September 5, 2012

What is the Largest Missions Organization?

(updated August 21, 2015)


What is the largest mission agency?

It depends on your definition.

If you're looking for manpower...

and you consider Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) a mission organization, then they are the largest with about 25,000 staff worldwide(1), although a large amount of them serve in the US and about 60% of their funds are spent in the US.(2)

Another possibility could be Gospel for Asia with around 16,500 missionaries.(3)

Another possibility could be Christian Aid Missions.  It gets a little complicated, but basically they support over 500 indigenous missions ministries, which deploy tens of thousands of missionaries (4) (over 800 ministries and 80,000 missionaries the last time it was posted on their website (5)).  However, the amount of funding they give would only be enough to fully support about 3,000 missionaries.

If you count short-term mission workers, YWAM (Youth With A Mission) sends around 25,000 short-term workers every year(6) and also has a staff of over 18,000, the vast majority of whom are in the US. (7)

If you are looking for the organization that sends the most missionaries to another country as foreign missionaries, Wycliffe Bible Translators is likely the largest.  They send about 5,000.  In other words, if you don't count national missionaries, Wycliffe is the largest. (8)

If you are willing to count volunteer evangelists, Gideons has over 300,000 members worldwide, but the vast majority are not serving in a capacity that would qualify them as a 'missionary'. (9)

If you are looking for the organization with the largest budget...

It would be Cru with $694 million in world revenue (10) or if they aren't considered a mission organization, it would be International Mission Board with a budget of $301 million.(11)  YWAM might have a large budget as well, but YWAM is decentralized, so I guess we have no way of knowing without a lot of extra research.

Using Operation World's definition of a missionary (on page 949-950) and their lists, Cru is the largest with 9,913 missionaries, while Gospel for Asia is second with 9,550. (12)

If you are wondering what mission organization is the largest by way of having planted the most churches...

well that's a blog post for another day.

Last thing I want to say is that bigger doesn't necessarily mean better.  A ministry might be a large ministry, but it might not be effective.  Also, be careful of comparisons.  We need to see ourselves as being on the same team.  Too often in the past, denominations or organizations have only concerned themselves with "Where are we, and where aren't we?", rather than "Where are disciples, and where aren't disciples?"  It shouldn't be about a particular brand of Christianity having the most pins on a map in the foyer.  We're all a part of the body of Christ.

1. Laurie Goodstein, "Campus Crusade for Christ Is Renamed," The New York Times, July 20, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/21/us/21brfs-CAMPUSCRUSAD_BRF.html?_r=0.
2. Cru 2014 Annual Report, (2015), 12, http://www.cru.org/content/dam/cru/about/2014-cru-annual-report.pdf
3. 2007 Gospel for Asia Annual Report: A Year of Joy, (2008), 21. (The 2007 annual report was the last time Gospel for Asia published the number of missionaries they have.  The current number is unknown to the public and may even be less, based on the use of funds in Indian foreign contribution filings.)
4. Christian Aid Mission. http://www.christianaid.org/home/1/home.aspx (accessed August 21, 2015).
5. Internet Archive: Wayback Machine, "Christian Aid Mission: Discover Indigenous Missions, (July 30, 2013)," https://web.archive.org/web/20130730121146/http://www.christianaid.org/home/1/home.aspx (accessed August 21, 2015).
6. YWAM: Youth With a Mission Cancun. http://ywamcancun.org/index-en.php?sec=who-are (accessed August 21, 2015).
7. YWAM: Youth With A Mission Worldwide, "About Us," http://www.ywam.org/about-us/ (accessed August 21, 2015).
8. Jason Mandryk, Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation Completely Revised-7th Edition (Colorado Springs, CO: Biblica Publishing, 2010), 948.
9. The Gideons International, "About Us: Worldwide Impact," http://www.gideons.org/AboutUs/WorldwideImpact.aspx (accessed August 21, 2015)
10. See note 2 above.
11. IMB Connecting, "Fast Facts," http://www.imb.org/about-us/1307.aspx#.VdexAflVhBd (accessed August 21, 2015)
12. Jason Mandryk, Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation Completely Revised-7th Edition (Colorado Springs, CO: Biblica Publishing, 2010), 939-950.

28 comments:

  1. My Grandson name is also Kendrick. I am a graduate student at Liberty Seminary, and am currently doing research on the Hakka Chinese, an URPG. I would love to communicate with you on what you know about missionaries to China. I thought that one could not identify oneself as a missionary and receive a visa. Is that true? My email is papabakes@gmail.com

    Blessings,

    Jeffrey Baker

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    1. ...and 2 whole years later, I realize people have been commenting on here. I didn't receive the notifications. I'm sorry. I assume you've figured out what you were curious about. As far as I know, you cannot identify as a missionary for your visa.

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  2. The Mormon church currently has over 80,000 volunteer full time missionaries serving throughout the world.

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    1. This blog is about Christian missionaries not cults.

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    2. @kevin--thank you, that was going to be my comment exactly. Some folks think that if you try too hard to be a Christian, you must be in a cult. They violate their own definition of Christian that says if you believe on The Lord Jesus Christ you will be saved.

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    3. What Mormons believe is very different than what Christians believe. Mormons cannot be counted for what are we to include next? Muslims?

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    4. you beleive in the trinity? we belive in the godhead, big deal! i dont see why that makes us non christian, we preach of christ, we teach that he sent prophets to lead and guide his people, we teach also that he has done it again, why wouldnt he? i dont think theres ever been a greater need for prophets than now, theres a verse in the bible that basicaly states that there will be prophets until we all come to the unity of the faith! are we in unity of the faith, no, we're not.

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    5. Christians have nothing to fear from the Book of Mormon, because the Book of Mormon is another Testament of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon tells of Christ's visit to the American Continent after He rose from the dead. Therefore, the Book of Mormon proves that the Bible is telling the truth and that Jesus Christ really did rise from the dead, literally, and that Jesus Christ is in fact the Savior of ALL mankind. From what I can tell, the Book of Mormon is the most Christ-centered book on the planet right now. The whole book testifies of Jesus Christ from start to finish.

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    6. Those are nice sentiments, but the beliefs are very different.

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    7. it is simple Darwin. LDS teaches that God used to be a man, and grew up into goodness. The Bible teaches, and Christians have always believed for over 2000 yrs, that God is was and always will be God. incompatible.

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  3. The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention currently has 4,822 missionaries on the field. 643 of those are 2yr terms. The rest are long term.

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    1. Yep. I thought about mentioning them and YWAM as runners up to the foreign missionary category.

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  4. Operation Mobilization has 6900 in 110 countries

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  5. This is a really poorly done post. When you say an organization has $XXXX.XX is that their endowment? Annual Budget? Bi-Annual budget? Where are these numbers coming from? Yes you are lazy and that's why this post will never be credible. The pie graph you posted isn't even labeled!

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    1. Such hostility brother. :) I didn't realize people were reading this post so much. It's now updated and cited properly (despite the fact that I said "budget", which means annual budget, and I gave my sources in the original version). The pie chart is just a graphic. It doesn't mean anything. I hope this helps. Sorry for the late late reply.

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  6. The church of jesus christ has over 80 thousand missionaries all around the world, a marvelous work and wonder? i think so!

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  7. Hey! Why wouldn't Cru be a missionary organization?

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    1. They clearly have aspects of being a missionary organization, but a lot of people would say they are not entirely a mission organization and that most of their workers are not missionaries. Plus, 60% of funds are spent in the US. It all comes down to the definition of a missionary. The way Operation World defines it on page 949-950, only about 10,000 of their 25,000 workers would be considered missionaries. However, that is enough to make them the organization with the largest number of missionaries according to Operation World.

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  8. I believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the largest missionary force in the world, over 83 thousand. The Church of Jesus Christ of Primitive Saints during New Testament times probably had the largest number of missionaries on the planet. Same church, and same pattern in each Gospel Dispensation.

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  9. BTW, if you are interested in reading a nice and large collection of facts about Missions and Missionaries, they have done a good job of providing honest and unbiased information on the wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missionaries

    Furthermore, what the Jehovah Witnesses (who also claim to preach Jesus Christ) have done in terms of missionary work is extremely impressive as well.

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    1. Wikepedia is anything but unbiased. Everyone has a bias and wikepedia is far from objective. Absolute truth does exist. Your either for God or against Him. Gathering or scattering.

      I will give that wikipedia may try to be unbiased, but it just isn't possible.

      I don't claim to know much about cults, but let me ask a question. If the Jesus of some cult is different than the Christian Jesus then is that not like idolatry? If we call a rock Jesus and trust in it for salvation, is that not similar to changing the definition of Jesus so that He fits our likes and dislikes?

      If we don't believe in the real God and the real Jesus, is that not just as dangerous as unbelief? Certainly there is room for grace, but I don't get to decide (and nor do I know how gracious He is).

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  10. There is something like 400,000 to 500,000 Protestant missionaries worldwide.

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  11. Hi there - I enjoyed your article. Thanks for writing on this topic for which we have a shared passion! However, the statement about long term YWAM workers... "the vast majority of whom are in the US" is not correct. The majority of our workers are not working in the US or from the US. Since the 90's a majority of our workers are in and from non-western nations (Brazil, Korea, etc.). We also have many international missionaries serving in the US - which technically also counts as foreign missions unless we are speaking from an exclusively American perspective.

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    1. Thanks Joel. I was looking back at the information to figure out why I would have said that. I think it's because in the Mission Handbook 2007-2009 on page 335 it says there are 20,000 short term missionaries and 15,700 home ministry & office staff workers in the US. I must have figured that was the bulk of their 18,000 full-time workers, but now that I'm looking at it, I'm thinking I don't have the full picture of YWAMs force, because in Operation World (2001, which is way outdated by now, but the most recent info I can get from them) it indicates that the YWAM workers are spread around, though the US still has the largest group: USA(2,814 workers) Brazil(1,068 workers) Asia (666) UK (556) Australia(518) South Korea(508) Netherlands(196) Canada(194) etc. So does the Mission Handbook have incorrect information? Or is it something like 25,000 short-term missionaries, over 15,000 US workers and staff, and in addition to that YWAM has thousands of missionaries around the world? If you have any links or info, that would be helpful. Thanks again.

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  12. Kendrick,
    Liked your article- have you had a chance to look at which organizations have been the most fruitful or which have brought the most decisions for Christ. I recently read a book that said Reinhard Bonnke has brought 74 million to Christ.

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    1. Hi Gail,
      It's very difficult to tell what organizations have been the most fruitful or are currently the most fruitful. My guess is that it's one of the organizations I have listed on my website (http://www.aboutmissions.org/ministries.html) In terms of the number of salvations claimed, I think Global Media Outreach might be the one, with a current claim of 174 million indications for Christ. Yes, on the Christ for All Nations (Reinhard Bonnke) website they say they surpassed 75 million indications to accept Christ. That's massive, but for this post I was looking for mission organizations, whereas they are primarily a crusade organization.

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  13. That's a new thing for me. Thanks for your details. The fall church loan decision is going really amazing. With new rates, new deals, new schemes and all it's become more attractive.

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