Missionaries and Risk

Missionaries face different risks than everyone else. Help them prepare…

“He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest that he would send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves'” (Luke 10:2-3).

When Jesus sent out the 72 disciples, He warned them of the dangers they would face. Spreading the Gospel in those days would be risky.

He warned His 12 disciples in a similar way. But he implored them to mitigate their risk: “See, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as the serpents and harmless as the doves. Watch out for people! For they will deliver you up to councils, and they will whip you in their synagogues” (Matthew 10:16-17).

Be wise as the serpents, he said. Elsewhere, He reminded us to always count the cost of whatever endeavor it is we intend to pursue, before we pursue it (Luke 14:28). Risk was a part of the life of the early missionary:

Early missionaries counted the cost before they set out. In fact, they took their coffins with them! Falling prey to diseases – for which there were no vaccinations – or to attacks by hostile inhabitants, they unintentionally became the first short-term missionaries. Lives sacrificed through taking the gospel to inhospitable places fell as precious seeds that germinated, grew and produced harvests of souls.

In many parts of the world, particularly in those regions in which the light of the Gospel is very, very dim, modern missionaries are in similar shoes as the original disciples and apostles. But they have modern tools that can help them offset their risks in ways unavailable to the original disciples.

Specifically, I’m speaking of the availability of life insurance and other forms of missionary insurance.

Our world is just as dangerous, in different ways, as that of the early missionaries. But we now understand the necessity and responsibility of caring for missionaries, God’s most valuable resource. The Lord is raising up a new generation of workers, from Africa and other parts of the world, who have known great suffering. Through it they have learned lessons that will help them thrive and bear fruit in difficult mission fields. But before setting out, every prospective mission worker, with help from his church and mission agency, should: 1) evaluate the risks; and 2) ensure he is adequately equipped and supported.


Men, women, and their families should get life insurance policies in place as soon as possible.

This is particularly important for anyone with missionary aspirations. This is because traditional life insurance companies may deny coverage for anyone who is already a missionary in a dangerous location, but in recent years better options have become available to missionaries through improvements in international life insurance.

Nevertheless, it is still best if missionaries have life insurance in place before they become missionaries. This should be included in counting the cost. Missions organizations should include this in their training, since that will be the last time for the presumptive missionaries to act.

But just knowing they plan to become missionaries, even if they haven’t already committed, could jeopardize their ability to get life insurance. It depends on the company and what questions they ask.

One site summarizes the roles and responsibilities involved in supporting missionaries:

Who should care for a missionary?

The worker is responsible to maintain good physical, mental and spiritual health in order to deal with demanding situations.

The sending church should pray faithfully, send regular financial support, encourage their missionaries often, and care for families. In this way they can thrive in their place of ministry and at home. A pastor’s visit can mean welcome counsel for long-distance workers.

The mission agency should take good care of missionaries. Those being sent should evaluate different sending bodies and choose one that will do everything possible to look after and protect them/their family.

Co-workers and local believers should offer practical care. This demonstrates Christ’s compassion to unbelievers. Carry one another’s burdens! No matter how well prepared a worker is, he will come under attack. But God is in control.

I would add these things.

The worker is responsible for securing insurance before setting off.

The deacons of the sending church should counsel the missionaries on this and encourage them to put the proper insurances in place. The deacons should help them locate policies.

The mission agency will hopefully offer term life, health, and other insurance policies as a benefit. But this is definitely something that needs to be investigated before signing up. The deacons can help with this research and counsel.

Here are some missionary insurance resources:

Insurance Services of AmericaBBB-rated Christian organization serving missionaries

“What type of insurance coverage do missionaries need?” – An article from “Ask a Missionary” that includes additional links.


Missionaries face great risks. They are under the general obligation to care for their family (1 Tim. 5:8) just as everyone is.

But their circumstances may make it harder for them to secure life insurance if they don’t already have it in place when they decide to become missionaries.

There are options available for missionaries from companies who specialize in providing life insurance coverage to missionaries. No doubt these will likely be more expensive.

The church is under obligation to care for her family, as well. This includes any missionaries and their families who fall in the field in the duty and service of their Lord. But Jesus also warned us to count the cost. It is cheaper to care for her family if the church requires that her members have life insurance policies in place. It is cheaper to pay small premiums now compared to the large financial obligations that can accrue to support the surviving family members whose husband, wife, or parents did not have insurance in place.