Recruiting long-term healthcare missionaries

insights from surveys of those who have gone and those who aspire to go


  • John McVay In His Image
  • Christopher L. Place In His Image Family Medicine Residency
  • David L. Stevens Christian Medical & Dental Associations



medical missionaries, recruitment, retention, healthcare missionaries


Background: The CMDA/MedSend Healthcare Missions Leadership Summit is an annual gathering of 75 mission sending agencies who share Christ through healthcare missions. The summit is jointly sponsored by MedSend and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA). The purpose of the meeting is to network, examine relevant research issues (such as recruiting), etc.  

Objective: The purpose of the 2015 Launch survey was to learn from medical missionaries how to more effectively recruit and launch new healthcare professionals and their families into long-term missions. The objective of the 2016 Relocating for the Gospel survey was to learn from students and other aspiring healthcare missionaries the obstacles they perceive in their journey into long-term missions. Results were presented at the 2015 and 2016 Healthcare Missions Leadership Summits.

Methods: Two multiple-choice surveys were developed to ascertain the positive and negative factors involved in the decision making process to launch into the healthcare mission field. Participants were invited to participate in the surveys via email.

Results: The 2015 Launch survey analyzed 177 responses from healthcare missionaries with 63% of respondents still currently serving as long-term missionaries. 37% of the respondents are former missionaries. Participants included millennials (39), Gen Xers (54), and baby boomers (84). Responses indicated that key positive factors include personal interaction with a long-term worker as well as a supportive agency, leader, or team to join. The 2016 Relocating for the Gospel survey analyzed responses from students and other aspiring missionaries who are millennials (79). The strongest overall factor that discouraged missions involvement was student loan debt. Other key obstacles include concerns over being lonely or isolated overseas, as well as difficulty in finding a good fit with a team or organization.

Conclusion: The overall findings from the two surveys include four main points. First, effective launch into missions service is more relationally dependent than informationally dependent. Second, launching into missions service is more like a marathon than a sprint. Third, those who are exploring missions want to join a team so they will not feel lonely or isolated. Finally, aspiring missionaries want a placement that fits them well even if that does not match the top priorities of the agency.

Author Biographies

John McVay, In His Image

MDiv, COO, In His Image International Medical Missions, Tulsa, OK, USA

Christopher L. Place, In His Image Family Medicine Residency

MD, Associate Residency Director, In His Image Family Medicine Residency

David L. Stevens, Christian Medical & Dental Associations

MD, MA (Ethics), CEO, Christian Medical & Dental Associations, Bristol, TN, USA




How to Cite

McVay, J., Place, C. L., & Stevens, D. L. (2017). Recruiting long-term healthcare missionaries: insights from surveys of those who have gone and those who aspire to go. Christian Journal for Global Health, 4(3), 82–95.