Why should we send younger, single men overseas? Shouldn’t we wait until they get married, get more educated, and become more stable?
Here’s an answer by an older, married worker who’s seen a lot of people come and go in 32 years of working in pioneer situations.
Why should guys go young and single?
Men who come young and single last longer. On our field, 15 out of 16 of the men who joined us young and single have not quit. But 60% of all married men who come “for life” quit and were gone before the end of the 3rd year. Such statistics speak for themselves.
Young singles can learn language better. The ability to learn a foreign language decreases after age 25. One huge challenge to every missionary today is that he must teach the first believer(s) to obey Jesus and all His commands in a completely foreign language. Learning a foreign language takes 2-3 years of intensive full-time study. It takes endless hours hanging out with locals. This is incredibly hard for older, married people to do. Without real proficiency in the local language, a missionary’s impact as disciple-makers is minimal.
Vocationally speaking, every year before the age of 25 is of vital strategic importance! (Note: Failure to become fluent in the foreign language is one of the biggest reasons why older new workers quit.)
Young people aren’t as crushed by feeling ineffective. The bigger reason why men who come out a little older go home sooner is quite surprising. One would think that having a couple years of effective ministry back home before coming out would be an advantage. The opposite is true! And the problem is personal fulfillment. When any new worker arrives he forsakes all effectiveness. For a lengthy time (with no language) he has no impact. Years of no measurable impact, no contribution and no effectiveness are tough! This is not nearly so demoralizing for young men who have not had that much fulfillment (and have no misplaced sense of their own effectiveness) in ministry. We’ve seen this many times over.
Young people have less to unlearn. Along this same line: Trees in a forest can grow straight and tall but a tree in more difficult terrain must adapt. Men who gain experience in ministry and even training for ministry in the West must undo much of what they learned. By contrast, younger men who do their earliest years of ministry overseas are especially “hardy” and have developed a ministry style especially adapted to these difficult places. Inexperienced is better!
Most young guys do get married. If they’re out on the field they can choose from the young women who have already proven their calling, proven their commitment, and proven their ability to endure out on a difficult foreign field. The biggest reason why young men (and young women whom God has called overseas) fail to go is that they choose a spouse who may well be “passionate about missions” but is unproven out on the field and fails to persevere.
Note: Not surprisingly, for this very reason, most of all young recruits are lost at Bible colleges where marriage is encouraged and people are marrying with little regard for the sanctity of a missionary calling and the pitfalls of premature marriage when it comes to serving overseas. Please, help the young men to come sooner!
Young guys are less attached to making money. Resisting the deceptivity of money gets harder with age. If they delay in North America young men are often encouraged (even by Evangelical colleges!) to enslave themselves to debtors. They are lured into a higher standard of living by the paychecks they earn. And they become “self-sufficient” and unwilling (or unable to muster the faith) to lean on God to supply all their financial needs. (He will!)
In conclusion: The first “talents” / “real gold” that every young single man has to offer for the cause of the Gospel in places where Christ is not yet known are his very limited years of youth and singleness, all of which are fleeting! And when the men come earlier they are more successful.