Document Type



Claremont Graduate University

Publication Date



Christianity | Missions and World Christianity | Social Psychology


This grounded theory study examines the motives for relationships between local churches and missionaries: What motivates churches to enter into a relationship with a missionary, to continue this relationship, and to end it? Similarly, what motivates missionaries to begin, continue, or end relationships with a local church? We used purposive stratified sampling to select 17 missionaries and church mission leaders to interview for this study. We performed semi-structured interviews with both groups to discover their understanding of why they form, maintain, and dissolve relationships with each other. Multiple motives influenced all participants. These motives can be broadly categorized as either relationship-focused motives or task-focused motives. Furthermore, the task-focused motives can either be centered on specific goals shared by churches and missionaries (e.g., starting a reproducing church among a specific people group) or on specific processes (e.g., evangelizing or feeding the poor). Although all participants had multiple motives, each participant emphasized some motives over others. The motives present in each party influence many aspects of their relationship, including their communication, financial involvement, and the purpose of the church’s short-term mission trips to the missionary's setting. In contrast to social exchange theory which provides a framework to understand conditions under which a relationship will be maintained or ended, the Multiple Motive Theory of Church and Missionary Relationships goes further; it describes specific motives that exist which influence whether a relationship begins, continues, or ends.

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