This is actually a bigger topic than can be addressed in one small section. Churches may use a variety of criteria by which they evaluate priorities for funding. Typical criteria may be spectrums of:
- domestic to foreign
- near culture to cross culture
- acquaintance to homegrown from the church family
- support ministry to “pioneering” ministry
- small field impact to multi field impact (leadership)
- established field to unreached people group
- lower priority ministry to higher priority ministry
- Some churches have actually built an objective system by which relative points are assigned to the various options within each category of criteria. Then the missions leadership chooses a minimum sum of all these points to determine which candidates might qualify for further interview and evaluation.
We recommend for most churches a fairly simple concept which assigns higher support values to missionaries with the closest relationship to the church and having the highest priority ministry (e.g.-unreached people group, evangelism, discipleship, church planting, leadership training). These two axes on a simple Cartesian coordinate graph are relatively intuitive and easy to implement. Homegrown missionaries targeting an unreached people group with pioneering evangelism and discipleship would receive the most possible support. Acquaintances of the church targeting a well-established field with support/admin ministry would receive the lowest support.
It’s good to do some study and have some discussion about missions in general and mission strategy and specifics before your team sets out policy on paper. It might be a good thing to have someone experienced in missions, and talk to your group or have a training about field strategies. One or more of your missions team might take the Perspectives course.
Of course if this discussion is new to your team you’re going to face people who are very concerned about the ramifications of these decisions on missionaries with whom your church has already had a long relationship of support. We recommend that, for the sake of the discussion, you “grandfather” all present support commitments. Then, you can study and talk about the ideal without having the present possible discrepancies cloud the issues. After you have decided on your criteria and priorities you can go back and consider how to graciously bring your churches missionary commitments into alignment. There are a number of natural checkpoints at which natural attrition will bring your missionary commitments into alignment over time (e.g.- normal furloughs, attrition from the field, retirement, shifting of the missionaries field assignment, discipleship and guidance of the missionary in question).