Now I’m not so sure. Being part of a well known missions agency can be hugely beneficial.
They are all different and have their own pros and cons. None of them are perfect.
Is the Missions Agency Trusted?
A missions agency that is widely known among evangelicals (like Campus Crusade for Christ, Wycliffe Bible Translators) has built trust over decades. If you are with one such organization, chances are that many of your potential supporters have had some contact with your agency before. The good thing is that the agency’s reputation works in your favor. Instead of exhaustively screening everybody they could potentially support people already know you have been screened to join that agency.
If you are with a lesser known agency, it’s not that your agency is un-trusted, it’s that it’s unknown. There’s not an existing track record. Also, you have to be careful not to implicitly slight better known organizations while explaining the benefits of your lesser known agency.
Does the Agency have an Existing Network?
I mentioned Campus Crusade for Christ (or Cru, if you prefer), and it has a huge existing network. Every year, gobs of Cru alumni graduate from college and enter the professional world. For the next several decades, they are likely to support those with Cru because of the great impact it had on them in college.
Some missions agencies have ties, both formal and informal, to denominations. This can exclude you from some potential supporters, but it can also open doors to many other potential supporters.
Older and Larger Missions Agencies are that Way for a Reason.
They have stood the test of time. They have struck a balance of being an agency that missionaries want to be part of, and at the same time being an agency that people want to support. They’ve tried different things: some have worked, and some have not. They have a wealth of experience, and they know what it takes for missionaries to serve longer term.
What if You’re part of a Smaller, Newer, or Lesser-known Missions Agency?
This can get a little tricky. You will need to explain why you are with a lesser known missions agency, but you will have to do it without belittling (pun intended) the larger agencies that already have people’s trust. The best way I’ve found to do this is to say something like: “We are basically the same as [trusted well-known missions agency], but we only do ______.” Or, “We’re basically like [trusted and well known missions agency], but we are only in [geographical area].
If potential supporters know you well but they don’t know your agency well, it is a tough hurdle. If a potential supporter doesn’t know you and he doesn’t know your agency, it can be really tough.
I’ve noticed that the larger and older missions agencies are bringing many types of ministries under their umbrella. Cru comes to mind. They focus on campus ministry, but they have a whole host of other ministries with different names that are all part of Cru. This allows missionaries to leverage the trust and accountability of Cru while at the same time focusing on specific tasks or areas of ministries.
What if my Home Church is my Missions Agency?
If this is the case, you probably don’t need to raise funds from others. However, it still matters that your home church, which can be thousands of miles away, serves as your sending agency and accountability.
I confess I have very little experience with this missions model, but here are a few of the pros and cons that have been brought to my attention.
- There’s one sending and supporting church, and so the missionary doesn’t have to maintain a relationship with lots of supporters.
- Since that one home church provides everything, no energy or time is spent raising funds, or raising lacking funds if problems arise.
- While on furlough, the missionary only focuses on one church instead of traveling so much.
- Most North American churches don’t know how to support staff well living overseas.
- The missionary can end up only facilitating short term mission teams. This can be bad if that’s not what the missionary expected!
- The missionary’s ability to minister is tied solely to the home church’s ability to support him. If the church flounders, the missionary’s ministry is over.
- It’s not a missions model that medium to smaller sized churches can be part of.
How Much do You Trust the Agency?
How much do you give to missions agencies you’ve not heard of before? My guess is that most of your giving goes to your church and ministries that have some sort of track record.
I certainly don’t want to downplay the role that smaller ministries play, but I do think it is wiser for most potential missionaries to join well established organizations. Raising support can be so much easier when you already have the backing of a trusted organization. However, if God has called you to be part of a newer or smaller organization, he will provide for it. All those big and well known ministries were small at one point!