So why are there days I am glad that I don’t know how to raise support?
Number 1. This is the main reason. I learned that God is faithful. Sure, that sounds like a saccharine-like aphorism. I can hardly say that God promises to have money fall from heaven to fund people who are too stubborn or lazy to build partnerships with supporters. I can, however, say that we were able live on less, and have less regular support than I thought.
I just can’t think that people who practice high-pressure sales tactics truly see their God as one who supplies their needs. I teach missions, and I find still find it humorous that running around to churches, family, friends, and “deep pockets” is labeled “Faith Missions” because its participants are allegedly “living by faith.” It is certainly not wrong, it may even be good… but there is nothing about faith in it.
I am not here preaching a Corrie Ten Boom dogma against support-raising. One year she felt that God was telling her not to actively raise support. That is fine. But then she started going around and moralizing and absolutizing that decision— that no Christian minister should do support-raising. I don’t see that. If I truly feel that God called me to close my business on Sunday, that hardly means that God has told all Christian businessmen to close theirs on Sunday as well. There simply should be no connection.
Number 2. It helps our relationships. It is hard to have healthy relationships with potential partners when it is known that every meeting is a request for money. I have dealt with people who were professionally needy. They had mastered the ability to appear pitiable. I don’t see that as a godly strategy, and we often felt the need to “duck” these individuals when possible.
Early on, I recall visiting a church we had left back in the US. The senior pastor (who had some problems) was gone and the associate pastor (one we had greater respect for) was now leading a church recovering from crippling financial problems and community shame. The pastor was very much on edge during our visit, but tried to be friendly. It became clear to me (and I still think I got this pretty much correct) that he was waiting uncomfortably for us to go into our support spiel. I knew the church had no money and that there were political issues why we could not be financially supported as well. Looking back I wish I had said something to the effect:
“We are not here to raise money. But your church had an important role in our spiritual and ministerial development. So we justed wanted to come by and talk with you for awhile. Would that be okay?”
I think that would have removed some of the edge.
That being said, I have been known to go too far. I have had people ask how they can help us financially, and I would say, “It’s okay… we are doing fine.” A friend of mine, overhearing me on one occasion spoke to me later and said, “If God lays on someone’s heart the desire to help you… don’t tell them you don’t need or welcome their help.” Guilty as charged. There is a balance. Still… when money is not the “elephant in the room that everyone is pretending not to see,” other forms of partnership and encouragement can be explored more positively in many cases.
Number Three. It helps creativity. The classic uninspired solution to a problem is “Throw money at it.” But when one’s money is dear, and yet one’s calling is still broad, one must find more creative ways to solve things. We have a counseling center in the Philippines. That center takes up about 40 square meters of office space. We don’t have to pay any rental. This was worked out by the generosity of another organization… one that does not support us with money, but with free use of resources. We also help them through a formal partnership.
That being said, free stuff is not always valued. We do charge for some trainings so that people will value the trainings. It also allows some of our volunteers to get tangible help with their generosity of skill and time. But our volunteers commonly want to help the people who need help the most. Most of our primary target cannot pay for services, so offering them for free, funded by trainings that are paid for by people who can pay.
Creativity takes time. From my engineering days, we were told in the triad of QUICK, CHEAP, and GOOD, we could design for any two. In Christian ministry… good is a must. So then one can choose for it to be quick… but that costs more money. Or it can be cheap… but it takes time. If one is spending less time on funding, one has more time to be creative. The alternative is a bit of a spiral.
I need money, so I spend time to raise money
I now have money, but I don’t have time
Because I don’t have time, I have to compensate by spending more money.
Because I have to spend more money, I need to use more time to raise money.
I hope you can see the pattern.
Number Four. It supports mutuality. I still say that mutuality is one of the clearest Christian virtues that Christians commonly ignore. The Bible is rather ambivalent on unilateral relationships, but quite strongly supports mutual relationships, especially in the church. Avoiding the patron-benefactor (or master-slave) relationship allows us to often have a more mutual relationship where we help another when the other needs help, and the other helps us when we need help.
Independence is not really a Christian virtue, and neither is Dependence. More Christian is Interdependence. We rely on each other as all of us rely on God.
Number Five. It allows me not to focus on my cynicism. Most of the best fund-raisers are not the best missionaries. This truth could make me bitter and cynical. I can be cynical of people in ministry who seem to have mixed motivations in ministry. I can also be cyncial of supporters or supporting churches who often have no greater discernment or strategy in their support than falling victim to the tricks of good salesmanship.
The above paragraph may sound cynical… and I suppose I am. But it does not dominate my thinking. That is because we are not competing with each other. I am not trying to get what they are going after. The main challenge I have is to discern which people will partner with us mutually, and which one’s seek to join more parasitically.
And yes, even THAT previous paragraph still sounds a bit cynical. I apologize. I understand that cyncism is not really a Christian virtue… but neither is gullibility. Grace is given but Trust is earned. I am happy to have met many fine people in ministry in whom it is an honor to work with. I hope you have found the same. I have found others that I have concerns about… but I generally have found that I don’t need to stress about them. I simply need to maintain healthy boundaries.
I had a great aunt who was beseiged with letters from political and religious groups seeking her money. She did not have much money. She was a widow and going senile. She was on many political and religious “sucker lists.” After she died, my dad and I spent a long afternoon shoveling (yes, shoveling) hills of letters in her back room from various organizations. It really helped me develop cynicism for many religious groups, and pretty much ALL political groups. <For those of you who think that it is the OTHER political party that does bad things, all I can say is WAKE UP!!! Whatever differences there may be in political platform do not lead to corresponding differences in character or ethical behavior.>
We don’t have much money now… so we help a bit when we can… and when we can’t we don’t. But often, when we can’t, we actually can— perhaps with time, or resources, that don’t include money. Our limited resources tends to keep away the more mercenary fund-raisers. That also helps me limit my proclivity for overt cynicism.
I think that sums up everything. At times I wish that I was better at fund-raising. But overall, God has been good, and I am glad to not be particularly skilled in this area.
If you are in ministry, I pray that you won’t become TOO good in this area either.