October 2020 | Volume 15 | Issue 10
Wise Missions Stewardship
How 3 churches approach global ministry funding
“How do you build missions giving into your church’s core values?” church missions leaders regularly ask each other. “And then how do you decide where to invest your global outreach monies? It’s all so complicated!”
In this Postings, Matthew Philip leads us off with some of the principles that guide his church’s practices for raising and stewarding global dollars. David Harrop and Jeremy Zilkie add valuable suggestions.
TRINITY CHURCH, LANSING, MI
Matthew Philip, Director of Global Outreach
Trinity is a congregation of approximately 1,500 weekend attendees and a missions program that has gone through three phases of development during the 13 years that Matthew has been at the helm. Today he co-leads the church’s global engagement with Deanne Beson. They are particularly excited about the breadth and depth of their multiple missions leadership teams that involve a couple hundred people. When it comes to financial stewardship, Matthew shares and illustrates some fresh perspectives.
Create a sense of abundance. We proactively resist a mentality of “missions poverty” in our congregation. To put it a different way, even though we don’t always have a lot of margin in our budget, we want our people to have the confidence that our congregation is always ready and able to give generously when there is a strategic opportunity. In contrast to that, communicating a tightfisted attitude shrinks vision. People love the sense of abundance; it challenges them to dream about what God might want to do with what He has provided.
People love the sense of abundance; it challenges them to dream about what God might want to do with what He has provided.
Build the leadership team’s discernment capacity. Our ongoing giving commitments are largely built on good policies established over the years. However, to disperse discretionary funds or to address unexpected needs, we ask our teams to engage in a biblical discernment process that is described by Ruth Haley Barton in her Pursuing God’s Will Together. At Trinity, we set aside approximately 15% of our annual missions budget for these discretionary ministry opportunities. That’s where we challenge our leaders to listen for the Spirit’s leading on how best to respond.
Balance guidelines and freedom. Written strategies and financial policies are both necessary and important, but so is the freedom to make exceptions. However, if the number of exceptions begins to trend upward, we revise or recommit to our guidelines. It is important to know when an unexpected opportunity needs a little extra leeway from established policies.
Invest funds in discipling. It’s a win/win when global investment also disciples our people. Our Kingdom Kash for Kids program is one example. The reward system in our children’s department is not based on purchasing trinkets in our store. Rather, they earn “Kingdom Kash” that they collect throughout the year. Each class then chooses what they want to “buy” with their funds from the Compassion International Gift Catalog. There’s a lot of debate among the children about where they want their money to go and why! Our missions account exchanges their Kingdom Kash for real dollars (usually about $2,000) for the projects the kids choose. We think this may be our best investment because of the impact the process has on our children.
Involve more people in financial decisions. One of the key reasons why it is not difficult to raise missions dollars at Trinity is because we involve many people in financial decision-making. For example, our advocacy teams are empowered to release up to $2,500 to their missionary/global partner if a special need arises without seeking additional approval. For us, that means that 70-80 people have the authority to respond quickly to opportunities and needs of our missionaries and their work. In turn, our team members enthusiastically tell their friends that Global Outreach is spending funds wisely. We also make sure that Trinity’s financial team is aware of the checks and balances we have in place and the decisions being made. In return, they trust and support us 100% and encourage our congregation to continue to partner with us.
One of the key reasons why it is not difficult to raise missions dollars at Trinity is because we involve many people in financial decision-making.
Take an attitude of “doubling” rather than “double dipping.” Here at Trinity, we want to create an atmosphere of generosity, so rather than restricting missionaries from asking the congregation for individual gifts on top of budgeted/designated church funding, we encourage them to do so. To help them build their donor base, we walk alongside them to clarify their goals, introduce them to key members, and help them build an effective advocacy team.
Lean into current opportunities. Initially we were committed to being “fair” to every area of the world, but our philosophy has changed. We believe that if there is extraordinary opportunity, or if God is doing something unusual somewhere, we want to invest in it. As a result, we have given ourselves permission to be “unfair” in the short term. From experience we know that over a 7-10 year period each area of the world receives roughly the same amount of attention.
Differentiate personal support and projects. This is especially important for two reasons. First, our global partners appreciate clarity on whether our gifts are for personal support or for projects. Second, here at Trinity we have found that inviting our global partners to apply for project grant funds generates tremendous missions enthusiasm among our congregation and energy among our partners to significantly expand their global engagement.
Fill in accountability gaps with trust. We take seriously our responsibility to carefully chose where we will invest and to clearly communicate our expectations to each recipient. However, there are times when funds may not be spent quite as we had intended, and we are okay with that. We have confidence in our partners; they are people we trust to make an occasional redesignation.
Leave room for flexibility. When COVID struck, we made the decision to give all 70 of our church’s missions leaders a copy of Eugene Peterson’s Run with the Horses. We took the time to write a personal note on the flyleaf of each one. This expense was not budgeted, but at a time of unusual stress, it was a way to invest in our leaders and remind them that they are highly valued.
WESTOVER CHURCH, GREENSBORO, NC
David Harrop, Global Ministries Pastor
Westover is a church with a pre-COVID weekend attendance of 3,000 and a long history of sending and supporting missionaries around the world. While Westover has an enviable missions budget, shaping such a large program to fit new generations is a challenging task and requires careful financial decision-making. Here’s what David shares:
Develop elders who drive missions. From the time a newcomer joins the church, they understand that missions is a priority at Westover. “It’s in our DNA,” David says, “because our elders believe a strong missions focus should be a core value of our church.” Each month the first Sunday’s offering, including undesignated electronic giving, automatically goes to missions. That gives global outreach not only financial priority but also focus before the congregation. It is also a reminder that constant discipling of younger generations into this kind of missions mindset is required to maintain this DNA.
Require good communication. David inherited a missions policy that put teeth into communication requirements. All supported workers are required to communicate via an email update at least every two months and to participate in a Westover missions conference at least once every five years. Failure to do so has explicit financial ramifications. David admits that at first he wondered if these requirements were too strict, but he has come to appreciate the emphasis they place on maintaining the level of relationship necessary for true partnership.
Prioritize your own sent workers. The missions team works from two separate grids when evaluating missionary support. One applies to those Westover is sending; the other, to outsiders. For Westover-sent workers, support can increase significantly after they have completed their first four years of field ministry. The percentage can go as high as 30-40% for these proven workers (though currently no one is above 33%), but Westover seldom takes on more than half of their current support deficit. Every five years, Westover also chooses a new priority focus. Right now, it’s Persian peoples. David adds, “Our current priority focus also shapes what non-members we choose to support. We also love to give to special projects that expand our missionaries’ impact. Taken together, these priorities engage Westover in what God is doing all over the world.”
ROOFTOP CHURCH, ST. LOUIS, MO
Jeremy Zilkie, Small Groups & Spiritual Formation Pastor
Rooftop is a church of approximately 600 adults and children, primarily first-generation Christians without a missions background. Jeremy admits, “We know that we need to develop vision across the whole church. It’s hard.” Here are several key components that he believes make their missions financial investment work well.
Mandate for missions. A financial commitment to missions is written into Rooftop’s bylaws. This helps to ensure that a change of leadership or competing projects can never derail Rooftop’s missions focus. Originally the stipulated missions amount was 10%. As God blessed the church, the amount was raised to the current 12%. Of that, over three-quarters is designated for global outreach work/workers.
Start with a one-time gift. Rooftop is careful about establishing long-term commitments with global workers, especially those going out for the first time. New workers usually receive a one-time gift that might represent a three-year, $100/month investment. The church makes it clear that they will do an assessment at the end of that three-year period to determine whether the workers will be considered for a long-term commitment from Rooftop. “We don’t want to create unfounded expectations,” Jeremy explains.
Send missions with a church plant. Rooftop has just sent 60-70 of their people, including several GO team members, to plant a church about 20 miles from the mother congregation. The GO team pondered how to evaluate the impact this would have on Rooftop’s missions budget while also making sure that missions relationships were transplanted into the new congregation. Jeremy describes what they decided: “We identified four missionaries with connections to people who were part of the new church. The full pledged support amount, and therefore full responsibility, for one missionary was passed to the plant, as well as a portion of Rooftop’s support for the other three workers. We believe this decision will support healthy missions involvement in both congregations.”
What questions do you have about the stewardship of your church’s missions dollars? Share them with us, and we will solicit answers from experienced missions pastors and post them for all of our readers’ benefit.
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