In response to last month’s post on missionaries and retirement, the following question was asked on our Facebook page: How about a few more on the topic of money and fundraising? For all my years with one organization, I still struggle with questions like “Should I let people know that I can barely meet my rent?” or “should I be ala George Mueller (whom everyone who is NOT a missionary holds up as the example!) and tell only God?” It is extremely difficult to make these types of decisions and even though I’ve known the Lord for many years, I still find myself questioning as to what is faith and what is not “faith”. I would appreciate some input from others. I know not all missionaries are on financial support, but many of us are.
I get it! This is an area I’ve struggled with too. It’s one I’m currently wrestling with. My monthly cell phone bill went up $25 a month and my health insurance is going up $161 a month in January. Both are a necessity for my work, but in light of the screaming needs of starving children, human trafficking, and planting churches, I feel embarrassed to say, “Hey, help pay for my cell phone.”
I’m going to start of by saying I don’t believe there is one right answer. The life of faith means that there are few absolute rules. What works or doesn’t work will most likely change and evolve.
We see this tension within Scripture:
Then Jesus went from village to village, teaching the people. And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick—no food, no traveler’s bag, no money. He allowed them to wear sandals but not to take a change of clothes. “Wherever you go,” he said, “stay in the same house until you leave town. But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.” So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil. Mark 6:6-13
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you out to preach the Good News and you did not have money, a traveler’s bag, or an extra pair of sandals, did you need anything?” “No,” they replied. “But now,” he said, “take your money and a traveler’s bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one! For the time has come for this prophecy about me to be fulfilled: ‘He was counted among the rebels.’ Yes, everything written about me by the prophets will come true.” “Look, Lord,” they replied, “we have two swords among us.” “That’s enough,” he said. Luke 22:35-38
I realize each of these passages occur within a specific context. My point is, your needs are also going to exist within a context and some needs are easier to mention than others. For example, I’ve had friends on the field that had cancer. One I’m thinking of was a more socially acceptable form that people rallied around and were deeply moved. Another friend had a more socially unacceptable form that came with a bit of shame. But both had very real physical, financial, and emotional needs . . . and both needed and deserved support in the most holistic sense.
When I first went on full-time support one of my supporters was a friend, a man who had been romantically interested in me. I didn’t feel the same and knew it was highly unlikely I would change in how I felt about him. He committed to provide 10% of my monthly needs. I was very uncomfortable when I learned this.
As in, queasy in my gut, uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. This was not how I wanted God to provide (and honestly I wasn’t even sure if this was God’s leading or a way to keep us tied together).
But God clearly said to me, “Amy, you do not get to pick who or how you are supported. You are not in control of manipulating your finances.” This was a specific message for me because money has been one of my default areas for security. My friend ended up being a faithful and generous supporter for years.
As I think about the relationship between asking overtly and trusting God that through our communication with supporters, He will move in their hearts, these are questions I have:
- How big is your base? I know some people have a few “larger” financial supporters and others have a much broader base. Both have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to support raising. It can be easier to communicate specific needs to a few; but if they need to stop their financial giving for whatever reason, it can be very stressful.
- Is it a one time need or an on going one?
- Are the finances needed for you personally or for those you minister to?
- What tradition do you come from? I’m from the U.S. and have noticed regional patterns when it comes to communicating and the type of information given. Denominations I believe can also be a factor.
- Your personality and how God is leading you. Sometimes God has us work within our comfort zone, and other times he asks us to work outside of it.
- A piece I wish I had understood earlier was my role in helping to educate supporters about long-term needs (like college for kids or retirement). I think I could have taken a more proactive role than I have.
My hope for this post is that it starts the conversation and we can continue the conversation in the comments. I am (clearly) no expert in this area, but I want to talk about it and hear from others who understand these tensions. How much do you communicate with supporters? Have you gotten any pushback? Have people wanted you to communicate more about specific needs?