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I'm a Mormon, and everyone knows Mormons are famous for missionary work, as pretty much every faithful young man will serve a 2 year full-time mission right out of high school, and many women will choose to serve one (or more) 1.5 year missions.

I'm very familiar with the LDS missionary program, but I'm not too familiar with many protestant programs. LDS Missions are pretty simple I think: You go through the application process with your bishop, if he thinks you're worthy then your application gets sent to church headquarters, a few weeks or months later you get a mission call to go serve somewhere in the world for 2 years (the church chooses where you go), you're set apart as a missionary–at which point you start living very strict mission rules 24/7–just before you report to the Missionary training centre for 3-12 weeks prior to being sent out into the field.

As a missionary you commit yourself 100% for 2 full years teaching people about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, no days off, no vacation, no TV or cinema or entertainment of the like, and no phone calls home except for on Christmas and Mothers Day on top of a plethora of other very strict rules (no flirting/dating, iceskating, horseback riding, etc., etc.).

That's a typical LDS proselyting mission. There are many other types of missions that you can choose to go on, but for this question I'm only interested in proselyting missions.

How do some Protestant missions compare?

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    Too broad. There are dozens of major mission agencies. – curiousdannii Apr 27 '15 at 16:14
  • Well than that would be the answer to the question I think; that they go through an agency. An explanation of what those agencies do would be great, is there one agency that "dominates the market"? – ShemSeger Apr 27 '15 at 16:19
  • No, and I don't think any generalisations would be accurate or helpful. If you want to ask about only the daily lifestyle then on the whole they would be much less strict, but there would be exceptions. – curiousdannii Apr 27 '15 at 16:27
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    Just wondering, why did you limit it to Protestants? E.g. Catholics do missionary work too. – Andrew Apr 27 '15 at 18:11
  • @Drew - I've created another question that asks about Catholic Missionary work here. – ShemSeger Apr 27 '15 at 18:22
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I come from a family of Protestant missionaries.

From a Protestant standpoint, the definition of a missionary is very apostle Paul-like. You simply have to go teach the gospel where it is not taught. There doesn't have to be a huge process to it.

The only time tight restrictions and approval processes come into play is when someone wanting to do mission work asks for monetary or other support. In such cases each overseeing organization has vetting processes to make sure a would-be missionary is sincere and reliable.

Common Examples,

A person decides to be a missionary in China. He or she goes to China, supports himself or herself by trade during the day, spends weekends and evenings teaching the gospel.

A person decides to be a missionary in Somalia. He or she goes to individual churches or support organizations and asks for monetary support, and will likely have to show evidence of due diligence to be considered. Each church or organization may choose to support or not support on their own.

A mission oriented organization seeks people to go to certain areas. People who express interest are vetted and sometimes put on a probationary or intern status. Sometimes these people must still raise their own funds( which is easier to do with a stamp of approval from a missions organization) or the organization may raise funds for them.

In almost all cases the global restrictions are no where near what they are for Mormons, though many protestant missionaries will self impose certain things like dress codes in order to not offend a particular culture.

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  • The LDS church adopts the mantra, "every member a missionary" and there are member missionaries called in every ward. Missionary work doesn't end after two years, but the full-time mission is more on par with an occupation (albeit unpaid) than an after hours service. I guess the main difference is that Mormon missionaries are technically also ordained ministers. So I guess that a comparable protestant missionary would have to be a full-time minister living abroad for two years? – ShemSeger Apr 27 '15 at 18:17
  • Sounds like it, yeah. – user2782001 Apr 27 '15 at 18:25
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    Most missionaries do go with an agency - very few just up and leave by themselves, and those who do are rarely as effective. Agencies provide training and preparations for the stresses of cross cultural life. – curiousdannii Apr 28 '15 at 2:21
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In addition to user2782001's answer, there is also the option of short term missions. Short term missions might be a missions trip for a summer, a week over spring break or over a weekend. Trips like this will typically consist of service projects or a Vacation Bible School, which is a children's program which will typically consist of games, a learning time, some sort of craft and singing songs.

Trips like these typically have some sort of application process and are subject to approval of the local church leaders (In terms of LDS church structure, this would be approval at the ward level).

Fund raising for this may take place through things like car washes, pancake breakfasts and other types of fundraisers or support letters.

Though not true for all denominations and churches, most do not do door-to-door proselytism. Some churches will go door to door and hand out tracts, but this is typically the exception to the rule.

Training for trips like this will vary, but rarely do they require a full 6 month training full time at a Missionary Training Center-like school. Some trips have no training at all.

For full time placements, these are not limited to 2 years and in some cases they might be less then 2 years. These full time placements will typically recommend you begin with a short term missions trip to experience the culture and life to make sure that this is the right fit and that you are ready to do this full time for months or years. Some missionaries may even server in the missions field for decades, though missionaries who server for an extended period such as this may periodically take breaks and return home on furlough.

This may not necessarily be overseas either. It could be working with drug addicts, working in the inner-city or similar placement.

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My wife and I work with a Christian (protestant) mission agency in Spain. We are both in our 50s and felt God was leading us into this role after finishing our main careers and selling our business. For me the most important point is that there are a variety of gifts and callings in the New Testament - not everyone is called to work in another culture sharing their faith. So I think you have to have a sense that God is calling you in particular to this task in particular with a specific people group. In our case we feel called to a particular town. However we NEVER use the word missionary even when speaking to people who would be sympathetic to what we are doing. We much prefer to think of ourselves as followers of Jesus whom he has led into another cultural situation where we live our lives and share our faith naturally. We do not see ourselves as religious salesmen or "proselytizers". We are there to live authenitic lives expressing our relationship with Christ and offering an alternative for people who may be searching for something but can't find it in the options normalluy available to them. The result we are hoping for is to plant a new church congregation of those who have come into a relationship with Christ maybe partly supported by relationship with us. But it's always about offering not selling or pressurising. There are no special restrictions on our lifestyle that would not operate at home. We are financially supported by our sending church, friends and family and house rent. We believe we are sent by God and that God is meeting our needs. Does that make sense?

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  • So what do you do on a daily basis? What is it like working with an agency? What does the agency do? – ShemSeger May 7 '15 at 18:27

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