It has been a privilege to connect, dialog, and process over the past five months the issues of injustice and inequity present in the personal support raising model. I want to thank the people who have shared the blog series with their friends and co-ministers, those who have taken the time to comment and email, and for those who have reached out for further conversation. It is encouraging to hear from so many that we desire for things to be different.
From the outset of the series I shared that I wanted not only to critique the current model, but also to propose solutions that would lead us to a more Biblically-faithful future. After taking a blogging break as my family and I made a cross-country move to LA, I’m now ready to share thoughts on possible solutions. I do not claim to have all the answers, but I believe a better future is available to us if we can grieve the current reality, trust the Lord to make things new, and step out in faith.
Solving the issues of support raising inequity and injustice will require us to change values that shape our thinking as well as humbly learn from specific possible solutions others have tried. In the remainder of this post I will share the key values I believe need reshaping if we are going to fund multiethnic mission in a way that is truly Christian. I will then suggest specific possible solutions based on tactics others are trying throughout the Body of Christ. Combining both theological reflection with practical suggestions will be key to moving us toward a solution to the inequity in personal support raising.
Values to Change
Pursue A More Biblical Basis for Support Raising – Almost every article or apologetic I’ve read for the “Biblical Basis of Support Raising” focuses on the individual level. (i.e. It is Biblical for individuals to give. It is Biblical for individual ministers to receive donations.) But I have yet to read an article that focuses on what the Bible might have to say about how those funds are distributed in a community/organization.
One of our hallmarks as Evangelicals is our commitment to God’s Word. At a time like this it is imperative that the Bible be key to our search for solutions. It’s time to rethink and re-theologize what it means to fund Christian mission. God has much to say about injustice within His people of faith. This emphasis needs to be every bit a part of how we go about spreading his message.
For more thoughts, please read an earlier post in this series, “Support Raising is Not As Biblically Based as We Think It Is”
Seek to Be Lead By Ethnic Minorities – I started this entire series by pointing to Acts 6 as a model for how to tackle issues of inequity and injustice in the Church. I believe that what makes the story in Acts 6 an “Act of the Holy Spirit” and merit inclusion in Luke’s book is the fact that the church platformed and empowered ethnic minorities to lead the entire church. As we move forward to solve issues of inequity and injustice in the modern Church, may we again listen to God and ensure ethnic minorities, full of the Spirit, are in positions to lead us forward.
Challenge the Paradigm of “Every Staff for Themselves” – The simplest, though definitely not the easiest, way to solve the inequity currently present in our support raising models is to follow the example of the China Inland Mission. At the turn of the last century they saw the funding inequity present in their mission and decided to pursue a communal distribution of funds.
I believe it is time for us to remove the “every staff for themselves” value from the equation. The status quo unintentionally disadvantages ethnic minorities when it comes to personal support raising, thus causing inequity and injustice. We cannot allow the propagation of the Gospel to continue to take place using unjust means. I imagine future generations will look back at ours and wonder how our methods could be so disconnected from our message. Now is the time for change.
Retire the Growth Priority Mindset – It is time for us to commit to pursue and evaluate solutions based on biblical values and not solely on growth. The Bible is full of examples where justice and equity (or other values) are more important than growth. As I shared in an earlier post, “Support Raising is Not as Biblically Based As We Think It Is”, our Growth Priority Mindset can limit us from potential solutions. It’s time for the mindset to be retired.
Separate Calling from Funding – Byron Johnson of Vision938 shared with me that it is crucial that we decouple success in support raising from calling to ministry. Often when ethnic minorities fail to raise their full support their calling to ministry can be questioned. Instead of wondering about their calling, maybe we’re the ones who are having trouble hearing from God? Could God have sent them to our organizations to open our eyes to the inequity present in our structures? Let’s covenant together to no longer question an ethnic minority’s calling to ministry simply because the personal support raising model isn’t working for them.
It is important for us to question our subconscious values and pursue ones more in line with what we know to be true of God. It is also vital that we drop down from 30,000 feet to explore possible solutions up close. What follows is a collection of solutions I’ve gathered from personal research. No one of these ideas is a magic bullet and each has its own positives and negatives. But taken together they may spur our imaginations to create models we haven’t yet thought of.
Possible Solutions to the Current Personal Support Raising Model
- Others have offered solutions (both as guest posts here and elsewhere: http://network.crcna.org/global-mission/how-can-we-change-support-raising-models-keep-missions-white)
- Further Research is being done and will be presented by Pablo Otaola and Daniel White Hodge in a paper titled, “Reconciling The Divide: The need for Contextual and Just Models of Fundraising that Empower all People Groups in Vocational Youth Ministry” at the upcoming AYME Conference.
- Coach Your Champions – This book by Eric Foley has proven popular to share other paradigms towards non-profit fundraising.
- Native American believers led by Mark Charles are pursuing a crowdfunding strategy – Watch a video on the crowd funding strategy
- Social Impact Bonds – Leaders in the UK have developed an innovative funding structure, Social Impact Bonds, to use private investment to serve the common good. Watch Toby Eccles share about Social Impact Bonds in this TED talk. Surely ideas like this could help in much of mission.
- Fund at the team or organization level, not at individual. Some of my coworkers are experimenting with this type of model where the team raises together and dispenses the income based on a variety of factors.
- World Renew solution of Funding Entire Countries – Similar to above, the World Renew organization doesn’t allow you to give to individual missionaries anymore (though you can still have contact and pray for individual missionaries). All funding is raised at a national level and shared amongst all the staff.
- Chicago Jesuit Model – Jesuits in Chicago developed an innovative financial model to provide top quality private education to low-income immigrant neighborhoods. Read “Catholic Schools Flourish with New Funding Model” or this book about the first school: “More Than a Dream: The Cristo Rey Story”. The model is so innovative that the school network has received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. (Side note: What would it take for us to become the kind of people who could think creatively like this? What could a Catholic missionary order have to teach us not just about their new model, but about how to become people who can create new models?)
- Jesuit and Trappist monks – One of the things we lost when William Carey took a Business model approach to mission was the old Catholic way of mission orders. Could we as Evangelicals have something to learn from how our Brothers in Christ fund their missions? For a recent article describing this centuries old tradition, see “Monks Making Money”.
- Basel Mission – The Basel Mission followed a model similar to the Trappists and setup businesses to fund their mission in West Africa. Not only did they fund the ministry, but they “returned six percent plus fifty percent of profits back to investors for years”. Read more about the mission funding models in this book: “Profit for the Lord”.
- Apartments Funding Mission – An innovative ministry from Arkansas is utilizing apartment complexes as discipleship centers and using the monies from rent to fund missions overseas. Read more about LightBearer Ministries: “Student discipleship meets mission funding”.
- Pioneers church-based strategy. Many agencies are pursuing church planting opportunities, rather than just campus ministry, which may allow for more funding to come from fellow churches. Ted Esler shared that this may account for why close to 50% of their funding comes from churches.
- Change criteria over which jobs are salaried – Ted also shared that every ministry has positions that do not require support raising: IT, accounting, etc.). One solution would be to offer salaried positions not based on the type of work to be done, but on other factors (like ethnicity and the likelihood of an individual being able to raise full support.)
- Foundation Giving – Some foundations like The Vessel Foundation have been setup specifically to give to people who are likely to have difficulty in raising full support. This obviously includes ethnic minorities. What if individuals or communities came together to fund foundations to help create more equity in mission funding?
- Church Cooperative Program – The Southern Baptists have pooled their money for over 150 years into the Cooperative Program, eliminating a funding inequity problem. What if other denominations or independent churches came together to create their own cooperative program?
- Emissions Trading Exchange – In the secular arena, companies buy carbon credits to offset their environmental impact. What if an exchange was setup where agencies could buy “equity credits” to offset the lack of diversity in their labor force?
- Young Life Committees – Young Life has been successful in certain settings at using a committee to help lead the local ministry and help raise funds. Other ministries, including the one I work for, have consulted with Young Life to better learn how to utilize committees and councils to help provide funding for the ministry. Could this be adapted to help solve some of the issues raised in this series? For more information, see an example Young Life Committee Handbook.- Tandas: Many Latinos use lending circles to help one another pay bills. Could ideas like this arising out of ethnic minority contexts help solve funding inequity issues?
- Doubling Down on Leadership Development – Organizations like Ashoka have invested in changemakers for years. What if, instead of only investing in solving the equity problem, large agencies also invested in people who could grow into the kinds of people who could solve these problems? Could we make a concerted effort to platform and empower umbrella organizations like CCDA or UYWI to raise up next generation leaders for all our agencies?
Is It Time to Radically Rethink the Entire System?
Maybe the solution to the injustice present in the personal support raising model is signaling that it is time to rethink how we approach mission, not just funding. Below are examples of rethinking the entire system:
- Overturning Tables: Scott Bessenecker’s upcoming book, “Overturning Tables: Freeing Missions from the Christian-Industrial Complex” examines how our model of mission has been shaped by William Carey’s choice of the business model. Maybe the answer is not fixing our current systems, but acknowledging the possibility we’ve built them on the wrong foundation.
- Learn from Majority World Church. My wife is in seminary with leaders from around the globe. She shared that in some countries they are sending out teams of three couples to plant churches. Two of the couples get secular jobs while the third couple focuses more time on ministry. Together all three families live off two incomes.
- Business as Mission – Could the fantastic conversations around Business as Mission be expanded to include justice and equity to funding models?
- Scattered: The Filipino Model: Thousands of Filipinos are scattered around the world serving the Lord through various occupations (like domestic helpers). What could we learn from their example?
- Volunteer Based MinistryMoveIN or Gideons – Organizations like MoveIN or the Gideons are almost totally volunteer based. Are we sure we need fully funded full-time staff?
- BiVo – Maybe it is time for us all to follow the example of ethnic minority pastors (and Paul) and become bivocational. Conversations around BiVo are increasing in church planting circles.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Over the past few months there is a group of us who have come together with the common belief that the status quo regarding inequitable mission funding is no longer okay. We want to see new models developed. We want to see mission funded as Christian mission should be: equitably. We’ve decided to have a gathering. We’d like to bring together leaders from around the country for a time of prayer, repentance, and discussion as we begin to diagnose problems in the current models and start to seek solutions.
If you are interested in receiving more information about a potential gathering, please fill out this short form: http://bit.ly/fundingequity
Thank you for reading this post on ideas that could move us closer to an equitable, just model of funding multiethnic mission. My prayer is that we will live out the calling God has given us as Evangelicals. That we will be people of The Book, of mission, and of justice. I pray for the Kingdom of God to be expressed in the ways we seek to fund the expansion of that Kingdom. May our methods be worthy of our message.
We are not stuck with the status quo. Things can be otherwise.
image credit: Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho