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.

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