During my travels I hear increasing comments questioning the value of personal support, such as:
- “Since deputized fundraising is going away….”
- “Raising personal support was for a previous generation.”
- “Since people are not faithful in giving for missions we must focus on the business model of funding.”
Where is this skepticism about raising personal support coming from?
Obviously, in countries where Christian workers are not legal, raising personal support is not wise—unless you want to start a prison ministry! Other means for supporting Kingdom workers are necessary. Here are possibilities:
- Kingdom workers are tentmakers and support their own ministry costs
- Legitimate businesses are formed with profits going to ministry
- Money is received from outside the country
That’s just common sense!
Let’s look more deeply. In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul boldly teaches that ministry workers have a right to receive support from the Church (note big C). But his overriding concern is the advance of the gospel.
“…we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.” —1 Cor 9:14
As we consider how to fund Kingdom workers we must be guided not merely by personal preferences, but by the question, “What method of funding will best advance the gospel?”
But why is raising personal support marginalized in countries which are not hostile to the gospel? I suspect it is because of the ABFR syndrome—Anything But Fund Raising!
Kingdom workers are easily overwhelmed with the task of recruiting 25-50-100-200 monthly giving partners. When workers discover that fundraising will take more than a few days following their missions’ orientation week, they freeze in disbelief. “I am called to ministry not fundraising!” they argue.
Suddenly, “other ways” of funding become attractive. Start a business and let the profits support you? Go part-time and live as a tentmaker? Join a local church which guarantees salary? Anything but fund raising!
Are there downsides to raising personal support? Absolutely. It takes time and energy, especially because the most effective means is through time-consuming face-to-face appeals. Secondly, donors usually stop supporting their missionary’s organization when “their missionary” moves to another calling.
But personal support also has one huge advantage: People want to give to people!
A giving partners from Minneapolis died last year. They started support at $25 per quarter—not a large amount but I was grateful—especially after Dick told me he was seriously sick and would die within a couple years. We corresponded a few times, and I was touched by Dick’s honesty about leaving this world for his eternal home.
After he died I expected Dick’s widow to stop support. When “Judy” phoned me a few weeks after the funeral, I volunteered, “Judy, I understand if you must stop your support. Your income is lower now.”
“Absolutely not!” she reacted. “I am going to cut Focus on the Family and Billy Graham, but I am not going to stop supporting our missionaries!”
There you have it! Giving partners like to give to people where they can visualize how their money is being used. Those who have never lived this way do not understand the bond donors feel to their missionaries.
Fundraising is more than getting money. If a mission is supported totally by business or by outside funding, no giving partners or prayer warriors are recruited—is that healthy?
Jesus could have supplied funding for his ministry without donors, but he chose purposely to be supported by giving partners who had been touched by his work (Luke 8:1-3). Similarly, he could have supplied the 12 with funding for their traveling ministry similar to the way my Iowa State baseball coach supplied us ballplayers with weekend stipends on a road trip. But Jesus chose to let them experience the “pressure” of finding “worthy” households to host them (Matt 10-5-13).
Please do not be seduced the ABFR syndrome! You need giving partners like Dick and Judy as well as “big guys” to support your work. Don’t avoid fundraising just because it takes time and brings pressure. There is a reason Jesus asked his disciples to find partners! It blessed the “worthy hosts” and it enlarged the disciples’ trust. Don’t rob others of the blessing of giving nor shortcut your spiritual growth by eliminating raising personal support!