As a missions enthusiast, have you ever had to answer the question: “Who does our church support?” Your answer has the opportunity to shift how your church thinks about missions.
The typical answer may be “Oh, we support missionaries Tom and Carol in Mexico.” But adding a few simple words can make a great difference: “partnership” and “the ministry of.”
Can you see the difference? “Through the ministry of Tom & Carol our church is planting churches and changing lives in a Tijuana neighborhood."
It’s a subtle difference but an important one. These words convey ownership. They show that your church is playing an active role on the global mission field, not just giving financial support towards one of many causes.
With ministry as the focus rather than an individual or couple, the missionary is acting as an extension of your church’s ministry. There’s not only an interest in work, but an investment into seeing an outcome that transforms people’s lives. That investment goes way beyond the missionaries themselves — it’s an investment into a community, a church, an unreached people group, that continues long after the missionaries have moved on.
This way of thinking also allows for more sustainable ministry within your church. Just because your missionaries may change doesn’t mean that your involvement in a particular country or ministry has to change too! By that point, your congregation has offered many prayers, read many ministry updates, given gifts — all because you’ve felt called to involved in global ministry. With the ministry as a focus, the partnership is with the place rather than the missionary.
When missionaries invite others to join them in ministry through giving, it is with a dependency on God, a trust that we will see His will accomplished. As Henri Nouwen has said*, “To raise funds is to offer people the chance to invest what they have in the work of God.” They are raising funds towards a budget that makes essential ministry happen.
When looking for a new global ministry to support, ask members of your congregation about what type of ministry or focus. If you live in an agricultural community, consider supporting an agriculture project in Uganda. If your congregation has a high value on Christian education, look into missionaries whom you can send to share a biblical worldview at an international school.
Finally, adding the words “the ministry of,” make your support more clear for tax purposes. In holding offerings and receiving donations, your church must demonstrate that it is for public benevolence and not personal benefit. That’s a contributing factor to making the gift charitable and eligible for a charitable tax receipt. By using “the ministry of” your church is clearly showing that funds to advance the ministry of a registered charity, and not for the individual’s benefit.
If you have any questions about developing a new partnership with communities around the world, contact Trish De Jong at [email protected] (Canada) or Lois Craven at [email protected] (United States).
*Henri Nouwen, “A Spirituality of Fundraising” Upper Room Books, Nashville ©2010