Months ago, I sat in a coffee shop chatting with two other women who served on mission overseas as single women in difficult areas of the world. One of the women had recently talked with a missions leader at her church. That leader pointed out the high number of single women on the mission field and asked her how church leaders can prepare single women to go overseas as missionaries.
As a single, female missiologist, I have walked with a lot of single women who are considering missions. I’ve also noticed that while many churches have developed ministry internships and mentorship opportunities with church leadership for men who are called to ministry, such opportunities for women are more scarce and often require some intentionality. While this lack of opportunities is not necessarily intentional or malicious, the reality is that women need this training as much as men.
This is how I would answer the question of how to prepare single females for the mission field.
Confirm and Celebrate Her Calling
Local churches and church leaders should confirm their church members’ (female and male) call into ministry. In order to do so confidently, observe her life. Look for the evidence of an ever-deepening relationship with the Lord. Has she grown in the fruit of the Spirit? Is she burdened for unbelievers and actively sharing her faith? Has she actively discipled people in the church? Confirm that you have seen those things in her life. Encourage her to keep growing in this time of preparation.
“The Lord has laid upon her a beautiful and difficult calling. Celebrate his goodness and the ways in which he will use your sister.”
But don’t just confirm this calling in her life. Celebrate it. While a calling to do full-time cross-cultural missions is not greater than other callings, the Lord has laid upon her a beautiful and difficult calling. Celebrate his goodness and the ways in which he will use your sister.
Pray for Her and with Her
Once you have a woman from your congregation who shows an interest in missions, commit to pray for her and with her regularly. Pray for her walk with the Lord. Pray for her spiritual growth. Pray that the Lord would use this time of preparation to deal with sins in her life. Pray in advance for a community of believers when she goes overseas. Pray for the lost people she will meet. Pray for those she will lead to the Lord. Pray for those possible days of loneliness and tears. Pray for the days of celebration and joy.
Don’t just pray for her; pray with her. Demonstrate what it looks like to intentionally pray for those whom the Lord has entrusted to you. This both encourages her heart and models for her what prayer looks like.
Intentionally Equip Her
This step is really important. Too often, the church abdicates its opportunity to equip and prepare a woman (or a man) for the mission field, assuming that the training offered by the missions agency is sufficient. But what a gift, to both the woman you send and the missions agency with which you send her, to deploy a woman who has been intentionally equipped by the leadership of your church.
Practically speaking, spend some time getting to know her. Ask her to consider her strengths, weaknesses, experience, and spiritual gifts. Get to know her well and answer these questions for yourself. Sometimes, we women are reluctant to brag on ourselves. Other times, we don’t see ourselves truthfully.
“Intentional discipleship works two ways: it equips the woman who is going while simultaneously fostering an ethos of mission and responsibility in the women who stay.”
In the midst of getting to know her, let her get to know you. People, even church leadership, can underestimate the power of proximity when teaching and equipping people. Let her observe your life, meet your family, and hear about your love for the Lord, the church, and ministry. Often, our passions prove contagious.
Second, consider the qualities of a good missionary and start intentionally preparing her. Would you expect her to be able to share her faith? Team her up with some gifted evangelists from your church and let them teach her the basics of evangelism. Would you expect her to disciple people? Help her find a new believer in your congregation with whom she can meet. Would you expect her to teach? Give her opportunities to try her hand at creating and delivering a lesson. Instill in her a desire not only to learn but to practice and to equip others.
Connect Her with Older Women
Consider your congregation. Are there women who come to mind as prayer warriors, equippers, counselors, or encouragers? Intentionally connect your single female with those women. Let the women in your church surround her, love her, and walk with her as she prepares for the field. Let Titus 2 do its thing. Intentional discipleship in this manner works two ways: it equips the woman who is going while simultaneously fostering an ethos of mission and responsibility in the women who stay.
A single woman in your church approaches you and says, “I think I am called to be a missionary.” What do you do? Confirm the calling (if you can do so truthfully) and celebrate what the Lord is doing in her life. Pray with her and for her often. Find ways to intentionally equip her, and connect her to other women who will walk with her as she prepares. And rejoice that the missionary God you serve is still in the business of sending people to his harvest.