There are a number of common trends among mission agencies today that are very encouraging in terms of their missional effectiveness.
The introduction of Key Result Areas and Annual Ministry Plans. This is all about a new level of accountability and intentionality in the mission world. Among major agencies it is no longer acceptable to work without a plan and clarity on the results desired. As one of my colleagues observed, the only place to hide today in missions (from intentionality and accountability) is in some of the mom and pop missions. Interestingly, some major agencies have lost significant numbers of people who objected to the introduction of a new level of accountability and intentionality.
A second major trend is that of deploying personnel in teams who work synergistically together. It has been proven over and over that healthy teams are more effective than personnel deployed alone. Teams take into account a variety of gifts, encourage greater creativity and provide a greater level of care for personnel.
The move toward teams and the introduction of KRAs and AMPs has lead to another major development - the elimination of levels of management and supervision that were deemed necessary in the past. Missions are embracing the flat world and the idea of empowering teams on the ground to determine their plans and strategies and are therefore eliminating the management structure that was necessary in the absence of plans and teams. In our own mission, we have only three levels of leadership - the senior team, the international area team and the local team.
These changes have inevitably led to a fourth - the development of a set of metrics by which to measure effectiveness and success. Almost every major mission is grappling with the metrics issue and desiring to ensure that they have a way to measure their effectiveness. In many ways this is driven by donors who want to know that their major investments in missions are paying off. The Mission Exchange just did a major conference on this issue.
All of these changes have come amidst a movement by agencies to deal with unproductive or unhealthy personnel. This is the major issue being faced by new mission leaders today. In the past, many missions have defined their success by how many missionaries they had and paid little attention to the health and effectiveness of those leaders. This has led to many problems because unproductive or unhealthy personnel have a huge impact on those around them. While in the past it was unknown for a mission to let a missionary go, that is not the case today. There is much retooling taking place in missions and the transition of unhealthy personnel out of the organizations.
These trends have forced missions to raise up a generation of better leaders. Intentionality, health, metrics, plans and teams all require leadership and many agencies are scrambling to find those leaders since they did not focus on the leadership issue in the past. In many cases, agencies are looking outside their own mission to leaders from the church and business sector who have a leadership track record.
The new interest in results and healthy personnel has led to the development of greater ongoing learning and skill development. In the past one could have a lifetime of mission service with little ongoing education. Not anymore. The requirements of team, plans, metrics, health and leadership require ongoing skill development. Many agencies actually have a division that focuses on this ongoing learning.
Finally there is a major shift away from missionaries simply doing the hands on work to missionaries as equippers of others in line with Ephesians 4:12. Increasingly there is an emphasis on the development of partnerships with indigenous movements and the equipping of those movements for greatest missional effectiveness. It is a shift from a focus on "my" ministry to a focus on "our" ministry and the developing, empowering and equipping of healthy indigenous leaders.
All of these are encouraging developments toward mission work that can meet the needs of our globalized world where the opportunities and challenges are both significant.