Monday, August 22, 2011

New Trend? Churches that don't support missionaries.

I've got a question for you all.

Both our church here and our last church in Chicago haven't had the traditional mission board. Neither one of them really supports missionaries like so many traditional evangelical churches do.

I understand why they don't. They've seen people go overseas just because it's this traditional uber "spiritual" thing to do, and those people often do more harm than good to everyone. They've also seen people come around asking churches to support them, and the church ends up supporting 40 people that they barely know that have been overseas for forever. They've seen congregations feel good about themselves because they support lots of missionaries when no one is engaged in serving in their local community. It's just... a flawed system.

However - both churches still strongly encourage engaging in ministry overseas. They tend to partner with organizations that work on the ground and nurture long-term relationships in certain countries and with certain ministries. They both send short-term teams to do various forms of ministry in those countries.

So far, so good.

Our first problem? There's no potential support for people who are already engaged in ministry who need help. Both sets of our parents worked overseas for nearly all of their adult lives. If they had dropped support and needed to engage a new church supporter, our church simply wouldn't be able to help them. Why? Because they don't support missionaries corporately, only through individual members of the church. However, since our parents are already overseas, it's impossible to get to know the church. Catch-22. Work overseas must be abandoned in order to attempt to build the relationships to gain the support needed to get overseas. Problem.

Second problem? People from within the church that intend to head overseas are left without real church support. We've spent the last four years heavily invested in and involved in this church. We love it, we're so thankful for it, and it's changed us. Everyone we meet in the church heavily encourages the direction we're heading in. However, since the church doesn't support corporately, we're meant to raise support from individuals only (this, by the way, is not considered best practice by most organizations). We're young, though, and the people we know in the church are also young. We'd never be able to raise enough money to go from just our circle of friends. We'd have to go elsewhere to ask for help, and yet if other churches are like our church, they wouldn't even consider supporting us because they don't know us. Other churches that might consider it would question why our own body wasn't helping us - is that a sign that they don't believe in what we're doing? In the end, we may be forced to switch churches just to teach overseas.

Third problem? I think this mentality towards missions really devalues and misses the great need for long-term people that invest their entire lives in a place. Those people learn the language, absorb the culture, and attempt to see what the true needs are and how they can be met in a culturally appropriate way. This is ironic to me, because the church is really trying to value this by partnering with ministries that are already at work on the ground. However, what they're essentially doing is taking advantage of other people that have already become those long-term missionaries while simultaneously not having any way to develop new people like this that might be called from within the body.

So - how does a church solve the problems of the traditional church missions committee and solve the problems that our church is currently facing? We're just beginning to engage in these questions - does anyone have any experience with this with their churches?


Jaimie said...

Members of my extended family (6 of them) are involved with ABWE. I guess it helps to be with a mission board? I don't know much about it though.

Kacie said...

ABWE is huge in Isaac's family.

But, we'd be with a mission board too. The church still wouldn't support us.

Alida said...

We are not supported by our home church either...only by individuals from there. It was hard raising support that way. We did take the time to go to the churches of friends and family to meet with mission boards in various places around the country and we picked up a few supporting churches. It is hard. We have lost and gained supporters along the way.

And each time we are in the states we feel compelled to travel from this church to that one meeting with individuals and speaking in churches along the way to maintain our connections. It can be draining.

I didn't realize it was a trend among churches. We thought our situation was unique.

Kacie said...

Alida, is your church a pretty young trendy church? Ours is. I see them wanting to do things differently but not yet having a working new solution in place.

I don't want to criticize harshly, but I'd like to encourage a more comprehensive approach, even if it's not going back to old ways!

Nate Johnson said...

Kacie, great thoughts and questions here. We have been wrestling with this as we have started our support discovery to head to Austria. Our home church in Chicago still supports missionaries as well as both of the churches we grew up in.
We have started discussing with some churches we have connected with how we can do things relationally/organically but I think many are unsure what this new model could look like. I am not sure turning away from the "old model" with out a "new model" is a wise choice.

junglewife said...

I grew up traveling from church to church with my parents to raise and maintain our support. I have no idea how much of their support came from churches vs. individuals. What I know now as we live on support we have raised is that the vast majority of our support comes from individuals. And, though it's harder and takes longer to raise that way, i find that it makes more of a connection with people. Rather than having members of a church say "My church supports so-and-so", they themselves are supporting so-and-so - much more personal.

We have not found that the trend is churches discontinuing their support of missionaries. What we have found from several churches (the bigger ones especially) is that they would like to support only a few missionaries that come from within their church at 100% so they DON'T have to go from church to church trying to raise all their support. Which is a great concept except for those of us who don't have one of those churches behind us. But God has provided for us, despite our reluctance to even want to raise support in the first place!

So, we don't have any one particular church behind us. We do have several church supporters, but all together they make up less than 30% of our support. And we have also found that it is not always your "home" church that will come behind you and support you in other ways than just financial. We have a church or two who didn't really even know us, and have really adopted us and made us feel a part of their congregation, while our "home" church hasn't really done that for us. And, in talking to some of our peers who have home churches supplying a significant chunk of their support, they have told us that that chunk of support comes with significant strings attached as well. So, there are definitely pros and cons!

Anyway, just my two hundred rupiah's worth for you :-)

michelle said...

hey kacie! we def. struggled at times during our support raising years, but i do agree w/ "junglewife" about the fact that the majority of our support always came from individuals, not churches. often, to get a church to support you it is a long process due to their budget, required interviews, etc, etc. in the meantime, it is a lot easier to just get that same amount of money by talking to several individuals.

also, i just wanted to clarify that missio dei does support missionaries. they don't have a typical missions board, but if you were still attending there and decided to go on the mission field, they would for sure consider supporting you. they have focused most of their missions on their neighborhoods/city but part of the reason they have not supported many overseas missionaries is b/c there have not been people from the church going on the field. (except for mark graehling who you might remember - he went to guatemala for a couple years and they supported him) anyway, just thought i would put that out there!

will def. be praying for you guys as you go thru this process. it is difficult but i know God taught us so much during our support raising years. you def. need to remember that it is all God's money and since not everyone can actually GO on the mission field i think we are all called to support missions however we can. and don't be too quick to judge who may or may not support you - we had faithful supporters from some people we almost didn't send the letter to and others we assumed would support us that didn't! sorry, i could go on and on as little things pop into my mind - but i don't want to sound cliche. :) i know you guys will let God guide you to wherever he intends you to be!

Kacie said...

Yeah, Michelle, MD is more flexible than my current church, I think. We sat down and had a serious chat with the leadership about our potential future with missions and support way back when (like five years ago?) and it sounded rather gloomy..... and that's how we feel here. But in both cases we aren't very far down the line, only at initial conversations.

Sharon Woodbury said...

support a missionary: