Thursday, April 26, 2012

Raising Support for Short-Term Missions

A proven and tested approach

With so many books, resources, techniques and ideas out there, it can be hard to know where to begin when raising support to serve on a short-term mission.  We can lose balance with information overload and feel completely overwhelmed or go to the other extreme and do nothing and hope it works out.

In addition to this lack of balance, most times raising support is viewed as a necessary evil to get on with the real ministry.  Oftentimes, what most do is simply send out a letter announcing their plans with a request for support.  While prayer is a key component of this approach, we can miss the heart of discipleship that God intends for the short-termer and those who will take part as senders.

Is asking for financial support biblical?

"Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.”  John 16:24 (NAS)

If you have been charged with the responsibility of raising support for your short-term mission you can’t do it without establishing the conviction that asking is biblical.  Now, I didn't say it was necessary for God to provide for your ministry, but it is clearly one of the methods by which He chooses to provide.  Here are examples from the Old and New Testament:

“Then the heads of households of the Levites approached Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of households of the tribes of the sons of Israel. They spoke to them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, “The LORD commanded through Moses to give us cities to live in, with their pasture lands for our cattle.” So the sons of Israel gave the Levites from their inheritance these cities with their pasture lands, according to the command of the LORD.” Joshua 21:1-3 (NAS, emphasis mine)

Here we see the heads of the Levites verbally reminding Eleazar, Joshua, and the heads of the other tribes of Israel of God’s command to provide for their needs.  Even though it had previously been commanded it didn't happen automatically.  It took this verbal reminder for them to respond obediently.

Let’s take a quick look at this New Testament example:

“And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city.”  Matthew 10:11 (NAS)

To inquire or “ask” required verbal communication with the believers in a particular city for their support and provision while ministering.  While there are other verses we could examine, these two make it clear that asking for resources has been, and always will be, a part of growing ourselves and others to be more like Christ and a biblical way to accomplish ministry.

Go and Make Disciples of all Nations

If you’ve committed to serve on a short-term mission, most likely you are aware of the Lord’s mandate to go and make disciple of all nations provided in Matthew 28:19.  In fact, your participation on a short-term mission may be one of the practical ways you are carrying out that mandate in your life!  Yet, we must remember that the call to make disciples is not just an overseas call but also one we must live out in the U.S. and within our own communities.  This is by no means a new concept, but oftentimes it’s a value we ascribe to as important but never fully live out.  In fact most believers agree with this strategy laid out quite nicely in Acts 1:8 (to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth) but they struggle with truly living a missional life.

Have you ever thought of “asking” others for financial support for your short-term mission as a viable part of making disciples?  Have you seriously considered that God might have plans to challenge and mature others in their faith journey as a result of your short-term mission?  After all, isn’t giving just as much a spiritual discipline as praying or reading the Bible?  Most of us are very comfortable challenging others to pray, to read the Word or to serve but are genuinely intimidated at the thought of asking for financial resources.  As a short-termer we have a tremendous opportunity to help others become “more complete in Christ(Col 1:28-29) through their giving and an opportunity to be co-laborers in the short-term mission.  We also have a tremendous opportunity to grow as we step out in faith, ask, and trust the Lord for His provision. 

How do I ask for financial support for my short-term mission?

Without love “it profits me nothing” (1 Cor 13:3).  Authentic loving relationships are the bedrock of asking for financial support. Our relationship with the Lord is our first priority followed by our relationships with those we intend to ask for support.  Oftentimes, the support raising process is a good indicator of the quality of loving relationships we have in our life.    

1.  Pray – Begin by acknowledging and adoring God for who He is.  Psalm 50: 10-12 states, "the world is Mine, and all it contains.”  These and many other Scriptures make it clear that everything belongs to God.  We can love and worship God by acknowledging and resting in this truth through prayer.  There’s no single vision or need He can’t provide for.

Share your fears and concerns for His guidance, and ask for the right words.  Also, pray for the individual(s) you intend to contact.  Pray that you will be able to connect with them, that their hearts would be open and ready for your request, and for God to lead them in their response.  This is not a “pray and pay” approach.  God knows our hearts and our prayers need to be rooted in love.  If we sincerely care about each person, our motivation is that all would be obedient to the Lord’s leading -- however that may turn out.

2.  It starts with you (Luke 6:40):  If we are not personally invested in the short-term mission, it can be difficult to encourage and ask others for financial support.  Jesus Christ set the ultimate example of generosity and challenges each one of us to conform to His image. As individuals seeking to serve on a short-term mission, we cannot attempt to develop other spiritual disciplines in our life yet neglect generosity, nor can we take others on a journey toward generosity or expect others to give if we are not personally committed ourselves.  A model often recommended for short-term mission fundraising is the 1/3 – 1/3 – 1/3 approach, where the first one-third comes from the short-termer, the second from the church and the last one-third from family, friends and others who want to partner financially with your short-term mission.  This is not a hard and fast rule but only a recommended breakdown.  The key here is that you personally invested at any amount and were generous towards what you are asking others to be generous towards.  Your portion can come from a monthly gift that you set aside prior to your trip through budgeting, out of your personal savings, or by creative ways to generate additional income such as taking on odd jobs or having a yard sale.

3.  Involve your local church:  Acts 6:6 provides an example of the early New Testament church commissioning and sending missionaries to share God’s Word and make disciples.  Involving the local church is biblical and critical for success.  Most likely your short-term mission is taking place through your local church, but that is not always the case.  Either way, it’s important early in the process to schedule a time to meet with your church’s mission team/pastor and to share a bit of your testimony and journey, why you want to participate on the short-term mission and what you hope God will accomplish.  This is also a great time to determine if there are any scholarships or funds that would be available to help you along your way.  Most churches have a line item for short-term missions and plan for scholarship opportunities, but if they don’t have funds set aside, determine if there are any plans for members of the team to work together to raise additional funds.  This could be a number of things such as a fundraising dinner/dessert, silent auction, food sales, etc.  Be prepared to step in and help with events like this any way you can.

4.  Share the Vision/Need – Consider who you are contacting and what their passions are before making contact with them.  Because you are in relationship, you will know if what you are going to ask for is in alignment with their passions.

Seek first to meet face-to-face to share about your short-term mission and the opportunity to help with financial support.  If you cannot share face-to-face, the next best approach is by phone.  As you share, be clear and concise with your request.  Start with the vision or need of the short-term mission, and then work your way into the critical details such as the timing, overall budget and how specifically they can help.  Be sure to express how your role on the short-term mission can help meet the need.  After sharing, ask them if they will pray about supporting you financially.  If the answer is “no” or they make it clear it’s not a possibility, thank them for their consideration and ask if they would be a part of your prayer team.  If the answer is, “yes,” to joining your financial support team then always follow-up with the question, “When can I contact you to determine how the Lord leads you?”  All too often, this is where the “disconnect” takes place in the discipleship process.  We ask them to “pray about it,” and fail to identify what the next step will be.  Good discipleship requires good follow-through!  By asking them for a follow-up date, you are essentially getting their permission for follow-up.  This allows them to have ownership of their decision made between them and the Lord as well as to your follow-up contact with them.

5.  Follow-Through (Obtain “yes” or “no”) - Once you identify a date and time, be sure you make that follow-up call or contact.  Your chances of connecting are very favorable because they will be expecting you to contact them.  Once you connect, greet them, and briefly remind them of the reason you are calling again and that you are following up on the day/time they had indicated would work for them.  You have an opportunity to demonstrate a genuine sensitivity to their life situations by asking them if this is a good time to determine what decision they have made.  The goal here is to get a “yes” or “no” answer not provide a “sales pitch.” If you are unable to determine their decision be sure to ask them for permission to connect again.  Continue this process until they have responded with a “yes” or “no” answer.

This is most often where the support raising process breaks down due to a lack of persistence, fear or forgetfulness.  In Luke 18, Jesus shares about a persistent widow who was finally granted her request from a judge.  Verse 5 hilariously states, “because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’”  The context of this verse is persistent prayer to God, yet I also believe God works and honors those who are persistent to fulfill their various ministries.  We don’t want to be a pest, but it is biblical to receive a “yes” or “no” answer from those who said they would pray and get back to us.

6.  Thank Supporters – Regardless of how individual(s) respond to your request always express your gratitude and appreciation for their time and consideration.  Saying “thank you” is another key component of an authentic loving relationship.  Take the opportunity to do this verbally during the follow-up meeting.  This may sound odd, but I have had the opportunity to thank individuals for saying “no” to a financial request.  I typically do this when I realize later how God intended to provide for a specific need.  Remember that a “no” can be an obedient answer and that God can use a “no” to reveal His pathway of provision.

When individuals do choose to support your short-term mission, set a personal goal to thank them a minimum of five times.   These “thank you’s” can come verbally, through written cards, emails, a final report, or by sending a thank you gift.  You can never say thank you enough.

Article by Chris McDaniel

Chris McDaniel is the Chief Business Development Officer for DELTA Ministries International (DELTA) and author of Igniting a Life of Generosity. Chris loves to spend time with this wife, bumping the volleyball with his daughter, playing catch with his son, serving the “least of these”, pizza, snowboarding, running half marathons, and seeing followers of Christ become generous givers.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Can A Small Church Have A Robust Missions Program?

If you’re involved in missions at a small church you are probably all too familiar with the “Big 3” obstacles: 1) limited pool from which to draw volunteers, 2) much smaller financial resources, and 3) limited time to dedicate. I’m guessing if you are reading this you are likely either a pastor of a smaller church where missions is just one of your many responsibilities, or you are a volunteer member of your church’s missions committee. It is likely that you had an amazing short-term mission experience that changed your life, and you want to see everyone at your church impacted the way you were.

I know that’s my story. God got a hold of me in college through short-term missions and never let go. I eventually settled at a small church, and began my quest to turn my small church into a mission’s powerhouse. My pastor and I had a great vision. We had a great location. We were eager. Yet things didn’t work out. We did a couple of small trips early on, but then things fizzled out. This was a source of great anguish to me. How could I fail in something so eternally important? But God brought me upon a realization — I was chasing a cool vision and idea instead of chasing after God.

Full disclosure? There is no sure fire way to start a missions program, or 12 steps to success for the small church. My church is hardly involved in missions to the extent I hope to be one day, but we’ve got a start.

I’ve learned a lot from failing and from seeing success. All I can do is share with you what I have learned, and pray that God will use it for His glory. So let’s take a journey together.

First, YOU can’t be the missions PERSON. You can’t do it alone. Whether you are a pastor with other responsibilities, or a layperson from you church with a full-time job, you have limited time to dedicate. You need a group to share the responsibility with you. Begin asking around to see who might be interested in forming a mission group with you. I’d try to stay away from the word “committee” if I were you, though. That tends to scare people off. Simply start a mission group for people who have a heart for the world, want to help people, and see others meet Jesus for the first time. What will this group do? We’ll handle that a little later.

Second, lay a foundation. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your church’s mission program. You can’t expect people to go from being uninformed about missions, to signing up for a trip to Africa over night. You don’t have a big pool to draw from. You can’t just put out a call and have a team come together simply by pure statistics. One in a hundred signing up for a mission trip works at a big church, but not in a small church. We have to lay a foundation first.

People typically respond to world missions in the following process: apathy, awareness, awakening, action, and finally advocacy. Unfortunately many of us try to jump in at the action and advocacy stage instead of the beginning.

Make getting missions into your church’s budget the first step. Put your money where your mouth is. The reality is, we tend to care about where the money is going. If money is going to missions, then people are a lot more likely to care about it.

As a mission group, begin making other people aware of the world around them. This can be done through a monthly prayer time for the nations. You can include prayer for the nations in your church service. Another idea would be to create PowerPoint slides that can scroll before or after church with facts on a different country each week as well as ways to pray for that country. The book Operation World is a great resource for this. You could even plan a “Missions Sunday,” or have a month where you focus on missions at the church.

 Then comes awakening, the linchpin to a strong missions program. This is perhaps the hardest and least under your control. Awakening is all about God awakening someone’s heart. In my experience, awakening happens most often when we personally see or experience something. You might want to hold a special showing of a movie like, “End of the Spear,” “Kony 2012”, or another missions related film. You may also consider a small, introductory weekend mission trip or local service day just to expose people. But make sure it is not intimidating, and that you have laid the foundation of awareness before jumping in here. 

Finally you will be ready for the action stage. Hopefully by this point, you have a strong missions group, and a whole spiritual community that is aware of, and passionate about the world around them. Before you plan mission’s trips, however, be strategic about where you will go. Focus on partnerships rather than a shotgun approach of going wherever people suggest.  You may even consider mission fields that are closer and less expensive rather than destinations that require lots of travel time and money.

Finally, don’t be afraid to partner with other churches in your community. Many of us who are a part of small churches don’t have large amounts of money in our general budget, but we would have some. Partner up with other small churches, or even with a larger church. Not only can you combine financial resources, but also you may even be able to collaborate on trips. This relieves some of the leadership and recruiting stresses on your church.

I have to be honest; my church isn’t nearly where I hope God takes us someday. I’m guessing yours might not be either. Don’t get discouraged. Continue to pray for your church and seek God’s direction. Rally people around you to pray. Above all else, we know one thing: that everything significant in God’s Kingdom is preceded by prayer. I pray that God would use our small churches for great things!

Questions for the author? Contact Tory at or 520-404-0841.

Friday, April 13, 2012

5 Things To Know About Sharing Your Short-term Mission Experience

This week marks the end of the “spring break season.” Many people have gone on mission trips during spring break and are returning home. Are you one of them? Or maybe you went over Christmas break or maybe even last summer? Have you been home from your mission trip for a while now, but still haven't figured out how to talk about your experience? You may not even know where to start--especially if this was your first trip. You want to explain how amazing and even miraculous your experience was but just can't do it justice. What was supposed to be you telling someone about how God is working around the world and in your life turns out to be a jumbled string of stories about seeing a lion, hoping to see a tiger, and breaking down on the side of the road that leaves your friends confused about what you did. Maybe worse yet, you are left feeling isolated and not understood.

Talking about a mission trip with someone who wasn't with you can be a very difficult thing. The experiences are literally indescribable. How do we talk about such an extraordinary experience? I certainly don't own the answers to these questions, but let me give you some advice and some ways that have worked for me:

  1. You do have to talk about it--but not too much! Don't incessantly talk about your trip, but don't act like it didn't happen. Not dealing with the hard questions that the experience brought up can lead to stagnation at the least and crippling depression at worst.
  2. Don't bore people with details. Instead of recounting your trip for people by giving them the hour by hour schedule, pick a few stories to tell. Choose 2-4 stories about significant events or people that explain your trip in a snapshot. These stories can and should describe living conditions, the spiritual atmosphere of the country, and anything that God revealed to you or taught you.
  3. Have an impression answer. There are going to be people who ask about your trip but are doing it out of obligation more than true curiosity. Have a 15 second answer ready about something that left a big impression on you. For example, you may say something like, "I didn’t realize the unemployment rate was over 70% where we served. They already knew money wasn’t the answer to their problems so when we brought clothes for the children and shared the hope of Jesus Christ, they received it with great eagerness. Much different than what I’ve experienced here in America.” This might just be the hook that draws people into wanting to know more.
  4. Choose a few people close to you to lean on. This could be a spouse, a friend, or a Bible study group but it needs to be someone with whom you can be vulnerable and transparent. Even though you can't tell all the stories and every little detail to everyone, you need to be able to tell someone. It is simply part of processing your experience.
  5. Report back to your prayer and financial supporters. These people were and are heavily invested in your experience. When you report back, ask them to continue to pray for you in a few specific ways.

Telling your story can be a powerful thing for you and for others. It can be healing and liberating for you. But it can also help spread your new vision and involve others in what God is doing. For more on coming home from a trip, what to expect, and how to share your experience—especially in a church service—I recommend The Next Mile curriculum. Telling your story is not easy but it is key to continuing on the path that God has put you.

Questions for the author? Need help with debriefing and reentry? Contact Tory at or 520-404-0841.

Friday, April 6, 2012

3 Ways To Train STM Teams That Are Scattered

How do you prepare your team when they are coming from all over the country and maybe even the world? Preparation is easy when we can all be in the same room, but how do you do it when your team is made of individuals from many different places? Many groups send a manual and meet up in an airport hoping everyone will feel prepared. This, however, can be frustrating to team members who have never traveled or those who may have unanswered questions and keeps the team from getting to know each other ahead of time.  

Flying everyone to one location for a weekend of training can be a great way to deal with this issue, but it is probably out of your budget. There are other options and ways to prepare your team. Here are some ideas:

  1. Find creative ways to meet virtually. Meet on the phone using a Free Conference Call service. You can even find free video conferencing solutions. I have held weekly team meetings the six weeks prior to a trip using The Next Mile curriculum over the phone. It’s a little different than in person, but we get to know each others’ voices, names, where we are from, and get to pray together.

  1. Schedule a forced layover. Often there is one major hub out of your country to your international destination. Talk to your travel agent about an overnight layover so you can meet and do some training at an airport hotel. Most hotels would have a meeting space you could use for a nominal fee.

  1. Arrive a couple days early. Plan to arrive at your destination a day or two early. Spend the first couple of days orienting your team; training, and adjusting to the new culture. Your in-country costs are usually very minimal so an extra day or two is not a big cost.

Are you wondering what you should cover in your training? If so, check out the post “4 Areas To Train For Life Change.”  

Questions for the author? Contact Tory at or 520-404-0841.