As leaders in growing churches, we receive so many requests every day, requests that demand our time, our energy and, certainly, our church’s funding. Whether it is a staff member wanting to start a new project, a homeless person in need of immediate aid or an international partner seeking to grow and expand a ministry, funds are generally in high demand and in short supply. Church leaders have important decisions to make regarding that funding – decisions that will be scrutinized by their elders, their congregants, and ultimately by the Lord. Therefore, as we make decisions, we have to work with our staff and boards to determine the criteria. That will guide our decisions about where we allocate our money, especially money that goes toward missions, whether we’re trying to make a local or international impact. It is important that church leaders make the best decisions for how to use church funds and how to make the most of generous missions giving.
Here are some starting points to consider.
Is our missions giving consistent with our church’s passion?
Church leaders work long and hard to hear from the Lord regarding the vision and mission for their congregation. We must assume part of that vision and mission is outreach to our neighbors and to the world. In fact, we as Christians are mandated to go into all the world. What will that commitment to international missions look like? It should be consistent with everything God has called your church to be. Does your church have a heart for refugees in the United States? Look for ways to minister to refugees in other countries. Does your church seek to mentor and disciple future church leaders? There are many churches and organizations around the world that need the same leadership development programs. Does your church have a thriving children’s ministry? Seek out children in need and at risk internationally who would benefit from your partnership. Follow your church’s passion and give accordingly.
Will our missions giving create dependency?
When faced with an opportunity to give to international missions, church leaders must consider the ramifications of their continued giving. Many of us have heard of the book “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. The book discussions why poverty is not always a lack of material resources. It’s purpose is to make us aware of the situations at hand. Now that we are aware, we try to avoid involving our churches in ways that will be destructive or distracting to our brothers and sisters around the world. Beware, however, of the pendulum swing that says all giving leads to dependency. There is a clearly delineated difference between dependency and equipping for sustainability. Nations need to be equipped. They need training and seed money. They need a financial jump-start to get them going while they are moving in their own way toward sustainability. Yes, sustainability is the ultimate goal. However, what does sustainability look like and what form does it take for our international partners? Sustainability must happen in culturally relevant ways and on culturally relevant timetables.
Does our missions giving build up the members of our own home congregation?
As church leaders, we are tasked with making disciples in our own congregations. Therefore, our missions giving can be another conduit through which we can bring our people into closer fellowship with the Lord. When we carefully allocate our missions money according to our church’s passion and with good stewardship and sustainability in mind, it helps our own church members begin to have an outward focus. Presenting the needs and how we can become a strategic partner locally or globally opens people’s eyes to the great need around them. Proving how God will provide for those in our missions budget will, at the same time, show those sitting in the church services how God will provide for them and their own family’s needs. Faith is built; perspectives are broadened. We are able to draw the focus away from being exclusively inward and broaden horizons. Together as a church body, we learn about and to love those with whom we are partnering overseas. Choose the ministries through whom generous giving will also build up our own congregations and then give consistently and with wholehearted devotion.
One last caution.
In our giving to local and global missions, church leaders must find a way to balance their desire for stewardship and accountability with the need by indigenous, growing churches to establish themselves and move toward autonomy. North American tax regulations and philanthropy norms and horror stories of gifted monies spent unwisely tend to create cynicism. This produces a strong desire for command and control over funds donated to worthy causes. Instead of letting those skeptical thoughts overwhelm our decisions, let’s commit to being good stewards by waiting on the Lord for his direction. Then, we should give with open hands and open hearts, trusting that the one to whom we’ve been called to give is God’s choice and will handle the funding responsibly. Yes, there is risk in adopting this attitude. However, it is a risk worth taking as millions of souls around the world are relying on us to partner with them in bringing the Kingdom of God to earth today.