In my role of helping churches understand and engage with global missions, I am sometimes asked, “How much of our church’s budget should be devoted to missions?” It is a question that I have struggled to answer. The situations of churches are so varied. Some are so small or are composed of people who are barely keeping food on the table such that it is hard to see how ministry beyond their own community is possible at all. Others are of a size and/or have members who have experienced much greater financial blessings, which makes significant investment in global ministry much easier.
Some years ago I ran across a book called (excuse the title) Today’s All-Star Missions Churches. In addition to telling the stories of a number of churches that are very committed to international ministry, the book provided some statistics. Each of the featured churches gave between 20% and 30% of their total budget to missions beyond the local area.
Many of them, perhaps all, were highly involved in local ministries as well. I don’t think the book’s intention was to say that you should ignore your neighbor across the street in order to minister to your neighbor around the world. We live in a world of need. Addressing issues of injustice, poverty and abuse as well sharing the basic Gospel message with unchurched Harry and Mary locally must be central to the Church’s ministry if our global ministries are to have any credibility.
Still, we shouldn’t allow the pendulum to swing so far toward local ministry that the massive needs outside our communities are only addressed if they offer opportunities for our members. God calls us to love our neighbors near and far and to bring them comprehensive Good News in both word and deed.
All this caused me to ask about churches that I am familiar with. What percentage of total giving are our churches investing in global missions, outside the church’s neighborhood? I picked a church that I knew was providing the full amount of requested Ministry Shares. A large percentage of Ministry Shares giving goes to fund missions, which isn’t always taken into account when analyzing missions giving. At the church I looked at about 6% of total giving is going toward Ministry Shares supporting three denominational missions agencies. Another 1% is going toward missions efforts at the classical level. 4% of total giving is being invested in missions beyond the local area through a missions fund (sometimes called Faith Promise). The total is 11%. This doesn’t count the portion of Ministry Shares that is funding educational institutions, efforts to oppose abuse and racial discrimination, efforts to support justice, etc. If all of that were counted, the total would be about 16%.
I suspect that this is on the high end for Christian Reformed churches, but some careful survey work would be necessary to confirm that. I wonder what you would discover if you did this kind of analysis of your congregation. Is this about the right amount? Or should we be pushing for an increase in order to do more internationally? Or, should we be doing less there and more here in our own neighborhoods? Of course, this only measures dollars, not person-hours invested. That would require a different kind of calculation. I would love to hear the comments of others on these questions.