Missions Communicators and Building a Staff Care Culture
By Heather Pubols
In March of 2010 I sent a writer and photographer to Mozambique to gather stories about what God was doing there. They spent hours over several days interviewing and photographing people and observing their life and work. After the trip, an interviewee described the visit as “better than therapy.”
A couple of years later, I and another colleague traveled to a remote city in the Democratic Republic of Congo to gather more stories. Over two intense days, we heard amazing testimonies about God’s work there. But in between our interviews, several people told us, “Your visit has reminded us that God has not forgotten us.”
For more than 20 years, I have served missions in communications. Over that time, I discovered that the job of a missions communicator is more than just getting stories of missions out or making materials to promote a mission organization’s vision and programs. An essential part of our work also fits into WEA Global Member Care Network Coordinator Harry Hoffman’s category of “people helpers” – a group Harry explains is an untapped ocean of resources to care for staff in the missions community.
Missions communicators bring three essential skills as people helpers:
Asking and listening – We’ve been trained to ask open ended questions as we search for the hidden stories that don’t rise to the surface immediately. Included with this skill is listening and attunement. I tell fellow communicators to view interviews as sacred times, and that when we do well, we and our interview subjects are transported into liminal spaces where we deeply encounter God.
Spotlighting – I always took it as an indicator of success when an interviewee asked, “Why do you want to tell a story about this (or me or us)?” I knew that the most powerful stories put the spotlight on humble obedience, struggle, and authentic people. When communicators tell these stories well, we honor our colleagues and the communities they serve.
Sharing – The stories communicators gather are created to share. When we receive data for stories as a precious gift that we then package to share with others, God is glorified and he stirs hearts as we remember who he is and what he does. People, including some we may never meet, engage with these true stories and experience a deeper connection to God.
Missions communicators need to be encouraged in these gifts that they quietly offer to their missions colleagues. But there’s an even greater lesson here that we should not miss. Missions organizations that foster relationally healthy cultures can see all of their staff, including their communicators, participating as people helpers who offer one another peer support and mentoring in their areas of strength.
In his book Renovated: God, Dallas Willard and the Church that Transforms, Jim Wilder decries the neglect of relational skills development in Christian organizations. Instead, he says, as we collectively strive to accomplish the vision, staff tire, disconnect, and become spiritually dead. However, Wilder goes on to explain that when our organizations first cultivate healthy relational cultures, vision is implemented in a better way. People stop “burning out for Jesus,” mature spiritually, and exhibit greater trust in God. Staff care in this model becomes a critical organizational strategy for sustainability, and everyone is invited to play a part in it.
May we each be a part of building healthy relational cultures in the organizations we serve!