It seems like the words “missions” and “poverty” have always been synonymous with one another. At least culturally, people seem to conclude that most missionaries are poor financially and their main outreach or ministry should be to the poor of the nation they are serving. While it is true that most missionaries are dependent on donors for their financial support, it does not make them inherently poor. It is also true that many missionaries focus their ministry efforts on the socioeconomically poor and poor in spirit, but this does not paint a complete picture. To see the realities of the missionary and those they serve, we have to dig a little deeper. If we don’t, the word poverty will serve as a general, sweeping term that may not fairly or accurately depict the missionary or their work.
In most countries and situations, missionaries can not legally work to earn a wage. Work Visas can be terribly difficult to acquire and it can take years. Therefore, a missionary is dependent upon donors (aka fundraising). As a result, this can leave the pocketbook of many missionaries with something left to be desired. How well a missionary does when it comes to fundraising is largely dependent on a few variables.
1. Home Church – Being sent out of a home church is a key for a missionaries livelihood. If the missionary has served in this church as a faithful member and built a healthy community around them then this goes a LONG way in fundraising. Not only will the church in many situations want to partner monthly (at least a one-time gift) but your immediate community around you is typically excited to sow into the missionaries vision.
2. Network – How many people do the missionaries know and how well do they know them. Having a far reaching pool of relationships via family, friends, church and work community is a super valuable asset to attaining fundraising goals.
3. Ministry Appeal – This is based on what work the missionary is doing in the country they are serving in and how well they communicate about it. If a good work is being done well and communicated well, then it can really grip a donors heartstrings.
4. Asking – We don’t have cause we don’t ask… I think I have read that somewhere before. It can be a large hurdle to clear for many missionaries to ask for finances. However, a good, clear and confident ask is necessary in all fundraising scenarios. Plus, missionaries need to understand that they never want to rob people from obediently giving just because they won’t ask. Obedience is in the asking for the missionary and in the response for the donor.
The lost world around us is “poor” in many different ways. A better way to describe the world though is the “potential harvest”. In this modern age missionaries serve in all kinds of realms that might not directly affect the economically poor. There is a huge number of urban missionaries whose daily interactions are with the middle to upper class. These missionaries staff international churches and organizations that focus on the urban “higher ups”. There are house of prayer missionaries and missionary musicians. There are university campus missionaries and missionaries to refugees who are displaced, but not necessarily poor economically.
With thousands of missionaries in the world, we have to change our understanding as the missions community and world changes. You can be assured that if their is a place out there that seems like it would need missionaries, they are most likely already there and doing a good work. Let’s all get behind those missionaries so they enjoy looking at their wallet and lets support them as they serve the potential harvest or what God calls the Plentiful Harvest.
Marvin Slaton – Modern Day Director