Furlough is an important time in a missionary’s life. It can be viewed as an annoying hiccup in ministry and therefore ignored, but furlough can be a great thing for the missionary, their family, and their ministry. Allow me to give a few of the “preparations” needed to make furlough a good time instead of a dreaded time.
If you don’t have one Stateside, you can rent one through a missionary service such as Righteous Rides or Baptist Missionary Transportation Ministry (BMTM). You can buy one and have family keep it while you’re gone so that you can use it on your next furlough or you can purchase a cheap one that you can turn around and sell when you leave.
You can go online to search and rent one before you ever arrive back to the US. Your home church may have a mission’s house or another church in the area may have a mission’s house that you could use.
Cautions to consider:
- It’s good to see family, but it is best to live in a place where you can be around people that will help, teach, challenge and prepare you for the next level of ministry.
- It’s best not to stay at family or friend’s houses unless you have your own entrance, kitchen, and bathroom. You need your privacy. Sharing a kitchen or bathroom is ok for few days or a week, but afterward, it is very likely to cause problems.
3. Raise Support.
It is best to call 3–4 months before you leave the field to begin filling your calendar. If you do not need to raise support, don’t worry about visiting new churches, but if you need more support, it is best to book meetings and get your calendar full. If you wait to call until you arrive back Stateside, you will likely not get any meetings booked right away. Most pastors book a minimum of 3–4 months out.
If you are raising money for land, buildings, or a project, it may be better to visit already-supporting churches. If you are trying to raise your support, it is best to book new churches.
4. Growth While on Furlough.
Marriage – go to a marriage retreat and read a minimum of one marriage book.
Ministry – read books, go see other missionaries and people who can help you. Set up times to meet one on one with your mentor and experienced people who can help you.
Family – plan some getaway times and fun things for everyone to do together.
5. Your Children.
If possible, you can put your children in a school. If you are going to homeschool, get the curriculum needed and everything prepared for their education while on furlough.
Allow your kids to get involved in the children’s program or youth program at the church you will be based from. Maybe look for some sports programs or activities that your kids can be involved in as to enjoy their time in the US and take advantage of things that they will not be able to do or learn on the field.
6. Start Preparing Ministry (leaders and church)
Six months before your departure, you should map out your exit by writing down how many Sundays and midweek services you have before you leave. Make a plan so that the national leadership is 100% taken over everything before you ever leave the field.
Furlough is a very good and needed thing for your ministry. Missionaries typically do not like it for fear of the ministry falling apart, but this is a very needed test and lesson for the ministry on the field. Preparing the people and churches for your departure will help the transition (your leaving) go smoothly. Plan times that you will be late to church so that they will learn to start without you being present. Plan to be gone for entire services. Plan to be present but not do anything. Meet with the pastor(s) and help him have a schedule of what he will be preaching. Give the leaders tools for studying, preaching, teaching and leading ministries. By preparing the people and ministries, your departure can go smoothly instead of abruptly.
Schedule any doctor or dental appointments needed for you or for your children. Whether just check-ups or concerns, go ahead and try to set up appointments before you leave the field.
8. Preaching and Teaching.
Prepare several messages you can use while on furlough. Since you are a veteran, it is very likely that you will be asked to preach more than one message at the same church so make sure you have several messages ready.
9. Personal or Promotional Material.
Prepare and order prayer cards and a display so that they will be shipped and waiting for you when you arrive back Stateside. If you are not a graphic designer, you can pay one of the many who are good in this area.
You may want to record good video footage to make or have made a presentation you can send to and update all your supporting churches.
10. Plan a minimum of one good family vacation.
As you travel around to churches, look for opportunities to take the family to visit national and historic sites, but also plan to set aside some time for a fun family vacation that the kids will remember for the rest of their lives.