What comes to your mind when you think of missions? Perhaps you’ve imagined yourself sharing in far-flung corners of the world or translating the Bible into a minority language or ministering cross-culturally in a foreign land. However, there is an oft-neglected side of missions — the less “exotic” roles that are crucial in ensuring that missions is done well. One of these essential areas is human resource (HR) management.
Jo is the current Personnel Coordinator of Wycliffe Singapore, dealing primarily with the mobilisation and care of workers from Singapore. She finds “interacting with members and their supporting churches, providing member care, and helping them administratively” the most rewarding parts of her job. Wycliffe Singapore currently has about 40 members serving overseas and receives about 50 enquiries from interested parties annually.
Katherine receiving a long service award.
Katherine was Wycliffe Singapore’s Personnel Coordinator from 1992 till 2005 but now serves as trainer, mentor and consultant for personnel officers of Wycliffe organisations in the Asia-Pacific area. Katherine points out that HR work in the missionary enterprise is to be an advisor, friend, critic, supporter and broker all at once. Responsibilities range from processing candidates, communicating with church and field, recommending training and pre-field preparation, on-field member care and dealing with re-entry needs. The job spans the entire missionary career from the initial enquiry to eventual retirement. It is no wonder then that deep relationships are forged with candidates and other stakeholders in this process of journeying together.
HR personnel play a key role in facilitating the dialogue between the missionary, the field entity and the supporting church. This includes understanding church policies, the needs on the field as well as the expectations of key stakeholders. Issues such as budgeting and financial support, children’s education, further training, retirement planning, home assignments etc. all come under HR! These discussions begin before the missionary leaves for the field, continue through his period of service, and extend through the re-entry period, with the nature and emphasis varying according to stage of life and circumstances. In these conversations, HR personnel are able to offer the benefit of their experience.
Before a candidate can leave for the field, HR personnel guide the him/her through the screening process, identify training needs, and advise on support and other issues. Such equipping and care of members continue throughout the missionary’s service. HR personnel make a point to travel overseas to visit missionaries on the field to provide care and support, and also to meet leaders of field entities to foster good working relationships. And when the missionary returns to Singapore, whether for home assignments or for good, HR personnel are again on hand to advise and help with re-entry issues.
HR work in a missions agency is a calling just like any other missionary service. For missionaries, the support of HR personnel is invaluable in sustaining their ministry. Without these dedicated people behind the scenes, it would not be possible to send out and support a missionary well!