How would you like to walk up to one of your friends and ask, “Hey, can I have $50 or $100 a month for the next umpteen years?”
How long do you think they’d stay your friend? Yet, this is what we expect missionaries and many other full-time ministry workers to do. It’s called “support raising.” Pretty awkward, yes?
We’ve managed to sugar coat it somewhat. We tell people it’s their chance to get involved in what God is doing. We promise significance. And if there’s any way we can connect them to what we do, we show photos of starving children or cherubic orphans.
It works. Sometimes. It also takes a huge amount of time, effort, and teeth-gritting. Many estimates conclude that, on average, full-time missionaries spend about one-third of their time on support raising. And speaking from experience, I can say that asking for money is very, very humbling.
Having a team of supporters has definite benefits. Hopefully, along with their cash, they’ll pray for you and your ministry, as well as providing encouragement and a link back home. But there are drawbacks as well.
A Case Study
For example, let’s look at one church we used to attend. Their mission support policy is… enlightening.
Like most churches I’ve attended in the last 20 years, they expect their members to bring 100% of their tithe to the church. Any giving to other things—ministries, missionaries, and the like—is to be an “offering” above and beyond this.
Additionally, they have a policy that they only support their own members. And if they are supporting you out of the church budget, you aren’t to solicit any church members for donations on your own.
Then comes the real kicker—this church only provides up to 10% of the missionary’s financial need. You have to raise the rest elsewhere (presumably from all the Christians you know who go to other churches).
Imagine if all churches held these policies! There has to be a better way.
After much consideration, Pete and I would like to propose an alternative strategy.
What if groups of, say, five (large) to ten (smaller) churches banded together to support a group of missionaries? Each church would contribute between ten and twenty per cent of these missionaries’ support. The missionaries would be treated as staff members, same as the pastors, administrators, and custodians.
There are a number of benefits that immediately come to mind.
- The missionaries would be able to focus on their jobs—planting churches, translating Bibles, training pastors, or whatever else they have been sent to do.
- The churches could rally around “their” ‘missionaries and get involved in their ministries.
- Five to ten congregations would provide not only financial resources, but also training, their collective wisdom and knowledge, encouragement, and especially prayers.
- If the churches were in one geographical location, the missionaries could focus their furlough time in one area instead of traveling all over the country. This would be especially helpful for families with small children.
I realize that my little post here isn’t going to change the way Christendom supports its workers. But still—is this a good idea? Can you poke holes in it? Do you have a better suggestion? We’re all ears!
I think it’s a great idea! I wonder what our church’s policy is for our missionaries? I know we have a list of them, and they are “featured” throughout the year on missions Sundays (to help remind the congregation to pray and support them! I don’t know if they get direct financial support from the church, but we can set up some of our tithe to go to individual missionaries, and the church encourages us to do that.