How to Communicate Effectively With Workers Living Overseas

How to Communicate with Missionaries

Learning how to communicate effectively with people who live and work overseas is a complicated thing. For you and for them.

Numerous email accounts. Social Media accounts. Newsletters. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

That is a major part of what is required from overseas workers.

With the insertion of technology on the missions front, the fishbowl has changed, deepened and developed into a pretty big deal.

It is a massive job of how to communicate effectively the information, details, requests and needs involved in their day-to-day lives.

The challenges of being in missions and also remaining active on social media platforms.

Staying faithful to writing the next newsletter even when we don’t know what to write. Sharing when we can’t take pictures or tell the full story over the computer screen.

{You can read more about how they need to communicate here.}

The speed at which information is shared, the expectations on both sides of the ocean and the nitty-gritty details of finding a good balance in it all is an overwhelming task.

Do you know how to best communicate with missionaries?

For most overseas workers, they have ways you can connect with them in a broad spectrum across the web. They feel pressure to update a website with newsy, interesting blog posts. They feel the pressure to express the needs they see around them in a secret facebook group. They must have a wowing instagram feed, a top notch newsletter, a growing email list and solid communication with supporters of all ages, places and requirements.

It is no joke, this thing of communication in missions.

How to communicate Effectively

Communicating with supporters is a huge conversation among missionaries… among your overseas workers.

We WANT desperately to include you, share with you, bring you into the story, help you connect and make sure you know what a valuable partnership happens each day between you and what happens on the field.

Whether your overseas worker is good at the above mentioned things, they still desire to communicate with you.

Maybe they’ve been hurt. Maybe they aren’t a good writer. Maybe they feel judged or misunderstood. Maybe they are in a place that won’t allow them to openly share. Maybe they are doing some of these things and you don’t know how to find it online.

Lots of maybes.

How to Communicate Effectively With Workers Living Overseas

So how do you find out? How do you communicate with your overseas workers? How do you stay involved in the lives of those you support in missions?

I’m sharing a few tips here today. Not because all of these things have happened to us. More because I hear these things chatted about between missionaries and I wonder if you know?

Do you know how to communicate effectively with someone working overseas?

Here’s how to communicate effectively

1} Ask. really. Send them an email and ask how you can stay updated with what they are doing overseas. Find out where they share things online, how you can follow, read, engage and pray. Ask what the best way to communicate with them would be depending on their circumstance, country and ability.

2} Only ask once. After you get that email explaining the best ways to communicate with them, save that email. If you are curious about what is going on in their lives, check out their blog or their social media or check their latest newsletter. If every supporter or church emailed their workers multiple times asking the same questions over and over… think about the workload that adds to their lives? Then, if every church or supporter asks again and again… yeah. a lot.

3} Make sure you get newsletters. Open them. Click on the info they provide. Again, a newsletter gives your overseas worker a way to write out the needs, stories, requests and facts in one place. A newsletter allows them to communicate with all their supporters at one time so they don’t have the massive workload of communicating with each one individually.

Newsletter tips? Check this out.

4} Comment, Reply, Engage, Share. Now, after the information has been shared with you… engage! Send them a note saying you are praying. Let them know you are sharing their prayer needs with your small group. Encourage them with a verse or an ecard. Forward their newsletter to someone who might be interested in learning about their ministry. In the above 2 things, I’m not saying that you can’t email or communicate directly with your missionary. YOU CAN! But try not to ask for things that they are already doing or sharing or writing. Be diligent to stay up-to-date with what they are doing and then communicate with them accordingly through commenting on facebook or replying to their newsletter. Remembering this as you learn how to communicate effectively with workers overseas is a great blessing to them.

5} Don’t compare or judge. Sending an email that says, “Well, I saw this missionary over in some other country doing it this way or ministering that way…” is not helpful. Telling them what they are doing wrong or ways you think they could do it better is hard to receive via email or facebook message. Adding in your experience and advice from a 2 week trip to their country can be challenging to swallow. Jumping to conclusions when you see them out having fun or taking their kids on vacation… that is such a touchy discussion. And a comment online such as, “I wish I had time and money to go on vacation like that…” is devastating to a missionary family. But most overseas workers want to hear your thoughts and concerns… so, wait for a face-to-face time to share with them in a loving, prayerful way. The internet isn’t really the best place for that.

How to Communicate Effectively With Workers Living Overseas

6} What is your online voice? Sending an email to your worker overseas using all capitol letters to ask for their most recent prayer request sounds like you are shouting through your computer at them. Sending email after email asking for updates or stories without ever really getting to know what is happening in their lives through the ways they are already communicating is difficult. Remember, talking online is very different from how we share in person. If you are the person who communicates with a great number of workers either through your church or organization, ask someone to read through your communication and learn your online voice. If you are a pastor, make sure who you are choosing to communicate with your missionaries knows how to do it in a way that you would want them to. Make sure they have a pleasant, helpful online voice. This is so helpful in learning how to communicate effectively.

7} Requirements. This is tough. You should, as a supporting partner in their ministry overseas, be able to ask hard questions, request videos, and so on. Most missionaries are happy to help and want that kind of relationship with you. But, as in all things, remember their side of the story and the circumstances they face. Asking for a quick video clip by Sunday is a major deal. They might have very expensive internet and uploading even a short 30 second clip is costly. Their internet might be crazy slow and to upload pictures or video means staying up all night moving the mouse back and forth to make sure the computer keeps working and the internet doesn’t mess up mid-upload 10 hours into this project. They might be very busy and finding time to get dressed up, film a video, organize, edit, upload and send is time consuming. That questionnaire that you need filled out by your Tuesday meeting? Well, that questionnaire is a good chunk of time for your overseas worker. If you have requirements, that is totally ok. And often necessary! But give them time. Give them plenty of time. Give them grace. And don’t require too much, too often. Again, if all supporters have these requirements, even 4 videos a month and 2 questionnaires… added to the piles of paperwork to live and work overseas… added to the ways they are already trying to communicate through newsletters and social media… that is a LOT of time out of their days.

That is a big one for learning how to communicate effectively with your workers overseas!!

8} Unfollow, Unsubscribe, Ignore. All overseas workers have experienced this. When the why of an unfollow is left up to their imagination, hurt generally happens. A few tips and truths from this side. It is ok if you do not want to receive further communication or if you need to unsubscribe an email from their newsletter or if you can’t support them any longer for some reason. But don’t leave them hanging and wondering. Call them. Message them. Email them. Let them know that you lost your job and can’t continue financial support. Let them know that your email is full and you are trying to downsize the amount of info flowing to your inbox. Missionaries understand this!! Don’t let them assume whatever their mind comes up with as to why you needed to unfollow them or unsubscribe from their newsletter. Backing out of communication is ok… but have a conversation first about why. Overseas workers value greatly your relationship and if they have done something to offend or hurt you, please let them know. But in doing so, remember #6 on this list.

*extra tidbit here: Just hitting “spam” or “hide” on an email might help you out and clear up your inbox. But it actually hurts your overseas workers’ efforts to reach their support base effectively. Email services and companies react negatively when an email is marked as spam. The internet is smart, people. And, if it thinks a newsletter is spam, it will keep people from seeing it and automatically send it to spam for other people too. So, unsubscribing with a quick note to say goodbye is way better than just marking their communication with you as spam.

How to Communicate Effectively With Workers Living Overseas

9} Take their needs seriously. Are they in a country that is dangerous or closed or difficult? Are there political tensions, religious challenges, reasons for your overseas worker to remain under the radar? Respect that. In learning how to communicate effectively with them, do NOT share their name or info on facebook. Do not share a news article on their page. Do not post a picture of them on your missions wall. Do not tag them in your prayer card book. Their request to remain free from the “M” word is very, very serious. Respect it. You can talk to them online about everything under the sun… except that. Be involved in their lives, pray for what you see but never jeopardize their online presence. {And, please… don’t be offended if they have to email you and ask you to untag them or take down a picture. It is just the way it is. Zero hard feelings.}

10} Package or no package? This gets tricky. Most missionaries LOVE getting packages. Read this if you want to send one. But, do not underestimate the power of a card or simple letter. Most of the time, a letter will get through when a package won’t and it means the world to someone overseas to get an encouraging note, birthday card or letter to say they are being thought of and prayed for. We have a church that sends us a physical card for every birthday and anniversary. They have not missed a single one since we left in 2014… even with us changing countries 1 year into this term. Packages are a blessing in ways they don’t know… or maybe they do if they are reading! #wyominglove We also have some supporters who send ecards and that is a wonderful ministry as well. Thank you #buggingyouteam!

11} Trust and Pray. You might not always be able to communicate directly with a family overseas. So trust that they are doing the job that God has called them to do. Trust their hearts to share with you when they can. Pray for them even when you don’t know how to pray or what their current needs are. Many things are going to be the same for all workers overseas. Health, marriage, family, protection, travel safety, peace, encouragement… but there are other ways to pray too. Read this. This is a powerful way to support and communicate with your workers overseas. Often, your prayer and your trust of them communicates very powerful things.

Overall, communicating with your overseas workers is an area that might take some extra thought and prayer. But it is worth it. The Great Commission depends on us all working together towards a common goal across the world. From home and abroad, communication must take place in healthy, beneficial ways to all involved.

After all, there are many, many things your overseas families want you to know!

I also want to say that for the overseas workers that are reading this, go through and read it again. Read it and point the finger back at yourself. How can YOU do these things better? How can you increase your engagement, share more fully, grow your online voice and communicate successfully? Most everything I’ve listed can be directed back at us and how WE choose to communicate with our support base. The job is not just on them. Be diligent, faithful and helpful.

By clicking through the links in orange in this post, you’ll find more helpful information about communicating and getting to know your overseas workers in better ways.

Please share this and help spread the word about communication in missions. It is not an easy topic and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

What is a way that you have learned how to communicate effectively with missionaries? What have you noticed works well and what doesn’t? How can your missionaries communicate in stronger, better ways with their support bases?

How can we continue this conversation of how to communicate effectively?







    1. If you open a recent newsletter that you’ve sent, you can click “past newsletters” in the top left corner of the page! I hope that helps!

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