This post is for pastors, mission committee members and anyone else interested in getting missionaries to their fields faster. This excerpt of an article I wrote for the CCCC Bulletin has ideas that churches could use to greatly ease the burden of raising initial support. The suggestions come from eight missionary teams from around the world who shared their thoughts with me.
Having to raise financial support is stressful for many people, and is most stressful when doing the initial fundraising.
- One couple is currently raising money to go and after almost two years have raised just one-third of what they need to actually go to the field. They estimate that only 15% of churches they approach will even bother to return their calls.
- Another missionary wrote about the very negative reception many churches gave them, some pastors even referring to missionaries as living off the backs of churches.
- Some missionaries spoke of meeting with church mission committees and then never hearing back from them about their decision. The committees would not even return their phone calls.
Suggestion: Extend common courtesy to fellow believers who are called to specialist ministry vocations. Be gracious, and even if the church cannot or chooses not to fund them, at least let them know so the issue is resolved and they can move on. You will spare the missionary from wasting time trying to contact you. As one said, “At least respond with a ‘no.’ I’d rather receive a gracious ‘no’ than be ignored.”
Be the first to fund your own missionaries
A common question new missionaries are asked is “What is your own church doing to support you?” This is a valid question because it adds to the credibility of the missionary’s call to ministry that his or her own church affirms that call, even if they are going under the banner of an independent agency.
- The time for a church to give its support to a new missionary is at the beginning of the fundraising process, when it will add credibility and get the ball rolling. Churches that wait to the end to commit to their own members are actually hurting their fundraising efforts and possibly delaying their going to the field.
- Many churches are reluctant to support a missionary to a higher dollar value than their own church is giving, so churches should be as generous as possible in setting the support level for missionaries from their own congregation. One missionary recommends that home churches provide 10 to 20% of their missionary’s budget, and perhaps 5 to 7% for missionaries from other churches. Both of these amounts are significant portions of the missionary’s budget.
Suggestion: A missionary’s home church should be the first to affirm his or her call to missionary service and be the first to make a meaningful commitment to fund their member.
Give support a term at a time
A commitment to fund is often limited to only one year, requiring that the missionary report each year on their activities and results and also re-apply for funding for another year. This is a time-consuming exercise.
- Reporting should happen on a regular basis throughout the year regardless of the length of the funding commitment, but
- It would be very helpful and much less stressful for the missionary if churches would commit their funding for a longer period of time, perhaps even for the duration of the missionary’s term. This would give most missionaries a four or five year commitment and allow them to focus on the work to which they have been called.
Suggestion: Consider committing for more than a year at a time.
Simplify the paperwork
A significant amount of time can be spent filling out application and reporting forms that may be unique to each church.
- A common application form (that may allow for some variation by providing space for additional questions) would save a lot of time for missionaries who may be filling out dozens of these forms.
- At the very least, perhaps denominations could develop a common form for their churches.
Suggestion: Before designing your own custom application forms, see if there are generic forms you could use as the basis for yours.
Please contribute to the discussion from your own experience and ideas. Do you see problems with their suggestions? Could you add more of your own? How do you think a missionary should go about raising their initial support? Jump in!