For the last ten years my primary source of income has been our partnership team that has supported us on a monthly basis. As a full-time “prayer missionary”, I have been raising support like overseas missionaries.After ten years of doing this, here ten things I’ve learned.
1. God is the Source
But we all know this right? Or do we? The truth is, rather you are employed, self-employed, received an inheritance or raise support, God is the source of all. He doesn’t just provide for missionaries, He provides for all of His children. The sooner we learn this truth, the sooner our mindset will shift from striving in our own self-reliance to stewarding what He has given us.
2. Prayer is the means
“Give us today our daily bread” has been my cry to God over the last ten years. God provides, but He wants us to ask! Even as someone who has served as vocational intercessor, I was prone to think that our funding was because of my effort. Prayer not only reminds me of my Source, but it release His power. The Holy Spirit is also very willing to help lead you, and in the place of prayer one can hear His voice and follow His Spirit in the support raising process.
3. Raising support is biblical
When I first quit my job, it was because I was following God’s voice, along with the counsel of spiritual leaders in my life. Over the years, I have developed a biblical foundation to support my decision. Steve Shadrach’s book The God Ask (available on Amazon) provides some of the best material on support raising principles from Scripture.
4. Support raising is sanctifying
Developing a partnership team can be very hard, especially for an introverted INTJ like myself. But I now appreciate the sanctifying effect this process has had in my own heart. It has caused me to confront my deep fear of man and unbiblical mindsets of self-reliance. Asking others to support you financially humbles you, and that is a good thing.
5. Miracles happen
If you want to see miracles in your life, you need to take steps of faith. We have received countless “Pentecostal handshakes”, random gifts, unexpected refund checks and free stuff. It seems like we see more miracles when we really need them. I’ll never forget the pastor that called my wife and I some years ago. We didn’t know her at all. We went to her office and she handed us a Christmas card full of money. A family felt led to use all their Christmas gift money to our family. I still don’t know who did that, and I haven’t talked to the pastor since.
6. It’s about relationships
Another reason I like the idea of developing a partnership team is that it’s about (when done properly) cultivating kingdom-building relationships. It’s about relationships more than money. Raising support requires you to explore the depths and widths of your relational network, with loads of phone calls, letters, emails and face-to-face meetings. You’ll even meet some new folks along the way! Good relationships are the funnels through which God accomplishes amazing things for His kingdom.
7. It takes work
Yes, it’s hard. It’s hard because it is relationships (see above). Strong, healthy relationships – whether a marriage, friendship or ministry partnership – take a lot of work. Sustainable partnership development can’t be accomplished through cheap sales tricks, mass emails or boosted Facebook posts. It requires the time and effort of building relationships with people, sharing your vision, inviting them into partnership with that vision and continuing to steward that relationship in an ongoing way.
8. Clear vision is vital
Having to share your vision with people over and over during partnership development pushes you to clarify what God has called you to do. If you have no vision, if your vision is not really from God, or if you haven’t learned to properly communicate your vision, then it will be exposed as you raise support. You must have a clear, God-given vision that you can communicate clearly to others (I enjoyed this little book from Andy Stanley on vision).
Oh and people don’t give $$ to needs, they give to vision.
9. Communication is key
Communication is how we cultivate relationship. With God, we communicate through prayer. Ministry partnerships require ongoing communication as well. A monthly newsletter is a good start, but it’s amazing how much relational equity is developed from a simple direct text, email or phone call. The more personal the communication, the more powerful it is. Even as Shepard and I have supported other missionaries and ministries, unfortunately we very rarely see even a consistent monthly newsletter update from those we give to.
10. You have to ask
I have experienced many miracles when it comes to raising support and living by faith for your finances. But these are the exceptions, not the norm. We would never have survived if I had not asked people to partner with us. The only proven way to build sustainable support for a missionary is through face-to-face meetings where you share your ministry vision, ask for them to join your partnership team and wait for a response. Again, the book The God Ask really helped me understand how important that process is.