The Hidden Super-Stars of Missions


I coach new missionaries as they prepare to go overseas. I’ve found I can often predict how quickly they’ll be able to raise support based on one crucial factor: whether they have an advocate who will come alongside them.

What do I mean by an advocate? Let me explain.

Raising support has got to be one of the most daunting experiences in any missionary’s life. So God’s called me to India, but I need you to fork over some cash so I can do it. Sound good? Awesome. What can I put you down for?

Let’s hope it doesn’t come out exactly like that, but it’s what missionaries dread. Raising financial partners has extraordinary joys, but it also comes with dark lows. It’s incredibly intimidating. Dozens – maybe hundreds – of friends ghosting their calls, emails that don’t get replies, events where no one shows up. It can be one of the most demoralizing experiences in a person’s life.

Who can turn that whole experience around? An advocate. 

A missionary advocate is someone who enthusiastically comes alongside a missionary and says, “Let’s get that support raised!” 

The Springs in Missouri is a church that has sent out several homegrown missionaries in the past two decades. All those missionaries pointed to Ken and Tracy Coleman as vital in making that happen, so I decided I needed to talk to these super-star advocates.

Tracy told me, “When missionaries are raising support, we invite a big group to our house. We let the missionary tell their story. Then we share what donating to missions has done for us personally. We explain how God has blessed us to be part of what God is doing overseas.”

She added, “We challenge people, ‘This is what God is calling The Springs to. This missionary is a tool for that to happen. How can we get them to the mission field? How can we support them in other ways?”

Friends, this is a missionary’s dream scenario. It helps the missionary to know he’s not alone. It helps create true partnerships in missions. And it takes away all the stress of asking for funding. 

When a church is too busy or distracted to pay attention to an upcoming missionary, an advocate steps in and rattles some chains. When a missionary is overwhelmed by planning a large dinner, an advocate rallies the troops to make it happen. And when the missionary is depressed and despairing that she’s reached the end of her contacts and has no idea how she’ll raise the final 30%, that advocate is her cheerleader, praying for her and brainstorming fresh ideas.

Maybe this advocate isn’t just one person but a group of people – like a home group or Bible study group. Even better!

And once that missionary has deployed overseas (or in stateside service), that advocate keeps in touch with him. She’s the one who makes sure the rest of the church knows when there’s something big to pray for. When the missionary comes home on furlough, the advocate is the one who organizes housing and a car for the missionary to use. She prompts the missions committee to buy a few gift cards. She communicates with church leaders to find opportunities for the missionary to speak. 

I cannot overstate the power of a missionary advocate.

Maybe you have a burning passion to see the gospel go to the nations, but God has called you to stay in your home country. Besides praying and giving, what can you do? Perhaps God is calling you to be an advocate for your missionary. 

How to Pre-Raise Support Before You Actually Raise Support

Do you see missions in your future? Then this is for you. 

Right now, you’re just planning, and dreaming, and hoping. But one day it will finally be the right time, and you’ll find yourself filling out an application with a mission organization, packing your bags, and moving overseas.

There’s just one thing you might not be thinking about very much: Raising support. Before you can get on that plane, you’ll need to find an army of people who are willing to partner prayerfully and financially with you each month to make your missionary service possible. 

Raising support to become a missionary may just be the most challenging thing you will ever do. Trust me, raising monthly support will be a whole lot harder than raising $3000 for a short-term trip. Fundraising may require more faith on your part than even moving to a new country. But it’s necessary, and important. And guess what? There are things you can be doing, right now, to make that process much more effective when the time comes. 

So here’s my advice:

Starting now, get deeply involved in a missions-focused church. 

What do I mean by “missions-focused?” I mean a church who loves missions, and it’s obvious. They support missionaries, and they’ve got their pictures plastered in the hallway. They invite their missionaries to speak. They give regular updates on those missionaries, and pray for them often. The leadership intentionally encourages their people to consider missions (and not just for short-term trips). This is the kind of church you will need behind you when it comes time for you to raise support. If you are at a point in your life where you are looking for a new church (for example, starting college or moving to a new city), then make it a priority to choose a church that loves missions.

But what if you are deeply involved in a church that isn’t missions-focused? Should you leave and find a different church?

Not necessarily. Could you be an advocate for missions at your church? Could you meet with the leadership to discuss what a missions program would look like? Could you offer to host a Perspectives course? Could you contact your denomination to see if they offer any missions training or resources? Maybe God could use you to bring a fresh vision to your church that wasn’t there before.

And if that’s not possible, or just isn’t working? Well, I would never encourage someone to leave their church without understanding their unique circumstances, because I think it’s a big deal to leave a church. But you do need to consider how much more difficult your journey to missions will be if you don’t have your church behind you. Not only will it be significantly more challenging to raise financial support, but you will need your home church to give you spiritual, emotional, and prayer support as well. If you don’t think you’ll get that, then you should be fervently praying about your options–starting now.

What do I mean by “get deeply involved?” I mean that you need to be known at your church as someone who serves widely, frequently, and whole-heartedly. You need to take advantage of social events, men’s or women’s retreats, and church camping trips as opportunities to get to know people. Volunteer to be a greeter–that person who meets everyone at the door. You should be someone who is “always there.” Of course, I’m not encouraging you to over-stretch yourself, but your reputation should be as the one who is happy to volunteer for just about anything. Serve cheerfully, in any capacity– not just the “up front” jobs. 

When the time comes for you to talk to the missions committee about your plans to go overseas, their reaction should be “Well, it’s about time!” not “So who are you?” When your support raising coach asks you to make a list of people who know you well, the list from your church should be a mile long. It’s going to take intentionality on your part–starting now, not just when you are ready to start building your support team.

There’s a fine line here, because I don’t want to encourage you to attend the women’s retreat or volunteer in the nursery just because you’re hoping people will add you to their budget someday. You don’t want your motives to be manipulative. Hopefully, these ideas will just give you an ‘Aha!’ moment, not a guilt trip. If you find yourself resisting, you need to ask yourself, “If I’m not willing to serve here, how do I know that will change overseas?” “If it’s too much effort to build relationships here, how do I know I will be motivated to build them cross-culturally?” 

When the day comes to start humbly asking for financial and prayer support, a lot of your success will be dependent on how deeply involved you have been in your missions-focused church. Most likely, there will be a connection to how well you pre-raised support before you actually raised support.

Guiltitude: the Guilt of Having in a World of Sacrificing

by Michèle Phoenix

My pastor got a car.

His van was totaled in a wreck and, just as he and his wife were considering what it would take to finance a new vehicle, someone they know offered them a Volvo.

This past Sunday, he spoke with awe in his voice about the miraculous provision for his family. Then he emphasized that the car was well above their means and added, “I don’t want anyone to see the car and think, ‘Wow, my pastor can afford a Volvo?!’”

I turned to the friend sitting next to me and said, “I hate that he had to say that.” Then I remembered how often I’ve done something similar.

I’ve noticed the syndrome beforeI’ve lived it. And it has reached epidemic proportions in the world of missions. Even among the MKs I serve, I see it embodied every day, inherited from parents who might not have realized the lessons they were teaching.

Guiltitude [noun]

Condition in which guilt overwhelms gratitude—most commonly observed in those who are dependent on charitable giving—aggravated by fear of judgment, often resulting in calculated communication and/or conscience-stricken self-restriction. 


When I moved back to the States from Europe, I found my elation over God’s provision of my townhouse tempered by strong feelings of guilt.

Though I could document every miracle that had paved the way to my new home, I still struggled with the guilt of “having” when I lived in the ministry-universe of “sacrificing.” 

I wondered if guests would see my flea-market European antiques, bought for $50 but worth hundreds in the US, and question whether they’re appropriate for a missionary’s home. I found myself wanting to explain things by saying, “This was given to me by a friend” and “I bought this for next-to-nothing at a charity store in Alsace” as I gave tours of my two-story miracle.

Even today, nearly ten years later, as I look around this home and see the items contributed by the outrageous generosity of friends, I am assailed again by that uncomfortable combination of paralyzing guilt and galvanizing gratitude.

I live in the land of Guiltitude.

Guiltitude is not a uniquely Phoenix notion either. Though it doesn’t afflict all missionaries, it impacts enough of them to warrant some attention. Its symptoms are wide-ranging:

  • Missionary to Germany relinquishes the old, beat-up Mercedes he was given (for free!) by members of his local church and invests his own funds in buying a less “brand-y” car to avoid looking ostentatious.
  • Missionary to Switzerland, while interacting with his supporting church, avoids speaking of the recent purchase of expensive editing software, though much of his ministry relies on producing music and videos.
  • Missionary family scores $25 plane tickets to fly to Monaco for spring break. They post only a handful of pictures taken in the wealthy Principality, but are sure to thank the discount airline and the person who offered them cheap housing when they do. You know…just in case.

When I lived overseas, I vividly remember talking with a friend who had, for a year, bought virtually no furniture for her home. I asked her if she planned on getting a couch and kitchen table at some point, and she said, “My supporters send me money for ministry, and getting furniture is not ministry!”

Like so many others, she’d bought into something I call Donor Demand. There’s an old-school component to it. We like our missionaries to look deprived and to live without. It adds a certain nobility to the minister’s status and to the giver’s sacrifice. 

You might be amazed at the rigid (and sometimes irrelevant) standards by which the validity of a missionary’s work has been judged. Owning a Mercedes and serving in a beautiful location are just two of the numerous reasons for which devoted financial partners have been known to rethink—and sometimes withdraw—their crucial donations.

Guiltitude can be hard to diagnose, as it often masquerades as responsibility or humility. Its most obvious symptoms are:

  • Fear of having (because true ministers, by some accounts, must live in squalor)
  • Fear of doing (because some activities may be misunderstood as frivolous)
  • Fear of full reporting (because some ministry partners may misread the value and purpose of what is owned and done)

I’ve seen all three reach irrational levels in MKs who grew up in an environment where financial guilt of some sort prevailed. Even their adult relationship to money and ownership can be irreversibly skewed by the toxic influence of Guiltitude.

[Note: it goes without saying that there are instances in which missionaries truly have lived in excessive or dishonorable ways and been rightfully confronted about it.]

In my own life, I’ve found how easy it is for guilt to sneak into a spirit of gratitude. I am so grateful for God’s provision of my every practical, physical and spiritual need since I began in ministry in 1991—and for the donors whose gifts have kept me serving for these twenty-nine years!

That gratitude pushes me every day to be worthy of their sacrifice…but it also contributes to a creeping sense of guilt. How can I invest the funds I receive from supporters, who often give sacrificially, on things that are less than essential? Why should I buy a thrift store buffet or the used car of my dreams when others can make do with cardboard furniture and a 16-year old beater?


I’m afraid I don’t know whether there’s a permanent cure for Guiltitude. Something tells me it’s a chronic disease that lurks in subconscious places. Perhaps a good place to start is for both sides (the servers and the givers) to acknowledge its existence, then treat its symptoms with a healthy dose of truthful assessment. If nothing else, this may at least mitigate Guiltitude’s damage.

May I offer a few additional suggestions? 


  • Remind yourselves that you are called both to live and to serve. For most humans, living well requires rest, some level of comfort and the occasional escape. It’s okay to enjoy places, things, and activities that are financially responsible. You are not supported just to do a job, and there is growing evidence that self-care leads to greater longevity on the field of service.
  • Report clearly and intentionally, not out of guilt, but out of a desire to accurately inform those who follow your ministry.
  • Surround yourself with a smaller, understanding group of friends with whom you can share parts of your life that you don’t reveal on social media or in letters. This will keep you from feeling like you’re being deceptive. You’re just being selective.
  • Counter irrational disapproval with facts and assert truths that contradict flawed rationales.

Supporters and onlookers:

  • Understand that the occasional treat (activity, trip, unnecessary object) may actually enhance the missionary’s ministry, because it contributes to emotional and physical wellness.
  • Don’t apply to your missionaries restrictions you wouldn’t apply to yourself.
  • A poor, burned out, or suffering missionary is not more godly than a comfortable, healthy, and happy missionary.
  • Remember that the pictures you see only tell part of the story.
  • If you must speak with a missionary about what you think you’re seeing, begin by gently asking questions and truly listening with a compassionate heart.

As I sit today in my modest and comfortable home, surrounded by treasured bits and pieces of my years overseas, I am grateful for three decades of ministry rich in locations, accomplishments, and experiences. I am also aware of the challenges that come with the blessings. My commitment to myself, as I contemplate the opinions of others on what they see of my life, is to thoughtfully consider legitimate causes for concern, to adjust my choices (when appropriate) out of faithfulness to God, and to prayerfully let go of unfounded accusations—even those I inflict on myself. 


Don’t miss the Pondering Purple podcast, available on all your streaming platforms. In each brief episode, Michèle highlights one of her most popular and helpful articles in a format you can consume on the go.


Raised in France by a Canadian father and an American mother, Michèle is a mentor, writer and speaker with a heart for MKs. She taught for 20 years at Black Forest Academy (Germany) before launching her own ministry advocating for TCKs. She now travels globally to consult and teach on topics related to this unique people group. She loves good conversations, French pastries, mischievous students and Marvel movies.

“Real” Thinking About Money and a survey

Several weeks ago the post I’m Tired of Asking You for Money resonated with many. On Facebook it reached more than 7,000 people, was liked/loved/laughed at 130 times, shared 64 times, and received 24 comments. Needless to say, author Erin Duplechin isn’t the only one tired of asking for money!

Unbeknownst to Erin, I had a rough draft of a finial survey to help me understand the needs and pressures related to finances. Seeing the reactions to Erin’s post, I’ve been thinking about finances and my own reactions to raising support. I thought this post was going to go in one direction—I’ve researched proverbs in the Bible related to mind, heart, and hands of support raising and what Lady Wisdom has to say about the subject—maybe another month that post will see the light of day.

Today, I was reminded of what I wrote in Getting Started: Making the Most of Your First Year on the Field.

“Moving from a ‘real’ job before I went tot he field to a ‘ministry’ one meant that my finances went from being (mostly) my business to the whole wide world’s business. Not quite, but that is how it felt. I needed to add my parents to my bank accounts so they could handle financial stuff in the States; I needed to discuss specific dollar needs and funds raised with anyone who would listen, and I needed to decide whether or not I wanted to raise more money to cover ‘nonessentials.’ (I did not, a decision I would come to regret when I did not have medical evacuation insurance.)

As a teacher I knew I earned my salary through my hard work. As a cross-cultural worker I did not make money; I raised support and lived off the generosity and faithfulness of many dear people. To this day, decades later, I still find myself thinking in terms of earning a ‘real’ salary versus being on full-time support.”

You can read more in Chapter 7. As I worked on Getting Started, it struck me that we only use the word “real” with “salary.” When was the last time you heard the phrase “my real body” as opposed to a “my ministry body”? You don’t. You have a body, I have a body. Or “real weather” versus “ministry weather”? No such distinction. The enemy may have also warped the idea of “real” when it comes to your livelihood.

I need to think more theologically accurately about finances and need your help. Would you take a few minutes to fill out the survey? The intro says:

“We understand that finances in full-time ministry can be complex. On the one hand, we live by faith, trusting God. On the other hand, He has entrusted us with a certain degree of personal responsibility. In addition, we all come from different passport countries with different health care, educational, and retirement systems. This survey is completely anonymous so that you are able to share freely. Thank you for taking the time to help us understand your world better so that we can serve you more effectively. Our hope is to foster financial contentment and the ability to rest in the Lord’s provision.”

Please take the survey here.

Here are a few of the results thus far:

What are your current three most pressing financial stresses?

—PhD tuition. Possibility of monthly
salary cut. Savings being depleted (yet, grateful I had minimal savings).
—Needing to raise support for our children’s educational needs — high school 
—Retirement, retirement, retirement.
—big repair for our vehicle, saving money
—Churches dropping us because we were forced to change fields, the rising cost of living abroad, the dropping value of our sending country currency

What financial issues and areas would you like to discuss or provide training? 

How to feel confident in direct asking for support. 
Retirement // How to send your kids to college // Balancing saving and wise living.
Communicating with donors.
Finding new partners when you feel your resources are tapped out.
I think at this point churches receiving training on why they can’t just drop support out of the blue is most urgent.

Thanks for taking the survey!

Do you find waiting hard? As my niece said, “I just want to know what will happen, then I can wait.” Advent is a season of waiting for the birth of Christ and the beginning of the Church Year. In this workshop, you will be introduced to the role of the Church Year, the role of waiting in spiritual formation, and how to wait. 

Photo by Alain Pham on Unsplash

I’m Tired of Asking You for Money

by Erin Duplechin

I’m tired of asking you for money. There. I said it. After almost 9 years of living off of missionary support, I have grown weary of the fundraising process.

It has never been easy. In fact, in the beginning it was downright terrifying. I remember sitting in my little girls’ room with a list of people on the floor and my cell phone in my hand, praying, asking God for the strength to just help me get through three phone calls that day — just three. Three phone calls to set up a time with people, letting them know that after we shared about our ministry we would be asking for money.

A few were able to tell me right then on the phone that they couldn’t support us, but most agreed to meet with us and out of everyone we met with, around 90% chose to financially support us. God was incredibly gracious to us and we left every meeting feeling strengthened, and not just about finances. Almost everyone wound up praying for us and speaking encouraging words over us.

God always surprises you, too. The friends that you think will no doubt support you, don’t, and people whom you barely know, will. We had people tell us that God told them to cancel their cable to support us. Ultimately, financial support isn’t just about someone choosing to partner with you, it’s also about what God is doing in them.

After 9 years, it is expected that there will be ebbs and flows to support. People inevitably have to drop out or lower their support. Some do it when they encounter financial changes, some because they feel led in a different direction. Maybe some people no longer identify with what you do. It’s expected, but still difficult.

As we prepare for next year’s budget we ask ourselves again, as it has become an annual tradition, will we have enough to meet all of our needs this year? Some years we’ve had more than what we needed, some years not.

We often straddle the line between the poverty mentality and the prosperity gospel. Where we live, we are rich in comparison to most, if not all, of our friends and colleagues from our host country.

So we ask ourselves these kinds of questions, seeking God’s wisdom in the midst of money guilt and confusion: I’m close to burn out, but is it really okay for us to take vacation? I guess they can wear these shoes a little longer — I mean, the hole isn’t completely through the sole yet. If I drive the scenic route to the office that will cost me one more kilometer of fuel, am I being a good steward of my gas?

We wrestle with saving money when our friends don’t have enough to buy soap. Our sending organization requires you to budget for savings. This comes with the experience of many veteran missionaries who, after returning to their passport country, had no money to send their kids to college, no money to live off of — nothing. So, out of obedience, and using Biblical wisdom, we try to save when our finances allow for it.

We also deal with the pressure of marketing ourselves. Over and over again, selling ourselves to donors, praying that we’ll appeal to their hearts.. and their wallets. It’s hard and strange and vulnerable and honestly, I don’t want to do it anymore.

It hurts when people say they’ll support you and they don’t. It’s painful when people drop their support without explanation. It hurts when you contact people and they don’t even acknowledge that you have. It’s vulnerable and exposing and most of the time I just want to cover up and hide away.

And that is when I have to look to Jesus: my Provider, Comforter, and Strength. The one great gift from a lifestyle reliant on the money of others is the radical, humbling realization that we are absolutely, 100% dependent on God—not people. It brings me to my knees with desperate prayers on my lips: for provision, for courage, for open hearts.

The money doesn’t always flow in immediately; we summon God’s strength and continue to ask. We draw near to Him and allow Him to build up our character and reshape our hearts. We pull back our spending for ourselves and perhaps begin being more generous with others. And we pray and pray and pray.

For the supporters reading this: thank you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. We couldn’t do this without you. Thank you for the value you see in us and what we do. Thank you for partnering with what God is doing in the world.

For my fellow reluctant fundraisers: stay the course. God will provide for whatever it is He’s called you to do. Know that you’re not alone, that we feel it too. Embrace the closeness of God in the hours spent asking and waiting for answers. And trust Him.


Erin Duplechin is a missionary wife and mom of three living in Papua New Guinea. She serves in missionary care while supporting her husband’s Bible translation with the Mbore people. Before moving overseas, she served as a worship leader and continues singing and writing songs abroad. When she can, she writes about God and jungle life at

9 Steps to More Ethical Fundraising

Six years ago my wife and I were in the middle of a two-year effort to raise the necessary funds to move to the Middle East as long-term workers. While our fundraising journey had been exciting — as friends and family responded generously and lovingly to our call — it was also heartbreaking. We received discouraging comments such as “Why would I give you money to go over there and get yourselves killed?” or “Why can’t you just get a real job?”

We were doing all the things we were taught to do—pray, write newsletters, make calls, send letters, schedule meetings—but after two years, we felt stuck. We were at about 50% of our goal and couldn’t seem to make any traction. One day, I just felt I needed to do something to make a statement to our potential supporters that we were as serious about this as we possibly could be and that we held them and their potential donations in the highest esteem. So I decided to write down the ways in which we were committing to respect them and their sacrifice.

I called this our “Fundraising Code of Ethics.” To me, it was a public covenant we were making to hold ourselves to a standard of maturity, transparency, and responsibility. By making it public, we were welcoming our supporters to hold us to this standard, but we also warned them we would never have a perfect record and asked them to be gracious with us. Like every healthy relationship, trust is absolutely crucial. We are all aware if donors trust you they are more likely to support you. What we learned is that we also need to have enough faith in our supporters to be transparent with them.

My wife and I started including these nine commitments in our fundraising materials and presentations. We do not think there is anything all that original or brilliant about these things; in fact, most are common sense. However, there has been value to us in writing publicly what we think good support-raising relationships look like.


1. We will resist the urge to solicit support through guilt. We want donors to share in our joy when they support us.

Guilt is an effective tactic. The problem is that it creates a manipulative relationship between you and your supporter—and your supporter and your work—that is based on their shame of having and others not having. I don’t want my supporters to pity me or the people we serve; pity doesn’t do anything to help us draw closer to the Kingdom of God. Serving God in the Middle East is a great privilege and joy (most of the time), and I want my supporters to share in that joy. Likewise, my wife and I support fellow workers as a part of our tithe and we do it because we are excited about the kingdom work they are doing and want to be a part of it.

Admittedly, there is a slippery slope with this one, and I personally do have to resist the urge to lapse into using guilt. There is a line, though, between saying, “Four more donors at $25 a month will send us on our way to join the exciting work God is doing among the Ugabuga people,” and “Only four more donors at $25 a month stand in our way of taking the gospel to the Ugabuga people, who are dying and going to hell without knowledge of the Gospel.”

Our work with refugees is prime territory for guilt tactics. I often think I would raise more money if I published pictures of poor families huddled around kerosene heaters in their cold and damp concrete rooms than the pictures of refugees generously serving me cup after cup of Arabic coffee while we sit and laugh at the antics of our kids.

A friend of mine works for an organization that has a policy to only publish pictures that show “people at their best.” This has been a challenging standard for me to follow, especially because I do feel that it’s important for me to share the stories of the people we serve. But even though we serve people in the midst of tragedy, we want people to join our ministry because of the potential joy and wholeness that will come, not simply because of the presence and continuation of pain and suffering. Will people be excited when they support us, or will they simply feel relieved of their guilt?


2. Donors will receive a monthly report on the income and expenses of the ministry.

Full Disclosure: Our sending organization requires us to send this report every month. Nonetheless, we fully support this and want our donors to be aware of it and to see our support and commitment to this standard. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to tell dozens of friends and family what your salary is, but we want to be as transparent as possible.

Often, we are self-conscious that people will think we make too much and won’t give because of it; however, the feedback I received from some supporters is that they check the report to make sure we have enough resources, not to see if we have too much. That’s the kind of supporter we need more of, and we can’t have them unless we live in a relationship of transparency.

Will some people decline to support us because they think I should not be making as much as I do? Maybe, but I have to ask myself how healthy that relationship will be over the long run.


3. The donor’s privacy will be respected.

This one seems simple but in practice takes care. It’s too easy to be out to dinner with friends and say something about how generous another friend’s support is. We try as hard as we can to keep financial support a private matter.


4. The donor’s questions will be answered honestly and in a timely manner.

Supporters are our partners in this ministry. They see things from a different perspective than we do, and we respect and value that. I want to encourage a culture on our support team that supports a healthy dialogue about our decisions and tactics. Sometimes asking questions is also part of their process to decide to begin or increase their support. I want to build allies who have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of who we are, what we do, and why we do it that way.

We have also all had to field our share of seemingly silly and bizarre questions: Why do you need a car? Why can’t you deliver refugee aid supplies by bicycle? How was your mission trip? When are you coming home to get a real job?

What we’ve decided and have committed to our supporters is that we are going to try our hardest to respect inquisitiveness and give the benefit of the doubt by answering their questions humbly and joyfully.


5. We value unity in the church and will resist dogmatism.

I think most donors want to know their funds are not being used to support some sort of denominational turf war overseas. Once I was petitioned by a worker in Asia to support a new outreach in a village he claimed had no believers. During our discussion, I asked what religious groups were active in this area. He replied, “Well, [one particular denomination] has planted a lot of churches there.” There might be some supporters who want me to carry the flag of our denomination, but I think most care more about their funding going to where it’s needed most to do Kingdom work.


6. Our highest commitment will be to remain biblical in both our ministry and how we portray it.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but including it in this list is another layer of commitment to our support team that the Bible will be our ultimate authority in how we conduct our lives and ministry. By including this in our code of ethics, we are willingly opening ourselves up for biblical correction by our partners.


7. Our trials and triumphs in ministry will be accurately reflected in our communications; we will not sugarcoat or embellish.

“You mean you don’t skip out the door every morning singing hymns after spending two hours in prayer and then baptize three people before lunch and plant a church before dinner?” No, sometimes we get really discouraged by the lack of fruit in our ministry and need to call in some help to encourage us and get us back in the fight.

I’m also not going to fill my newsletter with a bunch of stories about our trials and tribulations to guilt you into giving more (#1). I’m just going to try to tell it like it is, as often as possible, and hope you and I can trust each other to deal with the real-world facts in a loving and gracious manner.


8. The financial decisions we make concerning our life and ministry will be made with health and longevity as a primary goal.

“Wouldn’t my financial support be better used to buy food for refugees than an air conditioner for your house?” Well, not if I come home from delivering that food to find my wife packing our bags. Sometimes we spend donors’ funds to immediately buy blankets, and sometimes it goes into my child’s college savings plan via my salary. Heck, sometimes it goes to get my wife a massage at a day spa. Again, we don’t think our donors’ money is going to do anyone any good if we are burned out and leaving the field.

Most missionaries are frugal by nature, but we need to be wise. Sometimes, instead of buying the absolute cheapest, we spend a little more on a tool or resource because we want things that will last and be useful to us for as long as we need them. This is good stewardship to us. We believe and hope that our ministry will increase in effectiveness and fruit over time, and we have to let our supporters in on that long-term perspective.


9. Donors have the right to discontinue support at any time without fear of guilt or reproach.

We have talked to potential supporters who list the fear of not being able to continue indefinitely as a reason for not starting to support us now. Likewise, we’ve seen people distraught as they come to us and say they have to cut back on their support.

Similar to not using guilt to motivate, we don’t want people to feel guilt for having to stop. Situations change, and we are not the judge of anyone’s budget. We want to assuage this fear from the beginning of our partnership. We trust God will provide for our lives and ministry.


Well there you have it, our nine-point Code of Ethics for Fundraising. Naturally you will want to know if this worked, and I don’t have a clear answer to that. We did end up raising all of our funds and have enjoyed generous financial provision on the field. A few people have given us positive feedback to the Code of Ethics, but most never said anything about it.

I can honestly say, though, that committing to these things has challenged me to conduct fundraising with a higher level of integrity and conscientiousness. Having confidence that I have raised our support with a commitment to these ethics has made me take our resources more seriously.

It has also relieved me of possible embarrassment and shame of fundraising. This isn’t a gimmick. To us it comes from our hearts, and it has been entirely worth it just from the standpoint that I can look my supporters in the eye and enjoy a trusting and mutually respectful relationship with them.


What fundraising principles have you tried to live by?


Matt is a missionary in the Middle East, where he leads a team that partners with a local church to provide aid to refugees. He’s also an adjunct professor for Johnson University. He ministers alongside Susan, his wife of seven years, and their 3-year-old daughter Annabelle. Matt and Susan worked in social work in Knoxville, Tennessee for 6 years before moving to the Middle East. He enjoys cooking, scuba diving, and talking about big and daring ideas.

An Anniversary That Snuck Up On Me

Twenty years ago on August 8th (my mom’s birthday), my parents drove me to Denver International Airport, dropped me off (per my request), and I flew off to several weeks of new teacher orientation in California before heading to China.

Erin, Amy, Cynthia

Oh my word. Erin (my teammate) and Cynthia (province mate) seem to have dressed in a more timeless fashion than I did.

Remember when vests were the rage? Or pleated shorts? Or fanny packs? Or little bangs? I don’t think I have traveled internationally in shorts since that flight. And truth be told, we got all checked-in and our flight was cancelled so we spent the night at an airport. Then for the second day in a row I put that outfit on, thinking it was a fine way to travel.

One more photo from our first month in China:

Erin, Amy, Random man

Our school took Erin and me on a day trip soon after we arrived. In my photo album I’ve written, “Mr. Yao brought this man with us to practice English.” Ha :)! What I should have written was, “What in the world was I thinking with my sock and footwear choice?!” Notice how nicely everyone is dressed and I’m sporting a cow t-shirt? Erin and I, like good Americans, dressed for comfort. Everyone else dressed for the photos. Oh, sweet Amy, so much to learn.

This man-child was not even conceived when either of those pictures was taken.

I repeat, not even conceived. This is what twenty years looks like: a grown man.

James and Amy

This month marks twenty year of being on full time support. My first support raising goal was a couple of thousand dollars for training and a flight to China and then $650 a month. I remember wondering where $650 was going to come from, it seemed like so much money. Now, needing about four times that amount, I’m thankful God eases us into stages of life.

I’ll admit it wasn’t that hard for me emotionally to go on full time support because I thought it was only for two years. For someone to “eddy out” (using rafting terms) of the flow for how most Westerners earn money for a couple of years when I was young, didn’t seem a big deal.

But to have relied on supporters’ generosity as they’ve listened to the prompting of the Holy Spirit over the years, has not always been easy. There is a certain level of pride to have “worked for your money.” We westerners respect and understand pulling our own weight.

There is a certain level of humility and gratitude to have relied on others to have “worked for your money.” We Christians respect and understand living according to rules of a different Master.

I love my American side, but sometimes she does battle with my True Self, wondering if I’m doing enough, if supporters will move on to the next sexy Christian project (the need around the world is great and your resources are limited, I truly do understand), if they’ll think that a fanny-packed clueless twenty something is more endearing than a mid-life apparently not-going-to-get-a-real-job forty something.

We love beginnings and endings. Or I should say, I love beginnings and endings. But the middle? You can wonder where the shore is when you’re in the middle of a journey.

Twenty years. I never would have thought it. I imagine as you look around you, you’ve also got parts of your journey that surprise you. And humble and delight and have formed you. I’m flooded with gratitude for these twenty years.

For the faithfulness shown to me by friends, family, and supporters via letters, emails, calls, asking family members about me, their prayers, and their money.

For the faithfulness shown to me by God who has sat with me in loneliness, laughed with me at team meetings, grown me through his words and the words of others, and reminded me to live in the present with an eye to the future and a gratitude for the past.

Here’s to fanny packs, black socks, and the timeless love of God for people!

Clink (that’s our metaphorical glasses clinking).

And just because I can’t help my gregarious self, I clink again. To God and his faithfulness. To fellow travelers. To the Broncos winning the Super Bowl!*


What have been the blessings and challenges of others “working for your money.”


*You can take the girl out of Denver, but taking American football out of her heart is nearly impossible.

Missions and Money: A Never Ending Tension

The Bible is full of truth.

Sometimes, the challenge lies in which blend of truth to apply. Many of these tensions surround missions and money.

Let me present three areas missionaries deal with.

1. Raising support as a missionary or minister.
2. Being generous to the poor and needy.
3. Saving money for your future, children’s education, and ultimately an inheritance. 

All these areas are supported by a multitude of Scripture. We cannot pick and choose our favorite, but rather find a way to apply an aspect of all these truths.

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Here is a small sampling of the truth Scripture presents in these areas. The Bible talks about money often, we should take notice! (All verses from the English Standard Version)

1. Raising support as a missionary or minister.

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”  (1 Timothy 5:17-18)

“In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14)

“One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.” (Galatians 6:6)

2. Being generous to the poor and needy.

“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11)

“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs 19:17)

“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3)

3. Saving money for the future of you and your family.

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.” (Proverbs 13:22)

“Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” (Proverbs 13:11)

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)

I realize these verses are but a sampling of the dilemma we face. It would be easy to dismiss them saying, “Yes but…”

As believers and missionaries, we tell people they can’t pick and choose which truths to apply. Neither can we.

As missionaries we need to have a degree of application stemming from all these truths in our life.

I would go so far to say all missionaries need to wrestle with issues of financial support, being generous to the poor, and saving for our future. Neglecting any of these is neglecting a part of the Word of God.

I have witnessed missionaries who ignore truth in these areas. Some are now older and wondering where they will be since they have lived a life of trusting God to provide.

Trusting God is true. But trusting God is one truth. We cannot take it at the expense of others, including providing for our future.

My goal is not to make absolute statements, rather to provoke “A Life Overseas” discussion.

Would you help us learn from each other by answering one or both of the following questions:

For a moment of honesty….which one of these is most difficult for you? (Just because we are in ministry, does not mean being generous to the poor is always our easiest one. True Confession. It is the hardest for me!)

What is your experience in dealing with blending these truths? How do you reconcile them?

Ready! Set! Discuss!

– Chris Lautsbaugh, Missionary teacher and author with Youth With A Mission, living in S. Africa.
Blog: NoSuperHeroes   Twitter: @lautsbaugh   Facebook: NoSuperHeroes