World Renew's Approach to Funding Missions

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With all the talk about funding missionaries, World Renew is getting more calls about how it funds missions. It’s important to note that World Renew does not receive ministry shares, and so its funding model is quite different from Christian Reformed World Missions. The biggest difference is that we encourage churches to financially support country teams, not specific missionaries/field staff--although often a prayer relationship is developed with a specific person on the team.

There are many questions that churches ask as they discern a possible ministry partnership. From our conversations with churches and pastors, deacons and missions committees, we’ve gathered a few of the most frequently asked questions in the hopes that you find the list helpful.

If there’s a question you have not on this list, don’t hesitate to ask!

1. Where’s the greatest need right now?

This is not an easy question to answer. The need of each country team is in flux depending on incoming financial support and grants, as well as continually changing program opportunities across countries and teams. Your Ministry Partner Program staff would be happy to suggest several countries for your consideration in light of the most up to date information regarding country team support and need.

2. What’s the suggested annual amount for financial support?

Financial support can be at any level, but we challenge church partners to pledge to a minimum of $2,000 annually. We do understand that each church partner needs to discern the financial support goal depending on the number of ministries supported and the size of the congregation.

3. Why is World Renew country-focused rather than missionary-focused?

World Renew has recently revised our approach to church and field partnerships to broaden our focus to include the entire country and team at work in the field. As you know, no missionary works alone. There is a team of people in country that includes other missionaries, national staff, local churches, and volunteers from the community and around the world. It’s our hope that with a country-focus you can better understand the scope of the work that happens in each country and get to know the people behind the scenes. Instead of receiving news from one staff person, the newsletters you receive have articles and stories from their colleagues and the local partners who work with the country team you support.

But don’t worry! You can still have a relationship with an individual staff person. Your financial support continues to support staff and their families – their salaries, housing costs, etc. You can still receive individual profile cards for each staff person, as well as request a photograph of their family to hang on your missions wall or put up on your website.

4. Why support globally when there is so much need locally?

The recent missional shift in churches has stressed the importance of the local. This shift is a good one! We need to have a missional understanding of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment that encompasses both our own communities and those around the world.

At World Renew we don’t see the local / global as an either/or choice but a both/and. Opening our eyes to injustice in a Bangladeshi community can help open our eyes to injustices right in our own backyard. Hearing about the struggles of Malian farmers can open our eyes to the struggles of farmers on the outskirts of our own town. A community in Kabale, Uganda can teach us how to reach our own community in Guelph, Ontario or Pella, Iowa. By holding the local and global in balance, we can see and pray for our world so much more effectively!

5. What does a ministry partnership look like?

Every ministry partnership looks different. Every congregation finds a different way to engage with the country and staff with whom they partner. One church partner with the Laos team sought out fair trade Laotian coffee for their post-service fellowship time after hearing about the fight for coffee workers’ rights from Mike Fennema while he visited their church. Partnering with Guatemala could lead a church to research the experience of Guatemalan seasonal workers in their own region and country. Some send learning teams or work teams to learn from and serve in their partnering country. The ways that church partners engage through prayer, advocacy, offerings, and encouragement is varied and diverse. We’re excited to hear how your congregation develops your partnership!

If your congregation is looking for further engagement, you may be interested to explore a Global Partnership that links a North American church with an in-country church in an intentional and long-term relationship. For more information, visit worldrenew.net/globalpartnership.

6. How do we get the whole congregation engaged with our partnering country?

One of the joys (and challenges) of church partnerships is getting the whole congregation involved and fully engaged in the work of the partnering country. Each church partner wrestles with questions like: How do we engage our Sunday School classes? How do we help families in our congregation identify with families living in a different part of the world?

This is where the information about World Renew’s resources for children and youth comes in, as does the material about the Free A Family Program. In addition, the resource, “A Town Called Hope,” offers an intergenerational-friendly way to tell the story of community development and transformation. All these resources, and more, are available for free from your World Renew office!

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Wendy,

This is very good summary. I especially like point 3 (the focus on a country as a whole). Apart from a specific calamity (to which WR has always responded very well) I wonder if WR should focus more sharply on fewer countries with great needs.  The Canadian government has such a list of 20 countries.

About a year ago I made a list of all the countries where the CRCNA was active (WM.WR.BTGMI). There were 49. Canada's list included 20 countries of which only 5 did not have a CRCNA presence. The overlap/or not, amoung the 3 ministries of the CRCNA was interesting.  Could you make a comment on that?

Guide

There is a long history of working in the countries where we currently are. In 2009 we had to reduce the number of countries in which we worked because of budget considerations. It was a painful process, because we had to leave partners with whom we had been working for many years. In addition, we are always being asked to come into new countries. There are processes in place to help prioritize countries based on needs and opportunities. One of the considerations is whether or not there are other CRCNA agencies working there. The decisions are made by our codirectors, regional team leaders, and board.

As for the overlap question, I made a similar list a few years ago although it is now out of date. However, every country has an annual plan that includes a section on how they will work with the other CRCNA agencies that are in the country. I personally am more familiar with how CRWM and World Renew work together and less so with BTGMI. Perhaps that would make a good topic for a future Network post!

I hope that answers your questions, if not let me know and I will be happy to go into further detail.

Thanks for these insights, Wendy, as all of us who seek to support our CRC missionaries, both locally and globally, are searching for new paradigms to help the churches steward their resources well.  Your comment about local/global being a both/and solution made me wonder about a unique possibility:

What if a North American church plant was connected to a World Renew country due to similar characteristics?  For instance, there is a church planting/missional community in Denver that uses community gardening to connect with and disciple their neighbors. I'm sure there are places where World Renew is working with gardening in a community.  What if these were packaged together in a way that would be meaningful to both the ministries and the donors?

In this day of collaboration in the denomination Home Missions is looking for creative ways to partner with agencies like World Renew.  I wonder if this is one possibility?

Guide

Yes! This is something that we had proposed for some of the new churches we were helping to plant in Cambodia, but there was little interest on the part of U.S. church planters. Of course this was some time ago, and perhaps it just wasn't promoted well. I would love to continue the conversation.

This is an excellent way to support missions! When I was a missionary on the field, I would have really appreciated a team emphasis by supporting churches rather than the pressure of being focused on as individual missionaries. It gives churches a much broader perspective of the work being done as well as the needs of the countries and their particular regions.  Would this strategy ever be considered as a means to support CRWM missionaries? 

Hi Donna,

As Wendy mentioned, the finances of World Missions and World Renew are very different.  World Renew does not receive Ministry Shares, so the 50% decline in their purchasing power has not affected World Renew.  Also, personnel costs represent a much greater percentage of World Missions' budget.  World Missions also does not receive government grants.  All of these factors make gaining support for missionaries a much more important issue for World Missions.

I have a lot of respect for WR and am happily working closely with the international disaster response staff in Japan. I couldn't help but notice though the reference to supporting "missions" and "missionaries" in this article. It seems to me that WR has been very careful NOT to describe its work as missions or its staff as missionaries. So what is going on here? 

Guide

There are two things that I suspect might be going on here, to use your terminology. One, there is a distinction between disaster response and community development. I believe that the staff who are working on long term community development are indeed missionaries, as they are working with churches and doing outreach. It is important to note that disaster response funds are NOT used for supporting long term development, which is what was described in this post. Secondly, depending on the country context, we avoid using the term missionary online (and sometimes avoid mentioning the country altogether). 

These two things would also make great blog posts as they deserve more in-depth discussion. 

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