Some time ago the Overseas Missions Team of the church I was pastoring surveyed the wider church on their attitudes towards mission service. One of the questions was, “What is the number one factor that you fear most should God call you to mission?” Of those who responded, almost three-quarters gave the same answer: fear of having to ask others for money to fund their mission endeavour.
I wonder what things the overseas mission team of a church can do to make that process easier? Here are some thoughts.
Stage one: Help the prospective missionary calculate how much they need
Some agencies will do this for their candidates. They’ll even have regulations about how much money a person needs before they’ll be allowed to leave for overseas. Other missions may leave this up to the candidate to calculate.
Getting someone who’s good with personal finances to work through all the issues and draw up a budget means that the candidate can be certain of the amount they need to raise.
Stage two: Help the candidate prepare their request for financial help
Whether the request for finance is done by letter or face-to-face with a group or individual, the principles are the same.
1. Be specific. Most of us would like to support a wide range of causes but we have limited funds. That means we need to be strategic with our giving. We want to give to something that we can understand and that’ll bring about kingdom growth.
The candidate needs to discover as much as they can about where they’ll be serving and what they’ll be doing. They need to present, with enthusiasm, their personal aims and vision, and the aims and vision of whatever agency they’re going out with.
Another question asked by potential supporters is, “What percentage of what I give you will be used in administration in New Zealand?” Find out the answer to this question and do not be ashamed to state it clearly – people need to understand that the money used in administration is money used to provide a foundation for the work and support of the overseas worker.
2. Be visionary. As already hinted at, people want to give to something that will make a difference in the lives of individuals overseas. They want people to come to a faith in Jesus Christ.
As Kiwis, we often downplay the things we do. Of course it would be deceitful to overplay them, but to share the motivation and the expected outcomes of mission work is vital if a candidate is to challenge people to give. It’s not about manipulation or tugging on heartstrings, it’s about saying, “If you support me, I believe I’ll be able, with God’s help, to give you a kingdom return on your investment.”
3. Be non-apologetic. Encourage a candidate to understand that, if they believe in their mission, they need to be positive and proactive in promoting it. If they are truly called by God then he’ll go with them to make it happen but they need to take that step of faith in presenting their vision to others.
Stage three: Things the mission team can do to help
There are at least three things a church’s overseas mission team can do to help the candidate raise the financial support they require.
1. Work your networks. If you believe in your candidate then how about helping them find people and churches they can contact, with a view to making a financial request? Many smaller churches have a real mission heart but don’t have the personnel overseas to initiate their own mission programme. They may adopt your candidate as their own.
2. Make it easy for the candidate to ask for money. Many candidates find the presentation of their vision relatively easy. What’s difficult is asking for cash! Why not get your pastor or the head of your overseas missions team to do it for them?
Video a brief appeal talk and have it burned to a DVD that the candidate can show at each meeting they speak at. It’s simple, after presenting the vision they say, “Now that you’ve heard about my call, there is one more thing I need to do. My church overseas missions team insist that I play you this DVD.” And they play the DVD that challenges people to give and tells them how.
3. Have a thought-out system. This is important! Many candidates, having asked for money, haven’t thought through the process whereby supporters can get the cash to them. Make sure your candidate has a system that includes a supporter’s pledge card that gives details of the bank account etc. into which money can be placed.
4. Set a time limit for supporters. It may be advantageous for the candidate to challenge supporters to get behind them for a year. For many people that seems more palatable than an open-ended commitment. The reality is, if the candidate is faithful in reporting back to supporters and is diligent in their work, most supporters will gladly continue their support beyond that first year.
Resource Corner is designed to give hints and tips to your church’s Overseas Mission Team. If NZBMS can help you with your church’s mission’s programme, don’t forget we’re only a phone call away – (09) 526 8444.