Every missionary on deputation has heard the secretary or pastor say, “We will send you a questionnaire first.” Those words often strike a chord of wonder. Will it be short or long? Will it make sense or be confusing? Will it be agreeable or offensive? Once the questionnaire is mailed or emailed, all questions in mind are answered by the questions asked. Hopefully the information below will help you as a pastor to decide whether or not to have a questionnaire, and if so, what kind of one to have.
Upon beginning deputation, a new missionary enters a new realm of missions that is sometimes harsh and discouraging. After the first couple days of calling churches, the new missionary will likely begin the task of filling out questionnaires from churches in order to even be considered for booking a meeting at the church. What is the main purpose of having a questionnaire? To determine if the missionary and the church would be a good match. This is the fundamental purpose. This can be beneficial for both the missionary and the church. Not only can the pastor determine if he would want to schedule the missionary, but the missionary can also determine if he would want a meeting at that church after all. This being the case, be sure that the questionnaire accurately reflects your church.
How long should a questionnaire be? Put yourself in the missionary’s shoes. If you were calling 50 to 100 churches a day as you struggle to start deputation, would you want to be filling out multiple 10 page applications? Who wants to fill out multiple job applications each month? No questionnaire should be over 5 pages long. There are ways to help keep questionnaires short.
- If the missionary has taken the time to place a doctrinal statement on his material, don’t require that he re-write it on a questionnaire. Let him be a good steward of his time.
- Be aware of what certain mission boards stand for and require of their missionaries. If the knowledge of what board a missionary is with would answer your question, let that question be skipped or eliminated.
- Keep non-relevant questions off the questionnaire. Whether or not a man had any kind of facial hair in the past 12 months has no direct affect on his spiritual walk with the Lord or effectiveness as a missionary. It is sad when some independent Baptists make restrictions on missionaries that would eliminate Jesus Christ Himself from being able to come and preach.
Please be specific and appropriate in the questions. There are some questions that are simply inappropriate and “none of a pastor’s business.” The one that comes to mind is “what does your wife wear to bed?” You may laugh, but this is a question that some independent Baptist pastors have asked over the phone or in a questionnaire. If a guy walked up to you on the street and asked you that question, you would think he was a pervert. If you want to know if the wife wears skirts or pants/slacks, simply ask it.
Create a format that saves everyone time. Many churches have sections of checking “yes” or “no,” or “I agree” or “I disagree” instead of essay format. Have the questionnaire in a format (like Word) that can be attached in an email and completed by the missionary on his computer. Many missionaries have times of being on the road for several months at a time without ever being back home. If you mail the questionnaire, it may be months before he gets it. Have an option for the questionnaire to be sent through email.
Should you even have a questionnaire? It can be a helpful tool, but may not always be necessary. If you are not looking at supporting any new missionaries for the next couple years, do not waste the missionary’s time by having him fill out a questionnaire that will not lead to a meeting and financial support. If you are not considering booking meetings with missionaries, be open and honest. Tell the missionary that you appreciate God’s call on his life but are not currently taking on new missionaries. You will not be the first pastor to tell that to the missionary and you won’t be the last. Some dear pastors are very apologetic about not supporting new missionaries when they call. Just be open and honest. If you still feel bad whenever a missionary calls, you can seek to encourage him by praying with him on the phone right then and there. I have had this done to me several times, and each time is a blessing. Also, if you are considering new missionaries but are not reading the questionnaires that are sent back or ignore certain questions, then eliminate them. It will save you and the missionary time.
Hopefully this info will be helpful and insightful. The missionary should be seeking to partner with churches that match in doctrine and philosophy of ministry. Missionary questionnaires can be a tool that helps reach that destination. I have personally been glad for some but am also glad not all churches utilize them. Deputation would take forever if every church required the questionnaire, and deputation can be long enough.