We were struck by the piece written by Elliot D. Stephens in the current issue of EMQ. (EMQ is a Missio Nexus publication. You’ll need a Missio Nexus log-on to read the article at the link below. But your org or church might already have one. If you don’t, this one article might be worth the price of admission.)
Entitled, “Retention and Onboarding: Are We Ready to Ask the Hard Questions,” Stephens quotes from the ReMAP 1 retention study — with “47% of career missionaries leaving by year five, with 71% leaving over preventable character issues.” Then he leads us to ReMAP 2, which concluded that, “low retention agencies were still witnessing higher attrition over preventable reasons.” The author then explains his Ph.D. dissertation study for his own agency to compare notes with ReMAP. He found that his org had a median length of service of 5 years, then quoted from Patrick Johnstone, author of Operation World. Johnstone had written that “most church planters are more effective starting in year eight.” Whoa. That was sobering. In Stephens’s case, he found that 70% of his org’s workers resigned and exited before reaching the 8th year. Stephens then quoted research by one research group that “it costs $500,000 to mobilize, select, train, send, and keep a worker on the field for four years of service.” Of course, reducing stewardship of lives to a financial figure, though sobering, is actually more costly when we look at human and spiritual factors. The bottom line: We can’t afford NOT to retain workers as long as possible.
In this day and age though… how do we DO that? Stephens spends the last half of his article exploring options, beginning with proper onboarding and pre-field training. He then looks at training once the worker is fielded. Elliot, if you’re out there somewhere reading Brigada, my hope is that you’ll develop this research into a book. Once the book is released, please tell us about it and we’ll promote it here in Brigada — because we (the Kingdom) need this. Our organizations and local churches need this. We — humanity — need this.
What are your thoughts about retention? What has your church or org learned about how to do it — to the 12-year mark, for example? What are the “best practices” — and then let’s make up our minds to DO them. Please click “Comment” following the web version of this item. And please, get the article. : ) And thank you Elliott.