• W. Austin Gardner

Why do we lose so many missionaries?


Longevity on the field is not necessarily a sign of success as measured by productivity. Phil Parshall, drawing from his observations during thirty years of travel on the mission field, estimates that 50 percent of missionaries are underactive relative to their potential, although there is no empirical data to substantiate this figure. He found that missionaries who work in institutions where they have to report to superiors tend to be hyperactive, with generally orderly and fulfilling lives.


He observed that those who did not work in regulated, supervised activities, such as church workers, evangelists, researchers, and language students, were often underachievers, both because of their attitudes and the proliferation of high-tech distractions.

Marge Jones and E. Grant Jones, Psychology of Missionary Adjustment, ed. Stanley M. Horton (Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 1995), 145.


Parshall also noted the following distractions as a cause of underproductivity:

Living hassles. The demands of survival can force missionaries away from their ministries.

Computers, video, and television. Technology can be either a useful tool or a major distraction.

Fellowship. Although interaction is needed on the field, too much can become a means of avoiding undesirable tasks. Leaders need to stress the imperative of getting assigned jobs done.

Family. Parshall feels that many missionaries are victims of “family priority overkill.” “[I]f family dominates our time, then we need to rethink our call to our work.”

Marge Jones and E. Grant Jones, Psychology of Missionary Adjustment, ed. Stanley M. Horton (Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 1995), 146.


Laura Gardner, in noting what mission boards could do to help with maturation and satisfaction, included the following:

1. Have an attitude of commitment to growth, to maturity, and to excellence. Missionaries should be encouraged to read specific books, attend retreats and seminars, take regular vacations, and have regular counseling sessions.

2. Commit themselves to proactive care of missionaries who are important as individuals and not just producers. Individuals should be seen and treated as human beings and not just human doers.

3. Include vocational guidance personnel as part of the mission’s administrative structure. Special attention needs to be given to experienced senior members who may be affected by a closedown of field programs and by redeployment.

Marge Jones and E. Grant Jones, Psychology of Missionary Adjustment, ed. Stanley M. Horton (Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 1995), 151.




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