Pt 3: So, Do I just Ask for Missionary Support?
It has been suggested that asking for missionary support has kept more missionaries off the field than any other reason. Below is the final of a three-part series helping pre-field and on-field missionaries gain a God glorifying understanding of a simple method for inviting people to financially join in the work. For context, it may be good to read Part 1, Gain Understanding and Part 2, Calm the Gorillas.
When the missionary call is confirmed and the missionary communication list is completed, it is time let people know what God is doing in and through you for His glory among the nations. Some will expect and look for ways to participate in the call. Others will have no idea there is need for missionary support. You can provide understanding for both with a gently rising voice over several months.
It typically takes nine to 12-months to raise pre-field training costs, startup expenses and the first three-months of ongoing support. Beginning early is imperative, so send out the first written missionary communication as soon you receive approval from your home church.
The communication may be in blog, bulk email or a hard-copy missionary newsletter. Speak with your church and other missionaries from your church to evaluate the demographics and which form of communication, or combination, will best serve the people. Use social media to support and promote the main method of communication, but not instead of the main method of communication.
Include in the first written communication that Jesus has been doing a work in your heart and how He is leading you, and possibly your family, to the mission field. Use your purpose and proposition statement to explain the work Jesus is calling you into. Give appropriate details and expected departure date. Be sure to provide a prayer list including prayer for provision, pre-field training and wisdom for how the news of this change should be communicated. Ask for prayer for opportunities to share with people about the call. Be sure to include information about your home church and missions facilitator.
As news of what God is calling you to spreads, some will be like the first gorilla from the previous post. They will immediately ask how to partner in the work. Others will be similar to the second gorilla. They will not know or understand the need for missionary support. Be prepared to answer both groups by explaining the missionary support raising process. If your are asked how someone can support the work, let them know giving can begin immediately and provide all the needed information. Unless approached, at this time it is best to stop short of directly asking for missionary support. That time will come.
Approximately eight-months before departure send out another written missionary communication. It will be good to update people on how the preparation for departure is progressing and be sure to include a method to send missionary support through your home church or missions facilitator. It is still not time to directly ask for missionary support.
This communication should include an update of departure plans and times you will be sharing about the call at local churches and gatherings (also use social media to invite people). Be sure to ask for prayer for open doors to communicate the call.
As people respond and ask how they can help, be sure to have printed or digital materials to give them explaining the support raising process. Another good way to help is asking if friends at other churches will be willing to introduce you to their missions minister or others who may be willing to help in the work. It is important to set a pattern of continually expanding your missionary communication list.
Six-months before departure will be the time to directly ask for missionary support. It is important to not pressure or place expectations on your relationships. Simply ask your whole list if they will pray and seek the Lord about partnering financially in the work. By this time at least a few people or churches have most likely asked you how they can support the work, so it will be easy to simply communicate something like:
As our departure date approaches we are thanking God as he builds a prayer and support team to be part of our call to the Anuak People of South Sudan. We are encouraged and celebrate that more than 50-percent of our startup up costs have been met.
Our church and missions organization requires the remainder of our startup costs and three-months of support be on hand before we depart. We are asking, without expectation or pressure, for all of you on our prayer list to seek God if you too are called to join with this work financially. Information for tax-deductible financial support is on the back of this newsletter (bottom of this blog, a link on this email, etc…). Both one-time and ongoing gifts will help us and the work. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.
We value your giving to the work as fruit to your spiritual account, but we also value that we are joined together as partners in this work. We simply ask you to pray and respond as the Lord leads.
This will be at least your third written missionary communication. Similar language can be used as you share the call and need for missionary support in person. Continue to announce any speaking engagements and giving people points to pray over.
The fifth-month before the planned departure is critical. It is time of growth, assessment and confirmation in the support raising process. This will include continuing written communication, but also making face to face contact with a select group of relationships.
It is time to contact select people on your missionary communication list. Choose 30 percent of those who you have not heard from to build a sub list of people you will directly contact and set up face to face appointments. The 30 percent should be divided between individuals and churches or ministries.
Your goal in meeting is to use your purpose and proposition statement to explain your calling and ask them if they would like to partner financially in the work. For individuals, ask to meet for coffee or a meal. For churches, ask if you can meet with their missions minister. If people on your list live out of town, take the time to communicate using FaceTime, Skype or similar. It may be of great value to travel to meet with people on your list.
Do not build a presentation and sound like a salesperson. Do not use pressure. Simply share what the Lord of the harvest has moved on you and let people know they can invest in the work. Respect their time and be brief. You will be surprised how many people are expecting you to ask.
If directly asking people for missionary financial support seems awkward and difficult, know you are not the first missionary to feel that way. It may be good to remember your call is not only to go and make disciples among the nations, but to engage as many followers of Jesus as possible in the call. Jesus prophesied we will be His witnesses to the uttermost parts. By not raising support the prophesy itself is not endangered, but your role, and the role of others in it, can be diminished.
A second hint to overcome the awkwardness is to remember Paul spoke frankly and openly about the need of missionary support. He often wrote with more specificity than modern missionaries would be comfortable with (Rom 15:24 & 28, 1 Cor 16:1-3, 2 Cor 11:8).
Finally, meet with your missions minister to keep the church updated on how the support raising process is proceeding. Explain what you hope to say to your potential financial supporters. He or she desires to see you succeed and may have some great advice.