I am a pastor; not a vocational missionary. I have never been on deputation. I have never had to raise support to do what God has called me to do. So I realize that I cannot fully understand what missionaries go through. However, I can offer a pastoral perspective on why some missionaries struggle to raise support.
Obviously, much could be said about the struggles of churches and about pastors not understanding missions. I have written much about those issues already. This post is focused specifically on the missionary.
I have talked with hundreds of missionaries. In fact, last year I was contacted by over 200 missionaries looking for financial support. Through these conversations I have made several observations about why some missionaries struggle.
Here are the top 10 reasons why missionaries struggle to raise support.
1- The Missionary Has an Identity Crisis.
You cannot be all things to all people. Trying to raise support from churches from every philosophical corner will ultimately slow you down. Be who you are. If you are not hyper-conservative or issue focused, don’t go to those churches. You will probably lose their support eventually anyway. Be who you are and don’t go to those churches you know will take issue with some of your stances.
Also, be sure your sending church shares your ministry philosophy. If it doesn’t, it will hinder your missions efforts.
2- They Talk Only About Themselves.
Once you gain an opportunity to actually talk to a pastor, the temptation is to give him as much information about your ministry as possible. I understand. You have made 75 phone calls and no one has taken the time to listen to anything you have to say — no one cares about your ministry. Finally, a pastor will talk to you. Resist the urge to flood him with info. Take a minute to ask about his ministry. Ask how you can pray for them. Trust me, the pastor will take notice.
3- They Are Drama-Queens.
You don’t have to manipulate a pastor into supporting you. In fact, attempting that will probably backfire. Using the dangers of your field as a tool will get you nowhere. Constantly highlighting the potential struggles as a means of drawing some emotion-based response is futile. It’s not that we don’t care; we do. It’s that we don’t want you to attempt to use potential dangers or struggles as a fund-raising tool. We don’t want to be manipulated. And most pastors realize when that is happening.
We know your life is hard, we know missions is a challenge, we know you have needs, we know there will be struggles, but lose the drama.
4- They Are Lazy.
Some missionaries struggle to raise support because they are lazy. They are unwilling to do the work. This may sound harsh, but if you are not willing to put 40 hours a week into getting to the missions field, I doubt you will put 40 hours a week in when you are on the missions field.
Also, don’t confuse preparing materials for deputation with deputation. Some missionaries spend far more time creating videos then they do contacting pastors. I know technology is important. Do it and do it well, but don’t let the tail wag the dog.
5- They Are Unwise with Social Media.
Social media can be a great tool. But if you are unwise in how you use it, it will cost you support. Pastors will look you up on Facebook, Twitter, or on any other social media platform available. They will form an opinion of you from what they see. If you are constantly complaining, talking politics, or sharing crude jokes or stories, pastors will stay away.
I’m not saying not to use social media; I think you should. Just be smart.
6- They Criticize Pastors and Churches to Other Pastors.
It is amazing how missionaries I barely know will criticize other pastors and churches to me. Even if I agree with the point you are making this is a turnoff. Reserve those conversations for your pastor or a close friend, not a potential supporting pastor you barely know.
7- They Have No Vision — or Cannot Communicate it Effectively.
The missionary who cannot communicate his or her vision in under 3 minutes will struggle. I know that communicating the details of your vision may take more time. But you typically are not going to have more time in your first conversation. Spend time refining your vision. Practice communicating it.
I can’t catch your vision if you cannot communicate your vision. And I am probably not going to stay on the phone with you for 2 hours while you try. And I am definitely not going to have you come to our church and allow you to lead them on rabbit trails either.
By the way, simply saying that “I am going to a country to win people to Christ” is not a vision.
8- A Lack of Consideration.
I have been in churches where a pastor has given a missionary 5-10 minutes to present their ministry to the church. 30 minutes later the missionary is still going strong.
As one pastor said, “If you can’t tell time, I can’t count money.”
Be considerate of the pastor’s time.
9- They Are a Salesman.
Salesmen typically talk too much. They don’t know when to back off. They are always over the top. They are pushy. They always have something to add. They think they are always right and always know best. When a pastor receives a call from this person, they are usually not going to be interested.
Don’t confuse salesmanship for passion and energy. There is a difference.
10- They Are a Robot.
Out of the over 200 missionaries that contacted me last year, 90% sounded the same, had the same pitch line, and left the same voicemail. Honestly, many of them were boring, mundane, and forgettable. I’m not suggesting that you be over the top, but please be yourself.
I am sure there are other hindrances to support-raising, but these are a few that seem to plague many missionaries.
Are there any you would add?
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