Support raising as a missionary is seasonal. You will experience various waves of generosity and openness versus times of difficulty in connecting with people or their sense of partnership with your ministry. Take heart. There are a few things to keep in mind that can help you through the seasons that are more difficult.
1. Where’d Everyone Go?
Before you answered the call to missions, you were probably on somewhat of a similar schedule as those you are now seeking for financial investment. School is out. This is vacation time. The resources folks might normally release for missions are being utilized for that family trip, possibly even mission trips, and it can feel like everyone suddenly turned off the lights and left you standing in the room empty-handed.
This is the time for understanding and grace. Remember that families aren’t sinning because they are going somewhere together as a family and using their resources to do so. It can be tempting to get a tad self-righteous during this time, thinking that people don’t have their priorities straight and should be putting those dollars to the Lord’s use. You can also start thinking that you don’t get vacations in service to the Lord like others seem to and begin to play the martyr, which does not glorify Christ, or those who are truly suffering for His name.
Instead, be as interested as you hope others will be in your photos and videos and stories from the places God has you in His service. Pray for the supporting families you know that are taking trips, and let them know that you are excited for them and can’t wait to hear all about it. Don’t make the mistake of creating the uncomfortable wall of silence where those you are partnering with feel they shouldn’t talk about anything except missions with you.
2. Be Proactive!
Just because your active list of existing and potential supporters are either on vacation or tied up with VBS doesn’t mean that support raising cannot happen. Remember that support raising is a chess board, not checkers. It is a pack-mule, not a race horse. You are wanting to get to the field long-term, and you will need to therefore raise long-term supporters.
Get involved. You know about your country of calling better than anyone else in most of the churches you wish to raise support through. Call the supporting churches and see if you can volunteer in those VBS weeks to share with the children and families there about where He has called you to serve, what you will be doing there, and why Jesus is worth following. Sometimes it is the acts of service that you offer to others that puts you in remembrance later as a worthwhile ministry to invest in. Look for the ongoing and perhaps slightly less attended events in supporting churches and make yourself available, especially since teachers will need vacation dates off as well. Is there a Sunday School class you can fill in for? A men’s group? A Golden Agers on a Wednesday afternoon? If you want people to remember you in prayer and support, then be memorable in service and attitude.
3. Be Creative!
Long-term support doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t be creative in short-term wins. Summer nights are a good time for barbecues or coffee talks, car washes and garage sales. In order to get long-term support, you need to continually expand your network. If your network seems to all be on vacation, then it is time to start hosting some events that put you in front of new faces to tell your story to. A youth group conversation on a Wednesday night may mean a support conversation with parents the week after.
4. While in Country….
Most of these ideas refer to those who are raising support to get to the field, but if you are already on the field, support raising has not ceased by any means. 100% is a myth. It is a goal we set our sights on in order to get a certain amount of need met, but it actually never gets to a finish line. Supporters come and go because of how life works- job loss or even death prevent their monthly contribution from continuing. Needs change. Families increase in size. Ministry grows. So, what can you do while in country to continue the support raising process? The majority of missionaries we know of have access to technology and wifi to some degree, making VBS appearances via video conferencing software like FaceTime or Skype possible and actually more fun for children than if you were there in person. Knowing they are talking to someone in a far off land is exciting!
Your advocacy team (See our APACS training) is vital during these more difficult support raising seasons. Those car washes, coffee talks, barbecues and garage sales can still happen and raise a great deal of awareness about your mission and vision, expanding your reach and network, but it will take your investment into your advancement team to make it happen. Don’t be afraid to seek out ministry partnership development conversations via video conference- it can be just as exciting for adults to know they are talking to you in a far off place!
5. Plan ahead.
In my seven years of being a senior pastor, I had to learn how to compensate and look ahead to how summers would not mean an anemic ministry. That has not changed in missions. One thing to consider is to plan ahead with potential supporters and host a vision tour in the country you are serving in or raising support to serve in. Taking folks with you to see what God is doing and could be doing there is a great way to gain long-term success. Since families are looking for places to vacation, and many Christian families would like to also serve in some capacity as well, why not take advantage of that and also be able to take another trip to the place you are in love with at the same time?
Summer can sizzle in your support raising process, but as always, it takes hard work and a consistent faith attitude that God is the Provider, not you or those you invite to partner with you. Keep your eyes on your calling, remembering that He who called you is faithful. The God who made the universe from His mind and mouth is with you. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matt 6:33)