The survey was distributed electronically through a variety of networks including popular missionary blogs, the Missio Nexus web site, personal networks, and appeals to forward the survey on to other possible participants.
Participants self-selected if they felt they had the time to participate in the survey. We expected the survey to take 15-20 minutes to complete. The only criterion for participation was being a former missionary (defined as at least a 6 month stay), regardless of the length of their mission tenure, the length of time since their departure from the mission field, or their reason for leaving the mission field. Participants left the field for a wide variety of reasons, including the end of a term, normal retirement, or any number of challenges that emerged to take them back to their country of origin. Some were asked to leave by their mission agency, but most made the decision themselves about when (and why) it was time to leave.
Demographic information was collected for each participant, including:
Survey questions were grouped into the following 8 sub-topics:
For each sub-topic, a list of statements (e.g., “I was homesick.”) was provided with instructions for the participant to rate each statement with an answer from the following 5-point scale:
These response options allowed us to measure three important pieces of information for each potential factor, increasing in specificity at each level:
A “strength index” was calculated by weighting each response given by those who experienced the factor (no effect = 0, slight effect = 1, moderate effect = 2, strong effect = 3), summing them, and then dividing by the total number of responses of those who experienced the factor.
For example, if on a certain question, there were:
This technique produces lower indexes for those factors that tend to have a lesser effect on the return decision, and higher indexes for those factors that tend to have a stronger effect on the return decision. A score of 0 would show absolutely no effect on the return decision for any survey participants by that factor, and a score of 3 would be a strong effect for every survey participant by that factor. Therefore, scores lower than 1 can be considered to trend toward the “no effect to slight effect” range, scores between 1-2 reveal a “slight effect to moderate effect”, and scores between 2-3 show a “moderate effect to strong effect.”
In addition to the scaled responses, several sub-topics had open-ended follow-up questions where participants could share more details or stories (e.g., “If you experienced marital issues and feel comfortable sharing more, please describe them.”). Many heartfelt stories were shared, for which we are grateful. These responses were analyzed qualitatively to look for central themes or particularly poignant quotes that illustrated an important concept.
Overall Factor Weighting Results
Finally, each participant was asked to try to quantify the weighting of each factor in their decision, summing to 100%. For example, a participant may have answered that their decision consisted of 50% family factors, 30% financial factors, and 20% team factors. While this is certainly a subjective and non-exact assessment, this may help to quantify and prioritize the factors that felt most relevant in the decision to return “home.”
When the overall weightings assigned to each factor are averaged across all survey participants, the following list shows the ranking of each category in terms of perceived importance in making the decision to return to the passport country:
The following analysis will detail the results within each category, sharing the prevalence and strength for each scaled question, summarizing themes that emerged for each open question, and discussing the implications of the results.