The Mission Model
As an initiative of Evangelical Alliance Wales, Missional Links Wales (MLW) serves as liaison (‘match maker’) between Welsh churches/networks and overseas (especially American) Churches, to nurture collaborative partnerships and new ministry initiatives with long term intent, across each county and across the nation of Wales. These partnerships will focus on strategically catalysing, empowering and equipping Christians and churches. Our goal is to play a part in a nationwide ‘missional movement’ in Wales.
In order for a church to be involved in this, they must commit to the following:
1. Legal relationships
UK Home office legislation over the last 5 years has seen some radical changes. Essentially, the non visa (‘I’m coming on holiday/vacation’) mission trip is over. Visitors from outside the EU attempting to be involved in activities alongside churches like schools and community work, are now seen as ‘volunteers’ and need a ‘Certificate of Sponsorship’ from a legal Sponsoring Agency. MLW believes that it isn’t the worst thing that could happen at all. In fact, this opens the door for long term relationships where overseas churches only become involved if they are truly interested in pursuing the correct visa and investing time, people and resources into Wales for the long haul. In addition, the only Welsh churches that become involved are those who are willing to take legal responsibility for their overseas volunteers by either becoming a Sponsoring Agency (as a core church) or agreeing to the legal process (as a support church).
For up to date and accurate information on becoming a Sponsoring Agency please visit: www.gov.uk
2. The Core church - support church concept
In Wales, MLW works with ‘core’ churches and ‘support’ churches in each county. The core church becomes a Sponsoring Agency with the UK Home Office. They will then be able to issue Certificates of Sponsorship to each overseas volunteer and invite them into Wales legally.
Support churches, spread strategically across a county, support a core church so that the whole county can be impacted.
Overseas (especially in America), MLW also works with ‘core’ churches and ‘support’ churches. The core church is the main partner and works closely with the Welsh core church and its supporting churches. Support churches can be recruited in order to fulfil the county wide vision. Each American volunteer must get the appropriate visa which matches the Certificate of Sponsorship issued by the Welsh core church. This proves legality.
3. Long term, gracious relationships
Home Office legislation is not the only reason for long term relationships. MLW believes that Welsh – Overseas (especially American) collaborations involving multiple churches from 2 nations, an international flavour, new relationships between Christians and added excitement and confidence to reach a community, must be nurtured long term to have the sustained, lasting and transforming impact that we are all looking for. Using many years of experience, MLW carefully matches gracious, cutting edge, missional, churches to work together. However, in order for imaginative, creative relationships to develop long term, the Welsh and overseas churches must commit to working through problems and issues for the sake of the gospel.
4. Multi access
An annual one week summer mission event in Wales is a great start for exploring a long term relationships on both sides of a partnership. These excellent events allow overseas churches and Christians to taste mission, maybe for the first time and build relationships with local Christians and people in a local community. They allow the Welsh churches to practice working together as they come together to brainstorm, plan, and deliver a mission week with their overseas partner and they encourage local Christians to join in with overseas Christians to reach their county.
Multi access is the end goal however. MLW want to see overseas (especially American) churches also sending their people for a summer or 3, 6 or even 12 months (maybe 24 months!). This is now possible with Sponsoring Agency status. We want to see Interns (see links) between 18 – 25 years, join our unbroken, 17 year Internship. We want to see singles (or couples) between 30 – 65 join us to grow and start missional communities (churches) in their chosen counties. We want to see overseas (especially American) educators spending sabbatical time in Wales, business people starting and helping businesses. Only imagination limits the possibilities of partnership now that legal ‘volunteer’ status has been achieved.
5. Multi ministry
No two partnerships have to look the same. Partnerships are made up of people from two nations, each with gifts and abilities. MLW wants to see the partnerships built around what the Welsh churches sense is needed in their county and the gifts and abilities of the overseas churches. Current partnerships include schools work, children and youth ministry, general community service, sports ministry, work in hospitals, retirement homes, a broad spectrum of music ministry, drama and other creative arts ministries. Once again, only imagination limits the possibilities and types of ministry.
6. Across each county
MLW envisions that as the partnership develops, the Welsh and overseas partners will attempt to reach across and influence the whole county that they are working in. Strategic geographical planning will be required to gather enough people, financial and skill resources to achieve this. This may need an increasing number of support churches to support the core churches from both nations.
7. Across the nation
MLW believes that a nation wide missional movement across the whole of Wales is possible if partners can strategically reach and influence their whole county. Already, the number of partnerships, and their influence in each county, is growing (see current working groups). May God’s Kingdom come in Wales!
This Partnership in a nutshell
In the light of Rob’s experience in both US and Welsh missional contexts, he has been approached by several US churches (in particular First West Baptist, West Monroe, Louisiana) who have a shared vision for Wales and in partnering in the gospel. He has been asked to begin to outline the task and introduce some potential strategy.
First and foremost, this task is God’s task – God’s Kingdom coming, in Wales, as it is in heaven! To transform a declining Church into a thriving Church where evangelism, discipleship and multiplying leadership is on the mind and heart of the local churches in every community across the nation. This will require a systemic, progressive approach and Holy Spirit leading.
This partnership is intended to be about strategically catalysing, empowering, and playing a part in, a nationwide ‘missional movement’ in Wales. We all realise that this cannot be achieved simply by sending mission-minded Christians from passionate missional churches in the US to work with Welsh churches for various periods in a year, without a wider vision and a coordinated strategy. We also realise that the goal is unlikely to be achieved by gathering passionate Christian churches, organisations and networks based in Wales, to reach the nation on their own. The state of the church in Wales, as summarised above, is on a very low ebb and humanly speaking, things could be getting worse, without God’s grace.
However, with God’s Spirit as our Encourager, our Inspirer and our Strategic Guide, we believe that a thriving, coordinated partnership between Welsh churches and American churches, bringing together strategic missional organisations and vibrant networks, can be used by God in our generation, to form a strategy to help transform the country of Wales. When Christians love, live and speak of Jesus wherever they go as ‘salt and light’ in the dark places of society, people can come to faith in Jesus, existing churches can be strengthened and new missional communities formed.
With this ‘big picture’ in mind let us boldly attempt something impossible for us but very possible for God.