friends faster and at a time when friends will be a major need for them. They will need people who are not their direct supervisor to talk to and yes, maybe even vent to, so help them find those people.
- Celebrate successes and milestones – This is something that can easily be missed and forgotten, but when valued and done well it can impact the new missionary in ways you might not even imagine. The trick to this is celebrating in appropriate ways for the new missionary. The easiest way to figure out what would impact your new missionary the most is to ask them what they would like. Maybe they would like to have some cake and coffee or maybe a meal, or maybe a game night with the whole team. Celebrate their successes and milestones in a way they respond to and you will have a much more joyful missionary.
- Guide them and give them time in their adjustment – When any new missionary gets on the field they are faced with a lot of adjustments, no matter where they came from or where they are serving. When they first get to the field, help them through the adjustment by taking them to the grocery store, on a city tour, to the registration office and any other place they will need to go. Beyond that though, be considerate of how much time they may need for their adjustment. If they need to learn a new language that should be prioritized and it will take longer than other adjustments, so give them the time they need before putting them to work. Everyone will need a different amount of time to adjust to their new location and having supportive leaders walk beside them during that time will help them reach a level of comfort that may be stunted if they feel rushed.
- Share knowledge of the locale and for hosting – As a leader on the field, you will know about places because you have been to those places. Your new missionary will not, so share your knowledge with them. This can be about the best gas stations, grocery stores, fun day trips or any number of other things. This will help your new missionary in general, but especially when it comes to hosting visitors. Give them tips and tricks to help them enjoy their new area and show others as well.
- Regular check-ins – This one had the greatest impact for me personally. When I started meeting with one of my supervisors on a weekly basis to discuss things with no judgement, I felt cared for. We don’t always have the deepest conversations, but it is nice to have that safe place to say, “This stuff sucks,” or “I really need help here.” Check in with your new missionary yourself, or find someone they connect with on the team, but no matter what, check in with them.