One of the major concerns of mission executives is how to recruit, equip and retain missionaries on the mission fields. A very disturbing issue in mission circles in recent times is the rate of attrition among missionaries. The question is “Why do some missionaries leave their mission fields or change their areas of service?
Awareness on the subject of attrition is invaluable to mission trainees as this will help them to prepare psychologically for the task ahead of them in their missionary endeavors.
I am aware of the fact that extensive studies had been conducted on this subject-attrition- and a number of books are available on the same. One of such invaluable books is edited by William D. Taylor with the title Too Valuable to lose: Exploring the cause and cures of missionary Attrition. I do not intend to repeat the ideas stated in different books, rather I intend to address it from personal perspective, ideas gleaned from a survey I conducted among some of the graduate students I interacted with in the course of my lectures, and some serving missionaries.
Opinions of some serving missionaries that were attending an in-service missionary training programme were sought, and here are the reasons given for missionary attrition from their perspectives and also from the perspectives of other stakeholders in Missions.
The following reasons top the list why some missionaries quit their fields of service:
• Lack of welfare or inadequate welfare
• Personal conflicts at home or on the mission field
• Lack of support system
• Culture change and cultural conflicts
• Inability to cope with the challenges on the field
• Lack of satisfaction and fulfillment
• Incessant sickness
• When the assurance of their calling is failing
• Too much complaints from the Mission executive
• Loss of interest in the work
• Loneliness and hostility by the natives
• Lack of accommodation
• Feeling of failure
• When the missionary is no longer hearing from God
• Inability to learn the host language
• Harsh Climatic conditions (excess cold or too much heat).
In his concluding comments, a missionary bared his heart to those missionaries who abandoned mission work altogether by stating that, “ except the Lord had told them to leave, I’l advise that they seek means and ways to return to their duty posts. That they make peace with those they have offended and who have offended them. They must realize that there is no perfect mission or mission executives, different groups have one form of problem or another…so the problems you leave behind will resurface in a similar way or in other shapes in the future.
N.B.: For further reading, consult Esther Adenike Luogon’s book, titled "I Rather Quit: Missionary Attrition in focus". (E-Book)