Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How Money Can Impact Short-Term Mission

I have had two significant conversations with pastors in the last couple of weeks. Both conversations were related generally to short-term missions and specifically concerned finances for this type of ministry.

Let me explain.

In one of those conversations I was talking with a pastor about bringing some of his people to serve alongside our ministries in Oaxaca. He was concerned about the price and before they had even started down the road to discover their support and raise funding for their mission, was asking for us to provide scholarships to his people.

He said the cost was too high.

It reminded me of the time I was speaking at an inner city Los Angeles church and the youth leader said his students couldn’t afford to pay $250.00 for a week of ministry. When I mentioned that most of his students were wearing $100.00 Air Jordans and expensive designer clothes, he admitted that maybe they could afford the cost if they had the right priorities.

The second conversation was completely different. The pastor asked me why I did not charge churches when I visit them to help recruit or train their students. I replied that I would love to do that, but that many churches are reluctant to pay to cover those expenses.

And then he asked me the $64,000 question.

Dave he said, do you really want to serve with people who are trying to low ball you?

I have to admit, those two conversations were a struggle for me, because I want to offer those scholarships, but there is a cost to do ministry. Unfortunately, many do not want to pay that cost.

A few years back, a major US mission organization had a poll on its web site asking people what was the most important factor in choosing a mission location or mission organization. The number one priority was price.

Yes, you read that correctly. More important than relationship, integrity of the organization, or even the people with whom you might serve, was money.

It seems to me that there is something wrong when money becomes the primary determining factor for our ministries.

I understand that money can be a struggle for any church, individual, or group participating in short-term mission, but if that is our primary determinant, where is the faith in that?

What are your thoughts?


btc said...

Working with Christians who lowball missions is not too far off from plundering the Egyptians: it is using the resources of the unwilling and undevoted for a good purpose.

Maybe the problem is that all of these churches are run by cheap Scots...

Unknown said...

Its like when we Americans say, "I can't afford that" what we really mean is, "I've already wasted thousands of dollars on luxurious living and plan to continue that practice and I don't want anything to crimp my style". What we should all do is just be honest instead of saying, "I can't afford that" we should say, "I don't want to spend my money on that".

Unknown said...

Also, we are a price point culture, we are programmed to think, give me the best value for my dollar. Which in missions means I want to pay as little as possible for the most fulfilling experience possible. So, a lot of stm organizations are experience auctioneers.

Dave Miller said...

Michael, I had a long talk yesterday with someone about missions and support.

He is longimte CRC guy and he was asking me about the American model of "Taking the Gospel to the heathens."

He wanted to know my views on this. After explaining where I stand, more along the lines of "preach Christ, and when necessary, use words" he said he thought that model was better.

So I asked him how we communicate that when the overwhelming number of people supporting missions want to see hard numbers.

How many baptisms, conversions, etc.

He was stumped. He had never thought along these lines before. It was hard for him.

Perhaps what you bring up is what a guy told me when I was working on my article. He said it all comes back to good discipleship and mentoring from the top down in churches.

If Sr. Pastors demand that their staff members adopt a different view, and then back that up with real action in support of that, we can see change.

But in my mind, until they are on board, telling people this is not about money, but instead, about doing things right, we will not see much change.

And yes, us STM people are afraid of making a change ourselves, because we need to eat. Call it a lack of faith, a spirit of fear, whatever, but it is a stark reality that most will not talk about publicly.

Unknown said...

Eating is exceedingly important as is having a home, a car that works, health and dental care, etc. I feel for the people in stm that are barely making it while us state side pastor types are doing fine financially and are price point shopping for our next missions experience.

Anonymous said...

Michael, I really appreciate what you said here.

There are times when I talk with groups or pastors are asking about prices and I KNOW they WANT me to say, "Adventures in Life is the best value for your money! We can guarantee you...(fill in the blank of that church's criteria for success), a life changing experience for each of your participants, a life changing experience for each of the locals you encounter (just by meeting you, they are transformed), 200 conversions, 100 baptisms for the low price of $19.99! But wait there is more!...If you sign-up today, we include airfare, luggage fees, pre and post-field training for no additional cost! What, you still want more? For each participant that signs up for only $19.99 we will scholarship 2 students and throw in deluxe accommodations and a gourmet chef to prepare all meals to each individuals liking. What's more...there is no prep, follow-up or concern necessary for the development or maturity of your students meaning: NO Work for YOU! Of course, free sightseeing is also included in this special bonus offer!

Fortunately, I can refrain from violently shaking them and waking them up from their late night infomercial dreaming and politely tell them what we can offer.

Still, there is often shock at what I think is incredibly reasonable pricing.

Dave's Wife