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How to Become a Missionary

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Let Your Faith and Service Impact the World

If faith is central to your life and you enjoy serving others, a vocation as a missionary could add great meaning and enjoyment to your life. Missionaries serve domestically and abroad, doing everything from construction to leading congregations and everything in between. They have a heart to meet others' needs and often travel with their families, which can be a fun way to allow your children to see the world. If you are married, you might serve as a missionary team with your spouse, which would allow you to spend a lot of time together and enjoy working together to meet the needs of the people you are serving.

Job Description

Missionaries serve in a variety of settings to meet the needs of people and communities while they share their faith. They are responsible for knowing community needs, planning programs and following through on addressing needs. In addition, they are motivated by faith and share their faith with people throughout their day-to-day service.

Job responsibilities vary greatly depending on setting.

Those building houses in Appalachia might need to be able to lift building materials, coordinate workers and use heavy-duty power tools, all while sharing their faith, praying with others and mentoring people new to the faith.

Those serving in safe homes might need trauma-informed counseling skills.

Those leading churches are ordained clergy, and orphanage nurses hold a current nursing license. Missionaries serving abroad usually need to be fluent in several languages, while teachers need to hold a current teaching certificate.

In all missionary jobs, there is great concern for connecting with people and caring for them, so excellent people skills, communication skills, conflict resolution skills and plenty of compassion are a huge asset. Missions can be long-term or short-term, and in every case, teamwork skills are necessary, as well as an appreciation for other cultures and ways of life.

Education Requirements

Education requirements vary greatly depending on length of missions, placement and affiliation. Youth often attend short-term mission trips for a few days or weeks and are not required to meet educational requirements, but they might attend a church-sponsored class to help them prepare. Long-term missionaries are normally required to have at least a high school diploma or the equivalent, as well as attend denomination- or agency-based training for days, months or years before beginning an assignment. Those serving as professional missionaries in education, medicine or mental health care are required to meet the educational requirements for their field, including licensing or certification, as well as complete standard missionary training.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines missionaries as "Religious Workers, All Other," and the median salary is $33,530, which means that half of missionaries earn more than this, while the other half earn less. The top 10 percent earn more than $58,970, while the bottom 10 percent earn less than $18,470.

About the Industry

Missionaries work independently or affiliated with a particular church denomination or missionary agency. They serve in diverse settings such as schools, hospitals, churches, orphanages, mental health clinics, community outreach centers, retreat centers, camps and construction sites. Missionaries who serve domestically sometimes find it easier to be married to someone in another profession or to send their children to public schools. Missionaries who serve abroad often travel with their families or spend long periods apart. Independent missionaries must raise their own funding, while those affiliated with agencies or denominations are funded through their organization. Most mainline church denominations provide the missionary a salary and provide free housing, medical expenses and other necessities.

Years of Experience

The number of years of experience has less of an impact on missionary salary than length of the mission and denominational affiliation. Short-term missionaries are generally unpaid and are responsible for private fundraising to cover the cost of their mission trip and travel expenses. Youth missionaries on longer assignments might need to raise their own funding, or their work could be funded by the church, with or without a living stipend.

Long-term missionaries affiliated with a church denomination generally earn the higher salaries with the least amount of concern for living expenses. Mainline denominations budget anywhere from $60,000 to over $100,000 per missionary for salary, housing and other missionary expenses. Most missionaries only have control over their actual salary, while the church controls their benefits and housing allowance. Long-term independent missionaries rely on fundraising through speaking at churches and gaining church support to cover their monthly living, housing and ministry expenses. Many use newsletters, email and personal cards to keep their supporters updated and feeling loyal to the cause.

Job Growth Trend

Demand for missionaries is greatest in economically depressed areas, where there is great need for medical care, education, mental health services, childcare, construction, job creation and other human services. Growing denominations like the Church of God in Christ and African Methodist Episcopal church are likely to support more missionary work as new congregants offer financial support. Other denominations, like the United Methodist Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, place high priority on mission work and are likely to support missionaries, even when overall membership is declining. Independent missionaries create their own opportunities, so their likelihood for success is based on their ability to communicate a compelling mission from the heart that moves churches and individuals to become loyal supporters.