Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Best Solution to the Missionary Support Crisis

I know, I know. It has been a LOOOOONG time since I last posted. My new position with my church has tied me up considerably. Hopefully, I will now begin to get into some type of posting routine.

We had left off discussing missionary support issues in the midst of what I consider a crisis. I think it would be good to explore one solution to this crisis further. Increasing missionary support levels had been suggested as a likely solution. There are several potential problems with this solution though.

  1. A one time increase in the support of new missionaries will act only as a temporary bandage to a larger problem. In a few years this support level will be less adequate due to inflation and variations in exchange rates on some fields. So another support decision will have to be made later. If business runs as usual, this future decision is likely not to be made in a timely manner.

  2. Setting the support of all missionaries at the same whole dollar amount, regardless of their field, results in widely differing impacts. For example, let's say that a church supports all new missionaries at $150 per month (a relatively high number today). This will make up nearly 4% of the total support for a missionary needing to raise $4,000/month. However, it makes up just above 2% of the total support for a missionary raising $6,500 to live on a field with a higher cost-of-living. Each missionary is impacted differently by the same amount of support, resulting in one having to gain many more supporting churches than the other, resulting in a longer deputation time and more hectic furlough.

There are at least a couple of ways to ensure that support levels continue to keep up with inflation and exchange rate changes. One of them also provides a support level that impacts all new missionaries similarly.

  1. The church can institute a written policy regarding re-evaluation of new missionary support levels every two years. At those times, missionary support should be evaluated in light of economic changes and the full support levels that missionaries are needing to reach.

  2. The church can begin supporting all new missionaries at a certain percentage of their total support. This should also be in a written missions policy. This solves all of the problems addressed above, as long as the percentage is significant enough.

Imagine now that there is a church that has decided to take this second approach. They decide to begin supporting new missionaries at 8% of their full support goal. This is significantly higher than the 2% or less that they were probably supplying before. However, it is comparable to the average support levels (perhaps slightly less) that churches were supplying in the 1960's. Here's how this would work out:

A missionary family needing to raise $6,000/month in order to live in a country with a high cost-of-living would be supported at $480/month. A missionary to a less expensive country raising $4,000/month would be supported at $320. These numbers may seem extremely high, but they actually begin to have the same impact as the $65/month support that my church supplied in the 1960's. I would suggest that a missionary's sending church should provide at least 25% of his support.

Not all churches will be able to support at these amounts right now. They may begin supporting at 4%. Missionaries raising $6,000 and $4,000 would receive $240 and $160 per month respectively. This would still be a dramatic increase in financial support for most churches today.
The impact of such a plan would be tremendous. There would be no need to re-evaluate the support of new missionaries every two years. The church's support for new missionaries would naturally increase as missionaries need to raise more or less due to changes in dollar value and exchange rates. Further, the church's financial support would have the same impact upon every missionary's total support.

Not every church could make immediate drastic changes in support levels. They can position themselves to make such changes though. They can begin supporting at a lower percentage and gradually increase that percentage yearly. Churches will not be able to support as many missionaries each on such a plan. However, the same amount of money would be available for missionaries among the churches, only it would be given more strategically and beneficially. A decrease in the number of missionaries supported at higher amounts should be attained naturally. Out of the missionaries a church supports, some will leave the field, some will die, some will have to be dropped due to moral or doctrinal issues. Also, the church (hopefully) will be growing, resulting in more income for missions. Instead of replacing all of these missionaries on a 1:1 ratio, the church could replace several lost through attrition with one supported at a higher percentage. In this way, the church will gradually reach its goal of supporting fewer missionaries at more significant amounts.

The benefits to such a plan being instituted by many churches are numerous:

  1. fewer churches needed to attain full support

  2. decreased deputation times

  3. less hectic furloughs

  4. more meaningful supporting church-missionary relationships, as the churches can focus care on fewer missionaries

  5. number 4 should result in increased missions giving and passion, if the church does engage itself more in the lives and ministries of its supported missionaries

  6. more meaningful missionary accountability, as supporting churches get more involved with fewer missionaries

  7. and on and on.

The most significant objection that I anticipate for such a plan is that the missionaries may begin to say they need much more support, in order to get more support from a church that works on such a plan. I do not doubt that some missionaries are liars. But I refuse to believe this about the vast majority. If there is any concern that the missionary may have such poor character, they should not receive 8% support, or even $1!

It should be noted that this plan only considers changes in support levels for missionaries that the church will take on in the future. Missionaries that are currently supported by the church could receive increases according to another plan the church decides upon. Such a plan will not be discussed here.

I believe that a plan like the one above, adopted by many Independent Baptist churches, would have an incredibly positive impact upon missionaries, churches, and the Mission in general.

What do you think?

Related Posts:

Urgent Need: Solutions for the Coming Missionary Support Crisis

Solutions for the Coming Missionary Support Crisis

Support in the Bible: Secular Work (Part 1) (Part 2)

Support in the Bible: Who is Supposed to Support Them?

Support in the Bible: Single Male Missionaries

Support in the Bible: Off-Site Support

Higher Support, Fewer Missionaries

Is There a Support Crisis?


Rocky said...

Glad to read another post...I'm going to have to read it again and chew on it, though, as my mind is a little foggy right now and it is some pretty deep stuff.

Jon Nelms said...

I'm glad to see your blog and to know that there are guys out there who are "thinking" and realize that there are problems with the way we have been doing missions. Please keep up your efforts and provoke us to serve Him better.