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The following are conclusions from a study on American missionary cost-effectiveness in India with eight mission organizations having over 10,000 American foreign missionaries compared to national mission organizations.

The 8 most salient realities revealed from a 2012 study of American Missionary Cost-Effectiveness in India:

  1. The most fruitful missionary teams spend the most time training nationals. OM India’s “training nationals” model produced the lowest “team cost per church plant” at $5,258.  Unfortunately American missionaries only spend 18% of their time training nationals.
  2. Indigenous ministries in India are 23 times more cost-effective at planting churches. American Missionary teams’ “cost per church plant” averages $28,190 whereas high-performing and efficient Indian organizations like Empart and ASSI average $1,000-$1,200.
  3. American missionaries must be more productive than 40 trained Indian church planters to justify the high support cost.  The investment required for American missionaries to be linguistically ready and culturally established by the 5th year on the field is $232,368 compared to $4,800-$6,000 for 4 years of supporting an Indian church planter or pastor.
  4.  Supporting long-term American missionaries in India is 50 times more expensive than supporting national ministers.  American missionaries who have worked in India for an average of 6.6 years raise an average $70,909 per year compare to the $1,440 per year cost of supporting nationals through Empart or $1,200 per year through Operation Agape.
  5.  Supporting American missionaries does not avoid foreign dependency.  Indigenous church planting denominations like the Evangelical Church of India and Compassion for India receive 30-50% of their support from Indians, whereas only one U.S. missionary among all thatresponded had raised financial support from Indians.
  6. U.S. missionaries spend a significant amount of time on tasks that Indian nationals should be trained to do.  Americans spend 25% of their time on frontline work consisting of church planting and evangelism and 14% on direct humanitarian outreach.  Only 18% is spent training indigenous leaders.
  7.  Indigenous Indian-led organizations are more transparent than American missionaries despite fear of persecution and threats on their lives.  Only 5 of 9 U.S. organizations shared any data about field results compared to 7 of 8 Indian-led organizations.

The majority of American missionaries count church plants with 1-5 people involved whereas 7 of 8 Indian church planting organizations require 10 or more for a church.