Last Sunday after presenting my ministry at a Church I ate lunch with the Associate Pastor where over bacon cheeseburgers at Chili’s we discussed the Australian culture and the burden God has placed on my heart for Melbourne. Towards the end while drinking the last of my raspberry ice tea I asked him a question that has weighed heavily on my mind since returning home; “How should Missionaries pursue financial support from individuals?”
This subject has already been heavily covered in posts on my blog but the US economic crisis has dramatically affected the relationship between Missionaries (particularly those who are in need of support) and Churches. Suddenly local assemblies that have a reputation for sending out new Missionaries every year are struggling to support the ones they currently have, which obviously gives no hope to those pursuing new financial support.
This seismic shift has seen many of those in need approach individuals about financially supporting their ministry. In my opinion this isn’t Unbiblical, but dangerous because it can lead to using the latest management style, or fundraising technique for raising support. Used along with prayer these things can be used for God, but it’s incredibly easy to make raising money or getting new supporters the goal instead of sharing the burden God has placed on your heart.
The question burning in my mind came from a conversation with close friends who had me over for dinner. While playing with their children (always nice having a deep conversation with a spider-man figure in your hand) we talked about friends who had graduated with us, many of them being Missionaries who were struggling financially. Eventually I confessed it was necessary for Missionaries to “sell their ministry.”
Now before you write me a nasty email or send a letter to one of my supporting Churches allow me to explain what is meant by “selling ministry.” The normal way of raising support (through Churches) still works, but the economy has made it incredibly hard to do so since most Churches are struggling. Therefore a strategy created through Bible study and prayer to pursue individual support is necessary. The biggest difference between these is the pursuit of individuals demands we make our financial need clear.
When sharing a ministry at Churches there isn’t a huge need to clearly proclaim the financial need because the Pastor and other leadership already knows what your need is (through earlier communication) and ministers know the challenges that Missionaries face. But personal support pursuit means sharing that need in a direct and clear way countless times while praying the Lord blesses in the way He sees best.
This new selling aspect of Missions is frightening because it’s tempting to begin sharing our needs in an aggressive way; one pastor told me about a Missionary friend who came over for dinner and gave a “sales pitch” for his ministry ending with a direct request for financial support.
It was the understanding my ministry needs to be a sold and a desire to be submissive (not rely on a sales pitch) that led me to ask the Associate Pastor for his advice. Unfortunately we weren’t able to come up with a solution, all the bacon-cheeseburgers and blackberry ice-tea in the world could properly answer the Selling Missions question.
But that doesn’t change the fact I have to do it.
Please pray for me and other Missionaries around the world who are wrestling with a new Church/Missionary relationship through prayer. It truly would be easy to build a process using management principles but I desire to share my needs in a way that glorifies God instead of my own wisdom.