I’ve talked to a number of mission committee members about the missionaries their church supports financially. Many committees are not happy. Why? Reason #6: They are only supported because they have influential relatives in the church. A similar bad reason for supporting a missionary is that the missionary is supported because they are from the same area or denomination as the church.
I’ve heard this too many times. In the process of getting ready to go overseas, missionaries often receive training in raising financial support. This includes asking friends and relatives to ask their churches if they would consider a “partnership” with the missionary. In addition the missionaries are asked to contact all area churches to try to raise support. All this is fine unless a church’s primary reason for supporting a missionary is that the missionary is a relative of an influential family in a church or that the missionary should be supported primarily because they are from the same city as the church.
Sometimes all considerations of training, experience, giftedness, strategy, etc. all go out the window if an influential relative brings the need to the church’s missions team. This problem is multiplied if the missionary’s connections remove any process of careful ongoing review of a missionary’s progress in developing a ministry. This leaves a church committed to a long-term financial obligation with someone who really isn’t qualified or accomplishing what they have been sent to do. A church’s mission team is not doing its job if it assumes that the missionary is being effective and should be supported only because they have an influential family member in the church.
What should we do?
Develop clear criteria for supporting a missionary. Make it clear that being a relative of a member or being from the same area of the church will not be considered as sole justification for support. Sometimes unpopular decisions need to be made in order to be the best stewards of a church’s limited funding. Mission committees will have the confidence (and backbone) to make better decisions if they have clear criteria and are able to show clear reasons why they either financially support or decline support of missionaries based on the criteria. The missions team also will have more support from the whole church if they are able to make sound decisions even when there is some opposition.
Stewarding the financial resources is an important role in your church, avoid the error of funding missionaries who’s main qualification is that they have a relative in your church.
See summary article here.