There are times when raising missionary support that you share the vision about what God is calling you to, and it feels like a perfect fit. You click with the missions committee, and you’ve listened to a few sermons of the pastor online. You notice that some of the books in the church lobby are by your favorite authors.
If the church is in a different town than the one you live in, you might even think to yourself: “If I ever move to this town, I would love to be part of this church.”
But then, this church breaks your heart. A policy of the church or of the missions committee prevents them from partnering with you in ministry financially.
They may give a vague answer: “You just don’t fit the criteria our missions committee has made.”
They give a perfectly reasonable criteria that you could never fulfill. The most common: “We only financially support missionaries who have been members of our church at some point.”
This feels deflating, especially if the church otherwise felt like such a good fit.
But take a step back and start with all that is good: This church has not ignored you. They have allowed you to share with the missions committee. They have prayerfully considered what you shared. They’ve probably mentioned encouraging things. They’ve taken the time to then communicate to you not only that they will not financially support you as a missionary, but they’ve even told you why.
This is all good news, and it further affirms that they would be an awesome supporting church.
It might be tempting to think: “What if every church only supported missionaries who have been members of their church? How could any missionary become fully funded unless home churches supported 100% of their budget?”
Here are some responses you want to avoid. Later, I’ll offer some helpful responses.
Responses to Avoid.
- Don’t directly challenge the criteria. This puts the missions committee on the defensive.
- Don’t be ungrateful for all the time they’ve taken to hear you out.
- Don’t be unresponsive and pretend they don’t exist once you learn of their policy.
As you read these, you are saying, “Of course I would never do that.” The reality is that raising support can be tough, and when you get a response that disappoints, it’s inevitable at some point to give one of those responses.
Often, policies are well intended ways to help the missions committee filter through the many requests for financial support they receive.
Affirm their hard work to even have criteria so they can be good stewards in missions.
Ask: “Other than monthly financial support, there are other ways churches can help send a missionary: does your criteria allow for other things.” This statement shows something they can readily agree with. They are more than an ATM. Be prepared to share some of the other ways they can help other than finances.
Here are some of the most common:
- Prayer: Always a blessing.
- Team members: although this won’t be on your radar while starting out, realize that you will want new team members in the future.
- Expertise: Are there professional skills necessary for a ministry project? Maybe the church can connect with people in the congregation with those skills.
One time gifts: I don’t typically ask for these. However, you could ask for a one-time gift towards a start-up fund. I’m often surprised at how many churches give large one time gifts. If you do the calculations, they can be a significant amount spread over a few years. A church with budget woes may seem too common, but there are also churches with surpluses waiting to give money to missionaries who ask for it.
Criteria and Policies Change.
Beyond the fact that a church can do a lot to support you other than regular financial support, it is possible you will be the missionary that helps a church see how a policy or criteria of theirs might change.
Change does happen. It might take a few years. But if you have continued to send monthly updates, this church will keep you in mind as they make financial decisions.
If you want to know more about how to effectively raise missionary support, join the Be a Fully Funded Missionary (BFFM) email list. You’ll learn if BFFM is a good fit for you, and you will continue to get emails that will help you become a fully funded missionary for years to come. As a bonus, you will immediately receive the BFFM guide to top online resources for missionaries (that aren’t for missionaries).