What Missionaries Ought to Know about Each Other From Builders to Busters

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What Missionaries Ought to know… does not mean that the author sat down and decided what missionaries ought to know, but that missionaries themselves asked about these topics. During the author’s 35 years of college teaching he learned that if one person asks a question, others probably want to know the same thing—and if two people ask, it was certainly a topic that others need to know about. These are things missionaries need to know because several missionaries have asked about each of them at one time or another.

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“I just don’t understand them at all.” “They are so different from me and from the missionaries who came to the field when I did.” “The way they think just doesn’t make any sense at all to me.” Who are we? Are we really different? If so, how are we different? Why are we different? Can we work together effectively? Let us explore some of these questions.

Who are we?

George Barna, founder of the Barna Research Group, has studied the characteristics of people born at different times in the United States. Three groups of such people are now in the missionary force.

  • Builders. People born before 1945, before the end of World War II, were intent on building a comfortable lifestyle and building America into an economic and military super-power. As missionaries they were (and are) hardworking, committed, frugal, and ready to go anywhere at any time and do anything necessary to take the gospel to all people groups.
  • Boomers. People born during the twenty years following World War II (1946-1965) were the baby boom, the “war babies.” Born into prosperity, they became well-educated, questioning, protesting, idealistic, and tolerant of many different lifestyles. As missionaries they brought specialized knowledge, a desire to continue their personal and professional development, and a greater emphasis on caring for their families.
  • Busters. People born during the next two decades (1965-1984) were called the baby busters because there were fewer of them. The baby busters, children of the boomers, grew up in a world different from that of any previous generation. Many who came from broken homes and were victims of violence feel alienated, forgotten, cheated, and disillusioned with life. As missionaries looking for meaning in life, they are interested in spiritual things, open, honest, and aware of their needs. As such they make good team members.

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