Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, The Propempo Perspective on Church and Missions. Hello, welcome to episode 69 of Missions On Point. Thank you so much for subscribing or following our podcast. This week we begin a four-part series on missions funding. This is a fundamental elephant in the room kind of subject. People really don't like to talk about funding, but we're going to try to attack it in four episodes here and give you some very practical, discerning ways of viewing the subject. Before we begin, let me urge you to listen to all four in this little series on missions funding. You may have some responsibility for oversight of missions funding in your church. Part of the missions team may be part of the leadership or the elders of your church. You may just be a good missions giver to the church. Even if it's not to the church, some of the issues that we talk about will be related to your personal giving to missions and missionaries and have some practical application for you.

The second introductory concern is for people to understand that local churches have a sense of autonomy. That is the autonomy of the local church. You may be part of a fellowship, an association or denomination that may seem to dictate certain parameters with regard to missions giving or obligations, and yet the local church usually has a wide degree of freedom in how they express that, how they may fulfill that, or what other things they may do with their funds. Your church association or fellowship or affiliation may expect you to have a big year-end giving drive. That does not necessarily mean that you are obligated and expectation is different than a requirement, and you may want to be discerning about how you handle that expectation. Other churches may have a certain percentage that they are expected to give to a common pot of some sort, part of which then goes to international missions.

You just need to be careful about how you interpret those things. There is still a wide degree of latitude within the autonomy of the local church to figure out exactly where you place your funds and how you specify or designate how those funds should be used. I would ask you to be discerning about your specific local church setting and how you handle that. The third little introductory comment is that all these topics are interrelated. Even though the first episode has certain practical suggestions for you, there's probably going to be other things that relate to it in number two, three, and four of our four part series and vice versa. Again, I urge you to listen to all four.

Thanks for being with us. Today's episode is going to try to answer the question, how do we get more funds for missions? How do we get more funds for missions? This is sort of the dream question, whether or not it's expressed of every mission's leader, even of church leaders having anything to do with or interest in missions. This question, in all innocence, may or may not have anything to do with the external circumstances or the financial position of the church. It's simply a generic and valid question. Are there ways in which we may gain more funding for missions to be able to do more in missions? All kinds of factors play into this like, does the church have large debt or is it debt free? Does the church have a building project going on? Are there huge staffing funding concerns that have an impact on missions giving? Even the simple prerequisite question of, how missions minded is our church? Are our people tuned in to the validity and priority of missions in ministry and want to give to it.

In the ebb and flow of church finances, missions giving or missions funds may take a hit in times of crisis or even be used for other things by demand of the leadership or church vote. However, a lot of churches protect their missions funds to be used exclusively in defined missions ways and not available for general fund uses. Let's just walk through a number of common and then move toward less common ways of funding. The first is just through the general church budget. Many churches designate a certain percentage or amount and manage it through a line item in the general church budget. Year by year, it gets approved by the body or bodies that approve the budget for the church. It's just expected that if the projections for income meet the budget, then the mission's funding will be met in that way, just through budgeting. We'll talk at another time about percentages or amounts of the budget.

The second way is through special designated funds. Many churches have opportunities through the year in which they encourage the congregation to give to a specific missions project or opportunity. It may be because of a natural catastrophe. It may be because of a specific need out on the mission field. It may be because of something of a crisis in the mission's world or relationships that the church has, and they ask the congregation to give special designated funds for that. This particular concept can be expanded to churches who allow receiving donations and funding from the congregation and even outside the congregation designated for missionaries or mission ministries, which they approve. An individual in the congregation may be able to specify, "I want to give to Joe and Jane Smith," and those funds will be forwarded to Joe or Jane Smith or the mission under which they operate in fulfilling that donor's request. I know of one church, group of churches actually, that fund all of their missions that way in one form or another of special designated funds.

Another major area is the term called Faith Promise, and many churches, particularly independent churches, fund missions through a Faith Promise pledge system. This is a pledge unsigned by the donor and turned into the church usually at the fall or close to end of year missions conference time or just by the end of the year. Those pledges then are added up and the aggregate amount of all the pledges forms the missions budget for the year. Typically, a church wants to see that total number go up and up and up year by year as they take on more financial responsibility for missionary support or a missionaries to their roster.

One of the appeals of Faith Promise over other methods is that this tends to have no impact on the general fund's giving of the church, even though often pastors think that it may, tends to not have an impact on the general fund's giving of the church. In fact, it's emphasized in the campaign or appeal or drive for Faith Promise, that these funds should be over and above the regular giving tithes and offerings of the congregation and be separate from the general funds of the church. In that case, those funds are literally kept separate, not just another line item, but often in a separate account that's protected from being acquired by other ministries or needs of the church through the course of the year.

There are some good books out there that explain the Faith Promise system, if you will. People who have only witnessed or been a part of missions funding through the budget really need to study Faith Promise and see if it might fit. Likewise, I've talked with churches that have been doing Faith Promise for decades and now feel like they want to approach missions funding with at least a blend of budget and Faith Promise together. I do recommend something of a blend even with designated funding as part of it so that there are approved missionaries or missions projects that people can give to and specify who they want it to go for, and that be collected and added to the approved budget giving for missions, which allows those donors to feel like they are personally supporting that missions project or missionary through their giving. Their giving can remain anonymous if they so desire, but Faith Promise does add that element of giving to missions in a way that is not co-mingled with other general funds needs of the church.

Here are some other ways that a number of churches use on some annual basis for missions giving. One is external funding. What do I mean by that? What do I mean by that? I mean that there may be a fair or a carnival or some fundraising event which the community is invited to, and all the funding for that doesn't necessarily come exclusively from the church family, but from that event, whether it be a concert or whatever.

External funding may also include people who have been a part of the church in the past but have moved on or relocated or changed jobs in such a way that they're not a part of the church anymore and they want to continue to give to the mission's efforts of your church. I have heard of several cases, not many, in which an external donor was so convinced of the validity and priority of a particular missions project or ministry, that they wanted to give even though they were not connected with the church in any way. Outside donors interests can be of huge advantage in increasing funds for missions in your church. I am not recommending by the way that the church launch a campaign to try to solicit outside funding for your missions, but sometimes it happens. Basically, the ministries of the church, including the missions ministry, should be a function of the membership of the church.

The last method I'll call endowment funding, and there's several things that can fund an endowment for missions. I know of a few churches that have done this very effectively over the years. The first way is through estate bequests. That is someone of means in the congregation passes away, gets promoted to glory, and their will or estate actually bequests a significant chunk of funding for missions in the church. Having that vision is a wonderful way of stewardship even beyond their lifetime. Certainly there should be a normal sort of conversation with elderly people in the congregation regarding their stewardship and estate and how they may use that for God's purposes beyond their lifetime.

There are other ways as well to fund missions in general or to fund an endowment, that is through the use of financial instruments like stocks or bonds or mutual funds or in today's world now, donor designated gifts of affluent people who say, "I don't want to have to pay taxes on the gains of my investments. I can donate it directly to the church for missions, and they can use those funds with the increase in gains for the work of the Lord." I can tell you from Propempo's point of view, we would love to receive those kinds of gifts for Propempo. Those are the common kinds of ways that an endowment fund may be built up. Then you basically create some rules or regulations about how funds are used so that you protect the principle and allow the interest and investment gains to be used for missions long term.

Back to the original question, how do we get more funds for missions? Well, educating your congregation about the joy and satisfaction and stewardship of giving specifically to missions. Earning their trust in the way you handle those funds so that they really are focused on the kinds of relationships and priorities that you want to prioritize. Demonstrating to them the gospel impact of ministry, of the funding that they are giving and encouraging them to continue to grow in their generosity in the area of missions. I've known a number of churches that by faith, increased their budget line for missions by percentage or stock amount year by year, to increase the total value of what they're giving to missions at a higher rate than the growth of the general funds over time.

In the next three episodes, we'll talk about some practical things related to funding and how it's used so that you can get some tools in your mental toolbox for how to handle some of the issues related to missions funding. Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, The Propempo Perspective on Church and Missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, Please preferably consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever, amen.

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