Are You Ready to Be a Missionary? A Checklist

By Kenneth Berding Feb. 14, 2013 10:16 a.m. Christian Education, Church Life, Evangelism, Ministry and Leadership, Missions, Spiritual Formation

This post is for people who are praying seriously about the possibility of serving overseas in long-term cross-cultural missions. It may help you assess where you presently stand in terms of “readiness” for such a ministry assignment.

Look through the questions I’ve drawn up here and try to honestly assess where you presently stand regarding preparation for long-term missionary work. These questions reflect the types of questions often posed to candidates by mission agencies.

Biblical / theological readiness:

  • Has the candidate had at least one full year of formal biblical and theological training (or equivalent)? (More could be necessary depending upon the type of ministry toward which one is heading.)
  • Can the candidate articulate what he or she believes about biblical doctrine, and is such an articulation in line with both the agency’s and their sending church’s doctrinal statements?

Spiritual readiness:

  • Does the candidate show consistency in studying the Bible? (Is there evidence that the Bible is foundational in the candidate’s life?)
  • Does the candidate exhibit a pattern of prayerfulness?
  • Is the candidate committed to fellowship with and learning from other believers in the local church?
  • Is there evidence of growth in the fruit of the Spirit and other Christian qualities (such as humility and teachability, both of which are vital on the field)?
  • Is there evidence of growth in wisdom?
  • Is there evidence of an attitude of service toward others?

Emotional / relational readiness: 

  • Does the candidate show evidence of emotional health?
  • Is the candidate self-disciplined; that is, will he or she pursue his or her calling in a setting where there might be fewer external requirements?
  • How flexible is this candidate?
  • Is there evidence of willingness to submit to God-given authorities?
  • How likely is it that this candidate will work well on a team?

Vocational readiness:

  • Is the candidate adequately prepared vocationally for the particular area of service toward which he or she is heading? (Recognizing that there will be a wide variety of preparatory needs here, a list will have to be drawn up individually for each candidate. Examples: linguistics, nursing, teaching, mechanics…)
  • Is the candidate ready for language learning and cultural adjustments? (There are a variety of ways to acquire readiness in this area as well.)

Research readiness:

  • Has the candidate carefully looked at and prayed through options for locations and spheres of ministry and become adequately educated about those locations and spheres?
  • Has the candidate carefully looked through possible missions organizations with which to serve?

Marital / family readiness:

  • Does the candidate show evidence of a healthy marriage (if married)?
  • Does the candidate show evidence of being at a place of peace in his or her present calling (if single)?
  • Does the family (if children are involved) seem to be both spiritually and physically healthy enough for living under the stresses of a cross-cultural environment?
  • Does the candidate have family responsibilities in the USA that will hinder his or her ministry overseas?

Ministry readiness:

  • Has the candidate shown faithfulness and effectiveness in ministry in the local church?
  • Has the candidate pursued opportunities to serve in cross-cultural environments in order to grow in this area (examples: short-term mission trips, tutoring in English to immigrants, urban ministry)?
  • Does the candidate share his or her faith with unbelievers?
  • Are there other ministry experiences that have helped prepare the candidate for overseas service?

Church connectedness readiness:

  • Is the candidate adequately connected to the worship, fellowship, and ministries of the church so that there are enough people in the church to pray for this person while overseas?

Stewardship readiness:

  • Is the candidate debt-free (or on a clear trajectory to being debt-free)?
  • In general, is the candidate’s financial house in order? That is, does he or she live within a budget, demonstrate regular habits of generous giving, reveal modest spending habits, and otherwise exhibit prudence in this area of life?

Christian character readiness: Does the candidate exhibit the characteristics expected of overseers in 1 Timothy 3?

  • Above reproach
  • Husband of one wife (or vice versa)
  • Temperate
  • Self-controlled
  • Respectable
  • Hospitable
  • Able to teach
  • Not given to drunkenness
  • Not violent, but gentle
  • Not quarrelsome
  • Not a lover of money
  • Manages his own family well
  • Sees that his children obey him with proper respect
  • Not a recent convert
  • Having a good reputation with outsiders

Are there any areas of "readiness" that you think should be on this list that are not?


  • David Viel Feb. 15, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    So, how do we get the people in our churches to use this when sending people out into the field on missions trips? I see time and again that we are sending people complete unprepared out into the missions field, who meet very little of these areas of readiness.

    While I think this list is a great start, the average churchgoer will need to learn how to get their leadership to actually use a great tool like this.

  • Ken Berding Feb. 15, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    David, thanks for your comment! My wife and I lead up a little group of college students and young adults who are praying about the possibility of long-term service overseas. We meet for lunch once a month, bring in someone with overseas experience to speak to us, and share with one another where we are on the journey toward getting overseas. In this context we are able to introduce issues like the "readiness" list into the discussion.

    In a smaller church context this would probably be done best in a regular mentoring situation between someone with overseas experience and someone praying about long-term service overseas.

    I hope this was helpful!

  • JW Feb. 15, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    This is great! Superb! I serve in a cross cultural context and I cannot say enough how wonderful this list is. I want to stress that it is so important that the candidate not only makes a tick on sharing their faith but do so regularly and are excellent at it. The one important item that is not on the list or I might have missed it from your list is learning a foreign language. Often, workers make the mistake of not investing the 1st few years of utmost discipline in learning the heart language. By the 3rd and 4th year, they find themselves not being able to articulate their faith and were no better when they first arrived in the field. These two items are so important to make a mark for ourselves in missionary career. Many who ignore these two items end up merely growing old with their friends in the field but not having done anything at all.

  • Ken Berding Feb. 20, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    JW, thanks for your comment about language learning. I couldn't agree more! My wife and I lived only seven years overseas, but the two years of full-time study of the heart language of those we were serving was so very worth it! Thanks for your comment.

  • M Feb. 23, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    This is an excellent post and truly God send! Having just returned from a visit in mission field in a Muslim country I was in dialog with myself whether I would have qualities suitable for missions work.

    I received both exhortation and encouragement from this list. Perhaps I could someday function as a cross cultural ministry in foreign setting if the Lord so leads me.

  • Ken Berding Feb. 23, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    M, thank you for your note! I'm so glad to hear that you are pursuing overseas service! Think of the items in this list not as qualities that need to be perfected before going overseas, but rather as areas to be growing in. This is especially true since you will need to keep growing in these areas after you have arrived on the field. May God give you much encouragement as you keep moving forward...

  • Fagbemi samuel Aug. 11, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    How can someone get a missionary organisations to serve with?

  • Tiffany Williams Nov. 15, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    I would ♥ to be A Missionary. It seems spreading the Gospel seems
    Like the best way to serve the Lord. I ♥ Jesus so much and I would enjoy speaking the word.

  • Spirtuality Dec. 29, 2013 at 3:40 AM

    I feel mission work should have nothing to do with the church but it should be biased off whether you are spiritual fit or not. Also the love the person should have humanity is what should really count. Its about love, humility, and getting out of ones self to what is new to help the less fortunate. To be a humanist. Not well connected with church. That's seems corrupt. Loss of religious roots is where America is at, which is a contributing factor to the down fall of Rome. Spirituality, prayer, meditation, worship >>>> over organized religion. Putting a name caused World War II and the Middle East conflict in the Sinai peninsula. God is amazing and i pray everyday asking for help and going to be saying thanks and I read the bible, but I believe more of what the stories teach then what really happen. God truly blessed me with a second life an this is just by me developing dialogue, giving back, and trusting god with my life and turning my will over and doing his will. God is great and so are humans it's just ourselves that stop is from seeing the beauty in helping other human beings to love a fellow man.

  • Andy Jul. 1, 2014 at 2:08 PM

    Great to see all of the points here, but I often wonder...
    Do we put TOO MUCH emphasis on training and 'readiness' so that those who feel 'called' are discouraged to GO?

    Call me naive, but doesn't the bible command us to "GO"? It doesn't say GO - once you are qualified by a certain organization, or GO - once you have figured out a strategy, or GO - after you have gathered all of the correct data to effectively reach a certain people group.

    Have we somehow lost the spark to follow Jesus' command to GO because it seems to tough a task? Because religious organizations and missions sending organizations have a strategic plan that has to be followed by the letter before one can be "considered for service"? Apologetics is great and correct doctrine is wonderful, but at what cost? Have denominations and organizations taken the responsibility out of the layperson's hands, making them feel inadequate to disciple? Personally I think so.

    I believe that it is not as much saying the correct things that persuade others to follow as it is being willing to be led by the spirit and allowing Him to work in and through our lives.

    We (as American Christians as a whole) have subconsciously given our commanded task to GO to the "qualified". We have given into the lie that we don't know enough or cannot possibly take part in reaping the harvest of souls because we have not been "Trained".

    Why can't we GO when we feel the spirit leading and leave the rest up to HIM?

  • Keith Feb. 12, 2015 at 8:03 PM

    Andy, The Bible references you referred to do not command us to "go". GO is not the imperative, "preach the gospel" is. And "make disciples" is... The GO is simply the way to do that. In order to make disciples and preach the Gospel we do need some preparation. As a missionary I understand the need for preparedness. It is far more challenging than one can imagine and even the training and preparation above does not fully prepare one for the field.

    Thank you for this post... Very helpful.

  • Suraj Hang Limbu Nov. 26, 2015 at 10:39 PM

    I'm finding some good missionary supporter in Assam to work on Gospel spread to all places.

  • Festus olarinde May. 31, 2016 at 7:16 AM

    Good day sir, i wish to enroll for the admission to be a missionary member and i want you to assist me sir,thanks sir

  • Anella Monacell Oct. 29, 2016 at 10:37 AM

    If the Lord is calling, would he give us this checklist?j what a discouraging disgrace.

Post a comment

Your email will not be published as part of your comment.

Talbot School of Theology welcomes dialogue on The Good Book Blog. However, Talbot reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to screen and remove any comments that are deemed inappropriate. This includes, but is not limited to: content that contains commercial solicitations; is factually erroneous/libelous; or is off-topic. We request that comments remain civil, respectful and polite. Thank you in advance for your role in helping establish a safe and exemplary online community that respects and encourages others.

Subscribe (RSS)

Biola University
13800 Biola Ave. La Mirada, CA 90639
© Biola University, Inc. All Rights Reserved.