Have you ever wondered why missionaries even bother to carry around and set up their displays in church after church? Don’t they spend a lot of time and money on all those enlarged photographs, souvenirs, books, and materials? Well, yes, they do spend a lot of time and money on them. But these things, though not the most important part of a missionary’s report, serve several purposes. Let me list some of them for you.
- To draw attention to the missionary’s vision and ministry
- To allow the missionary some one-on-one time with specific individuals
- To inform people about the country and people to whom the missionary is sent
- To enlighten folks concerning the great spiritual needs on the mission field
- To challenge people personally about considering missions themselves
Missionary displays need to be set up in a very accessible and visible location.
Missionaries seek to inform those in attendance of their own particular vision and ministry. It is vital to the missionary to have as much contact as possible with everyone in the church in order to build relationships and gain more, interested prayer support. Location may not be everything, but it is still extremely vital in regards to the missionary booths. Many people come and go during your conference. How many will pass by the missionary booths, look, and even stop and chat with the missionaries? If the booths are not in a key location then the number of those who frequent the booths drops drastically. This will produce less contact, less fellowship, fewer relationships, less burden, and less prayer.
The best places for missionary booths are the auditorium in which the services are held and in the foyer just outside the auditorium. These are places of high traffic and profile. Missionaries get maximum exposure in these places. That is good not only for the missionaries but also for the pastor and church that want their people to learn more about the foreign fields, get burdened more for lost souls overseas, and for the members to give more and pray more for the missionaries involved. The places that are not recommended are those that lack traffic and thus exposure. If people have to relocate to another building in order to fellowship with the missionaries, then be assured that the larger percentage of your folks will miss the booths. Even a short walk to a Sunday School classroom is often passed up in favor of fellowshipping with those in the auditorium or for going home.
Unfortunately, I have been in conferences where there was hardly any traffic at all, and the missionaries stood around and swapped stories while the church members were fellowshipping in the auditorium or going home. That fellowship among missionaries is a lot of fun, but it is not the purpose of the booths, nor a main goal of the conference. Missionaries can fellowship at other times when the church folks are not around.
It may be necessary, in order to make room for the booths in a prime, accessible area, to move church furniture to other locations during the conference. Tables, chairs, pews, and maybe even instruments may need to be shifted or moved. It takes some work but is well worth it in the long run.
Rooms immediately off the auditorium are to be favored over those some distance away.
Some churches do not have the luxury of a lot of empty space in and around their auditoriums. This is regrettable, though understandable. So what can they do to get people over to a remote place to mix with the missionaries?
- Make refreshments available near the booths. This is specifically effective after the evening services.
- Make out a special bulletin insert with a list of questions to be answered by the church people.
Each missionary should make a list of five questions that can be asked and for which they have the answers on the display table. The pastor then uses these questions to make his accumulative list of questions for the bulletin insert. From the pulpit the pastor encourages all to go by at some time during the conference to get their list of questions answered by the missionaries. Some of the answers may be obvious by just a glance at the booth while other answers can only be found by talking personally with the missionary or his family. You may want to give some type of recognition or prize to all those who had all their questions answered, correctly, or even incorrectly. Participation is important. This means more exposure, more fellowship, more interest, more prayer, and sometimes, more laborers.
The missionary booths should not be hard to find. If you do have to put the displays in some remote area, you will want to place signs with arrows on the walls to direct people to the display area.
Speaking of visibility, the lighting over and around the displays should be bright. Don’t place your missionaries in a room that is dim and dreary. That tends to keep people away. Give your missionaries and their display booths maximum exposure by choosing a place of easy accessibility and high visibility.
Missionary booths need to be placed in a secure location. Some missionaries have some very nice things on their tables which they don’t want stolen. Others have things that may be easily broken by children who lack supervision. Visibility is again an important issue here since it adds to the security of the items on display. A high traffic pattern around the display area tends to ward off those who might be careless or selfish.
Missionary booths need to be placed in a convenient, “permanent” location. Sometimes it is very inconvenient to place the display booths in class rooms because the rooms are used for school class rooms or for Sunday School classes. Displays should not have to be moved in preparation for Sunday activities. Surely we want all the children to see the booths on Sunday as well. Many of them did not come to the week-night services and missed seeing the interesting items and missed talking to the missionaries. In conclusion, let me say that missionaries are usually very flexible and do not tend to complain or criticize. Missionaries at your conference are happy to have a part and willing to do whatever it takes to make the conference successful. Thus, it is hard to find a missionary who will offer anything that might seem to sound negative.
Missionaries realize that not every church building is ideal for the set up of displays in a missions conference. However, these suggestions come with love and grace and a desire to make the conference a profitable time for all. Missionaries, though in one sense are thinking about their own ministry, are, in another sense, wanting to help you get your people more involved in missions. The displays are geared towards informing, enlightening, and motivating your people to be more involved in the Great Commission.