Myths and Facts About Support Raising

For the past 6 weeks or so, I’ve been working on raising my ministry budget so that I can begin work with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Graduate and Faculty Ministry at CMU and Pitt. Raising support is about as difficult as it sounds, but I will say that InterVarsity is great about providing resources to help along the way. One of those resources I encountered early on was something called “Myths and Facts about Fund Development.” This document was written for people who are raising support and helps to clear up some misconceptions and fears new IV staff might have about fundraising. This was a really helpful resource for me, but I’m realizing that for as many fears, misunderstandings and doubts I have had about asking people to support me, the people who I’m asking tend to have just as many, and they need to have some things clarified just as much. So, if someone entering the mission field ever comes asking you for support, keep these myths and facts in mind:

Myth: The fundraiser is only interested in your money.

Fact: If the fundraiser was only interested in money, they would have chosen a different, more profitable profession. In fact, the fundraiser is excited about the work s/he’s preparing for and wants to share it with you! You do no favors to the support raiser by just writing a check without ever talking with them about their upcoming work.

Myth: When the fundraiser asks for prayers and other forms of support, that’s really just a guise to dillute the fact that they’re asking for money.

Fact: The fundraiser is preparing to invest his/her life in the service of God, which is incredibly intimidating. They need to know that their brothers and sisters in Christ are behind them. Prayer support and even emotional support and friendship are much more needed and desired. The money is obviously needed and appreciated, but just getting a check from a person who doesn’t express any interest in the actual work of the missionary makes the missionary feel like s/he is just asking for handout instead of partners in ministry.

Myth: The fundraiser is disappointed if you’re not able to give.

Fact: The fundraiser’s primary hope is that you’ll be interested and enthusiastic about the ministry they’re beginning. In my support raising experience, finding people who have both a high capacity/capability for financial giving and an interest in hearing about my ministry is a very rare thing. Usually, I find that I’m either talking with people who have a high capacity for financial giving but no understanding of why mission work is important, or with people with little (or even a complete lack of) capacity for financial giving but with great interest in the work of the ministry. I’d much rather talk with the latter.

The Unavoidable Crucifixion, or: Reflections On The Beginnings of My Vocation

In Seminary, Andrew Purves taught us in his pastoral care/theology courses that the ministry of the pastor needs to be crucified, so that Christ’s ministry might flourish in him/her. In other words, the role of the pastor is not to trust in their own skills, but rather to bear witness to the work of the living Christ in the life of a congregation, community and world. As I learned this, it made sense to me. In fact, I considered it gospel. What great news that “my ministry” is not really mine at all, but Christ in me.

What I’m quickly learning is that the “crucifixion of ministry” is a painful, unavoidable experience. As I learned from Dr. Purves, I think I was assuming that learning about the need for my ministry to be crucified with Christ meant that it would somehow be less painful, or not painful at all. Or maybe I thought that I could somehow avoid the crucifixion piece of things and get straight to the risen Christ in me. This was just foolishness. Crucifixion hurts, and knowing that it’s coming doesn’t change that. Just ask Jesus.

As Chris and I, along with the rest of the seed group, have begun the work of church-planting, I’ve been finding ministry to be an incredibly emotionally-probing experience. Every day, I keep encountering my weaknesses, limitations and sin-problems, and as I do, the Spirit has also been bringing back to mind experiences in my past that have contributed to, and perhaps even caused, these particular limitations in my life. This increased self-awareness has not, however, been coupled with knowledge of solutions to my problems. In fact, at times I get so overwhelmed by my pride, selfish need for affirmation, and ‘introvertedness’ (among other limitations) that I begin to question why God would even call someone like me to church-planting in Squirrel Hill. To put it another way, I’m finding myself being crucified, and longing for resurrection to come.

This morning, I think I found the first glimmer of resurrection in my personal devotional time. I was reading Psalm 37, and verse 3 stood out to me: “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” I think I’ll be reciting this verse for a while. Even if I don’t understand why I’m here, I’ll continue to “dwell in the land,” trusting in the LORD, doing good, and befriending faithfulness, with the hope and prayer that I’ll be a vessel through which Christ works.