The Easy Button
Imagine that you could press your very own ‘Easy Button’, and never have to worry about funding your ministry. Instead, you could receive a monthly paycheck–for the rest of your life–for whatever amount you’d like.
No need to form partnerships, or seek help from your denomination to plant a church. No need to setup support appointments with potential donors. And no need to oversee capital campaigns or special giving drives at your church.
Would you press that button?
To be honest, most days that button looks awfully appealing to me. The obstacles (see Overcoming Objections) and challenges to the support-raising process can be incredibly tough.
Wherever he goes, veteran fundraising coach Steve Shadrach asks those he trains whether they would press the button, and roughly 95% grin and admit they would.
But after his own initial resistance to raising his support, Steve emphatically states that he wouldn’t live any other way. There are too many blessings that come with it.
That may seem like insanity to us, but there are a lot of gifts that come with raising our own support.
Five Blessings Of Raising Your Own Support
1. We learn to trust God much more deeply.
Ever since our first parents charted their own course, we have been naturally independent and deeply adverse to trusting our Father. Like the average toddler, we think we can ‘do it myself’.
Pastors like me tend to thrive on control, decision-making, and getting things done. That can be fine, but the dark side of these dynamics can be lethal when we’re trying to help others trust and depend on a crucified Savior who lived to do his Father’s will (John 4:34).
Support-raising is an incredibly helpful antidote to our innate independence. As I write, I’m in a season of support-raising. It’s been really hard because it’s forcing me to rely on God and come face-to-face with my flabby trust muscles. Every single day, I’m learning to cry out to God when…
- I have to call someone – again – who’s probably been avoiding me.
- Our account balance is low.
- I myself wonder if I’m a good investment.
- I feel like everyone on my list of potential donors will probably say ‘no’.
- It feels like I could be doing work that ‘really matters’, instead of trying to fund it.
Can you identify?
In reality, God has to put us in difficult spots so we learn to trust him. Not in theory, but for real.
Paul and his friends learned this through their own struggles. Once, he wrote, ‘we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself’ (2 Corinthians 1:8). But God had a purpose in it, ‘to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead’ (2 Corinthians 1:9). God rescued them, and this gave them a far deeper confidence that he would do it again (verse 10).
If there’s a formula from Paul’s experience, this is it:
- God allows, or puts us in, a situation we can’t handle.
- We get overwhelmed and realize we can’t handle it.
- We cry out to God.
- He rescues us.
- We trust him more in future trials.
Of course, needing to raise our own support is not the only way our trust in Christ can grow. But, it’s certainly one of the best.
I’m willing to trade some fear and discomfort for a more authentic, rich relationship with my Savior. Next to Christ himself, our people need a more Christ-centered, gospel-driven us than anything else.
2. God’s kingdom work is expanded.
Pastoring a flock that pays you for your labors is a time-tested, biblical model (1 Timothy 5:18). But God’s Spirit has other works in mind, too. Including works that are far more specialized than the broader work of many local churches.
My wife and I, for example, serve healthcare students and professionals in Philadelphia, where 1-in-6 physicians in the country does some portion of their training. If we can help them stay connected to God and other believers in healthcare, they’ll come out healthy, ready to serve their colleagues and patients for Christ. As we’re faithful here in Philly, we have the chance to impact the entire nation as people come and go. But it would never happen without raising our support.
Planters and other workers have to raise their own funds so that God’s kingdom can keep expanding into new, uncharted territory.
3. Our support team shares in the joy of giving to, and personally connecting with, our work.
In Acts 20:35, Paul reminds us that ‘it’s more blessed to give than receive.’ When our supporters share some of what God has entrusted to them with us, they experience this promise on a very real level.
Recently, a friend covered half of my expenses for a medical missions trip to El Salvador. And not only for me, but a medical student I took with me. When we joined him for dinner to give a personal update after our return, he and his family were overjoyed to see the spiritual return on their investment. They understood that our trip was really their trip, too.
4. We receive love and personal commitment from our support team.
When you raise your support, each donor has made a personal decision to join your team. They’re invested–hopefully–in your mission, but they’re also invested in you. If you communicate with them regularly through updates and occasional connections, your relationship will continue to deepen.
In a traditional church setting, church members typically give to a general fund. While many church members genuinely care about the pastor and staff, their giving isn’t necessarily a reflection of that.
Furthermore, since there are usually far more people giving to a church’s fund than there are on an individual worker’s support team. This can give each person the feeling that their contributions are less critical to the overall mission.
Since workers who raise their funds have a more personal connection with their donors, this can make an important, practical difference. For example, when our daughter contracted pertussis (whooping cough) as an infant, our donors ‘prayed without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18) for her when she was on a ventilator for a month. In addition to our own church’s faithful support, we had another 50 friends in our corner.
5. We have a lot of freedom.
Whether we receive a paycheck, or raise our own, let’s be clear. We serve the Lord, and are under both his authority and that of those holding us accountable.
That said, most ministry positions that require fundraising allow for a high degree of flexibility than those that don’t. Often, that includes some freedom with the hours we work, what we do, and how we do it.
Within reason, of course. But it’s generally understood that taking on the (massive) responsibility of raising our funding should come with some leeway in terms of how we carry out our calling.
So, if God has created you in such a way that you’re naturally independent, think outside the box, and like to have a bigger hand in what you do, raising your support may allow you to do more of that.
As we started this journey back in the first article, we looked at four major obstacles to support-raising. While there are real difficulties, we also saw that these obstacles, though understandable, are not biblical reasons to rule support-raising out.
This time, we turned our attention to five (often hidden) blessings that come with trusting God to provide for our support.
In the next–and final–article in this series, we’ll take a look at a simple process that will help you consider whether God is calling you to consider a ministry that requires raising your support.
For now, here are some questions to consider.
- As you look at the different blessings above, which ones struck you most?
- If you’re currently in a position where you receive a paycheck, how might these blessings manifest themselves if you were to take a position where you raised your own support?
- If you are in a fund-raised position, how do you see these benefits showing up?