Back in the day when my husband and I were first considering a financially-supported ministry, I was so stinkin’ geared up to raise my own salary
pretty much against it from the get-go. And I’d even seen my parents do it (and do it well). In fact, since I knew what it involved, I was like, reasons not to go: 1) We have to raise financial support. (It may have also been reasons #5 and #8.)
But it’s been 14 years now. Just as God used to sell a certain number of books to keep me employed or bring a certain number of tithing Christians to church to pay my salary, he continues to sustain my family through people who catch the vision for what we’re doing around the world.
And there are a lot of reasons I’d call my old self up on the phone and say, Do this.
The short answers
- It changes you. Like an entrepreneur, having to “sell” your vision and develop stake-holding partners develops in your soul a little of the character it will take for you to persevere overseas. You’ll be repeating your vision over and over, reminding yourself why this is critical and compelling. You’ll encounter myriad chances to encourage others and listen to them and their own stories. You’ll find yourself increasing in humility. In godward dependence and trust in his timing rather than your own work (read: the Gospel worked out in your life in a new way). In your understanding of how one part of the Body of Christ cannot say to the rest, “I don’t need you.” In grappling with disappointment, inactivity, feelings of isolation.
- It changes others. Remember the story of the impoverished woman who was making her last loaf of bread so she and her son could go and die? God chose to sustain that woman through her own generosity. God’s interdependent design of his Church is a way he changes us, leading us to sacrifice and change in ways the one who is asking may never know. It also develops an accountability toward each another, and allows the Church to play their role in sending (Romans 10:15).
- There’s a biblical precedent for this being a group work–through them sending you, sending money, and partnering in Gospel work. See verses like 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, 1 Chronicles 29:9, sand 3 John 5-8. Jesus himself lived on donations from others! If the interdependence of this whole thing is frustrating for you, consider this “boot camp” for working in tandem with a team overseas. In environments with more limited resources and marked obstacles, you simply cannot do it all on your own…nor should you. (Jesus sent out the 72 in pairs, and Paul speaks openly about “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” [Philippians 1:3]). If you want to explore this more, John Piper crushes it in this podcast.
Yes, of course there are other ways. You can go into the military and retire early. You can be a “tentmaker” (see below). You can go with a denomination that fully supports its global workers. And maybe those ways are for you.
But first, explore deeply your heart on these issues–on the why’s behind your gut-level responses. (If you need some help, these “X-ray Questions” from David Powlison usually help me explore some of what drives me.)
He said/She Said
We asked a few global workers if there was any way around raising financial support. And we’d love for you to dig into this convo through the comments section!
Some jobs allow you to earn your living while you serve. In global work this is sometimes called “tentmaking,” since the Apostle Paul sometimes earned a salary as a tentmaker during his missionary journeys. Beware: earning your living will likely consume way more of your time than you realize. To learn more about tentmaking look into the organization Global Intent.
One of the most important components of fundraising for global work is getting people to pray for you. If you’re not asking your friends and family for prayer, don’t even think about going into global work.
-Jack Voelkel, missionary-in-residence with the Urbana Student Mission Convention; originally published on the Urbana website. Previously Jack served thirty years with Latin America Mission in Peru and Columbia.
Biblical partnership development starts with the understanding that global workers don’t raise partners in order to get their needs met, but to bless partners, and ultimately, the church.
Partnership development ministry is not about “donors” giving and global workers receiving. It recognizes that both worker and financial partner give into the ministry and both receive blessing, joy, and reward in return.
– David, who works for Kingdom Come Training and served with Youth for Christ for eight years
The framing of this question (Is there any way other than begging to raise support?) causes me to wonder if those asking are certain that God desires them in global work. If they are called, then sharing the ministry is part of involving other believers in kingdom advancement. “Going from church to church” is not about begging for money. It’s relating how you are answering God’s invitation to proclaim Christ to those who need to hear. Making known the need for financial support allows others to participate and affirm your future work, and you gain a deeper trust in God. (You’ll need that deeper trust, I’m sure.)
If “faith missions” is still too uncomfortable, consider your denomination’s missions board, which may subsidize global workers, or tentmaking, in which you may receive a stipend or salary. But first ask God what he intends for you, both in your overseas work and how to fund it.
-Karen, who served with what is now HCJB Global in Ecuador for eleven years.
So don’t hold out on me. I want to hear your voices on this one! What do you think about raising financial support to go overseas?
8 thoughts on “He Said/She Said…You Say? “Is there any way other than begging for financial support?””
This is such an important topic, and one sometimes feels hard to talk about honestly and openly! Generally I agree with what you’ve outlined here, although I feel that having to “sell” your vision can be dangerous too: you can get used to trotting out a snappy ‘pitch’, or even feel afraid to let slip that your project/ministry/outreach is less than perfect for fear of losing supporters, and both of these can lead to a lack of humility about your work.
I know you’re making the point that this is not just about money… but it is at least 50% about money! So I would also add that one of the benefits is a stronger donor base and perhaps even a more efficient funding mechanism; and this can be a useful explanation to give potential supporters who aren’t mission-minded Christians. Consider a ‘normal’ NGO, which runs a full time fundraising department in order to raise general funds which are then used to pay field staff salaries; there is a cost to that fundraising team, and there is little connection between the donors and the ‘field’ work. With a support-raising model you cut out some of that fundraising cost, and create a strong link between the supporters/donors and field workers. Now there is a hidden cost, if staff are spending time on maintaining their support network, but depending on the approach this can be minimal.
And on a personal note, coming from a church background that didn’t talk about this topic, it was completely new to me as a concept when we started support raising a few years ago. One effect on me has been to make me keen to support other people in the same way, not because I feel I have to but because of the joy of freely giving in a personal way rather than to a large charity. Although I’m not saying we should stop donating to charities!
This is such valuable feedback, and hits the nail on the head. Really appreciate your contributions on this subject!
How can I be part of BAM?
I am a missionary Pastor, and a business owner that need some support.
My mission field is Sierra Leone and Nigeria