Support Raising from Your Pastor’s Perspective
Almost a quarter of a century ago, my wife and I were fresh out of college. Our first full-time mission was reaching college students with a parachurch ministry. Our history of support raising up to that point primarily consisted of funding stateside and international summer training projects. However, in this work we needed to trust God to provide us with regular monthly support from individuals and local churches. We lived the highs and lows of this experience for eleven years on two different campuses. It was amazing to see how God provided and how He gave us a team who believed in us and the work He was doing.
I am now a local church pastor and have been in this capacity for the past 13 years. My wife and I have had the privilege of meeting with dozens of couples over the years as they have solicited our financial support as well. Through these experiences, God has given me the perspective of a support raiser, a supporter and a local pastor. Please consider the following words of encouragement:
Know your church’s mission giving paradigms.
Through our mission budget, our church supports monthly 105 family units, stateside and international. As our church has grown over time, our missions leadership made decisions to give less monthly to more families. Some churches give more monthly to fewer families. Some churches prioritize giving to global initiatives over local/stateside mobilization.
Know your church’s application process.
Most churches have an online or paper application that must be submitted by a certain date in the budget planning process. Your deadlines as a support raiser may not coincide with your local church’s budget planning process. Think 9-12 months out. Also, many churches may participate in year-end giving bonuses to their ministry partners.
Know the person who makes decisions.
In smaller churches, the local pastor will be the primary decision maker. In larger churches, a team of elders or a missions pastor will serve as the primary filter in the decision making process. The lead pastor may not always be the one who makes the decisions.
Know your church’s decentralized network of relationships.
In our church, many of our partner ministries have raised support from individuals through involvement or visits to our small groups – community groups and men’s/women’s small groups. Some churches engage in a traditional Sunday School model for small groups/relationships. Most often these group visits are followed up by a personal appointment with an individual couple who may want to know more about the funding process. This process may take longer, but the fruit of it may last longer.
Protect your heart and mouth from an arrogant spirit.
In my brash youth, I used to think my parachurch ministry’s mission and philosophy were the only/best way to reach the world. I may never have said it, but I was certain the local church was lagging behind, pulling off “Sunday” church and not on the front lines where God was “really” working. Surely my way of making disciples was the best way! Over the years I have come to appreciate the greater work of the local church and God’s multi-gifted lay men and women who sacrifice and generously give to Great Commission causes. The smell of arrogance is a great way to put off potential supporters. The use of we/us and kingdom thinking goes a long way in building rapport with your local church’s leadership.
Be specific about your goal amount and your specific need.
Vague information about funds does not breed trust.
Avoid the tone of desperation.
The local church is not necessarily to blame for your urgency or support crisis. While your heart may be anxious, you must walk and project a steady trust in God’s provision for you. A quiet confidence. Whether we were underfunded or doing well in support, I would often say, “God’s always providing, and I’m always asking.” Learn to walk in security and contentment, while also living in the freedom to confidently ask people to give to what God is doing.
Be clear about the fruit the Lord is producing.
Turn numbers into stories that capture the ministry’s main objectives.
As a former support raiser, fellow supporter and local pastor, much grace to you as you steward the mission of making disciples of all nations.