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I am a bit behind on this topic. However to pressure on folks who already work in mostly difficult circumstances this is a difficult position to support. If we apply it to Back to God Ministries International and Home Missions the traffic on our pulpits asking for money would increase substantially. How about our Denominational Directors being put in the same position?

This is the first but key nail in the CRCNA Ministry Share Program. How many young people will sign up for missionary work when a major part of their work will raising funds? How many Regional Home Missionaries are willing to subject themselves to this? Put these functions back into individual churches and eliminate the Boards which simply become overhead if the workers have to raise their own resources.

How many church plant pastors are willing to submit themselves to a job like that?

To allow one agency to have this policy flies in the face of who we ought to as a church.


Dear Harry,  Your concern for our missionaries, missions and the Church are deeply appreciated.  I do have to agree that you are a bit behind on this topic.  Actually, Home Missions church planters have had to raise most of the financial support for their church planting for quite some time.  World Missions career missionaries have had a goal to gather the majority of the worldwide average cost of a missionary since 1992.  At that time the Ministry Share system yielded about $5.5 million for CRWM.  Now more than twenty years later the Ministry Share system yields about $5 million.  If CRWM is going to have a growing impact on the world which needs Christ, it must seek new ways of gathering the financial resources needed.

You ask how many young people will commit themselves to mission service given the increased emphasis on developing a network of support.  I believe the answer is many more.  For the past twenty years CRWM has often had to turn aside people who have felt God's call to mission service, because there was not sufficient funding for new positions.  Meanwhile, many CRC people have gone into mission service with other organizations which require 100% support raising, plus an administrative fee of 15% or more.  Denominations which have made this shift in the past have substantially grown their mission force.  The PCA mission agency, serving a similar sized denomination, has a mission force many times our size. 

Harry Boessenkool on September 12, 2013

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Dear Steve,

You mean to tell me that CRWM turned away missionaries who were prepared to raise their own funds?  I do have an example of a missionary who was prepared the raise his own money but was turned down by CRWM because what was propsed did not fit with CRWM mandate. That was probably one of the CRC folks now working for an other organization.

Steve Van Zanen on September 12, 2013

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hi Harry,

Yes, I was one of them.  It wasn't that my proposed work didn't fit with the CRWM mandate.  When I was preparing to serve in Eastern Europe in 1996 CRWM didn't have the funding to put such a position in the budget.  I was referred to another agency where I had to raise 115% of my actual costs.  In my case I was able to shift to a career position later, but that is a rare thing.  For 20 years CRWM has had few open positions and many who felt called to missions went with other organizations.  This year, for the first time in my ten years in the office, we have six open positions.  I expect more next year.  Praise God.

As far as I know, every level of YWAM missionaries raise their own support... this is the case with a number of other ministries as well as Steve mentions...  I see it on a local level with young people raising support as they are called as intercessory missionaries and involved with the local prayer center where I'm on the board... now try raising support for that!!

one of the things this enables YWAM to do, is that they help hundreds of families with affordable adoptions, several social workers/attorneys raise their own support and then give their time to the adoption process... and affordable adoptions is a justice issue.

1992 was a different world.  From the end of WW2 until around 1970 the US and Canada lived in a dream world of an economic bubble. The cost of living in most countries was much lower than here. The bubble has popped and we are regressing to the 1850-1950 or so economic norm.  I don't think "the good old days" will return in this  generation and I no suggestion except to seriously consider it.

Bev brings up the example of YWAM where EVERYONE raises their own support...even those in leadership. Wonder what our Headquarters personnel would say to that?

Many CRWM mission leaders did raise support for our overseas assignments.  Some served with agencies where 100% support raising was necessary.  However, CRC folk seem pretty reluctant to support office staff.  Most who had support networks overseas saw them shrivel once based in North America.  This is true even for people who spend substantial time overseas.  It seems that people want to support direct ministry.  Of course, many office staff are raising funds for ministry.  It just isn't in the name of the office staff person.

Just a thought.

If our missionaries only receive 10% of their support from the CRC, are they CRC missionaries? If 40% of the remaining support comes from well meaning Lutherans and the other 50% from socially concerned Episcopalians or Catholics, are they really our missionaries? Do we have any supervisory authority over their work or their theology? And if not, what is the point of CRWM? Local churches can just as easily send contributions directly to the missionaries and eliminate the overhead of a central office.

Dear Friends,

Just a quick response here partly in reply to Edward Gabrielse´s comment from a current CRWM missionary family.

My wife and I have been career missionaries now for just over 10 years in Guadalajara, Mexico. We have been extremely blessed by twenty CRC churches and several hundreds of individual/family supporters/partners (most of whom are also CRC) -- so much so that I suspect that the transition to raising 90% of our support will not be difficult, although it will require effort. 

When that happens, we will be receiving 10% of our support from CRC ministry shares, but the other 90% will not be coming from outside the CRC as Edward suggests.  In fact, my estimate is that, in our case, probably 90% of the other 90% will come from CRC members who will support us through their churches' missionary support programs or by sending their support directing to the CRWM office earmarked for us. We will continue to be 100% CRWM missionaries working under the authority and supervision of both CRWM and our sending church (Seymour CRC, Grand Rapids, MI)!

Most missionaries do not relish raising funds. At the same time I can testify to two things: 1. CRC members and others respond generously and cheerfully when presented with an opportunity to invest in God's Kingdom by giving to CRWM mission efforts.  2. While most CRWM home office staff do not raise funds for their own support in the same way missionaries do, they are extremely helpful in assisting missionaries to raise both their regular support and project suppport.

Personally, I lament thte Ministry Share program is in decline. I wish that, as a confessionally Reformed church, every congregation gave 101% of their designated annual amount per member. At the same time, I believe that CRWM's decision, ratified by Synod, to move to this new funding model is the right way to go.

Rev. Ben and Amy Meyer

CRWM Guadalajara, Mexico

[email protected]

P.S.  Please send your checks in support of our church planting and leadership development efforts in Mexico in partnership with the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico and Multiplication Network Ministries to CRWM, 1700 28th St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI  49508 (Note on memo line that gift is for Ben and Amy Meyer Acct. #: 802198)!!!









"I wish that, as a confessionally Reformed church, every congregation gave 101% of their
designated annual amount per member."

I wonder how many congregations give 100% . . . 90%? As I recall, synod has been getting less than 75% of budget, Been awhile since I read then numbers.


I'm not a church historian, however our "quote/ministry share" system goes back to a time when the church had one poorly paid pastor who lived in a parsonage and the membership was pretty much static. Church growth was biological with additional increase coming from CRC membees moving in from another area. Churches were proud that they paid 100% and the denomination was proud that kur missionaries were fully funded.

Today churches have staff, all of whom are paid well and considerable money is spent for local evangelism, youth and education. The local church today simply cannot afford ministry share and also seek to grow in their community and retain their own youth.

Yes, there are exceptions, however when you look at who is paying and who is not typically you will find that ageing churches do better at MS than growing congregations. I believe that this trend will increase and therefore the denomination will have to change with the times.

In other words, we may tithe but 90% of the tithe money is spent on keeping ourselves comfortable and entertained?

Bill, you are being synical. Having staff and seeking the lost while retaining the "found" is not an easy thing and has nothing to do with "comfort and entertainment"! Bringing new people into the CRC who have never "tithed" requires much time and training, therefore in order to meet present CRC expectations, others would have to make up the difference. Also young families sending their children to a Christian school face a huge amount to cover church budget and denominational ministry shares. I'm not trying to defend the meeting of budget nor not...I am trying to offer an explaination for the present problem. Blessings!

The cost of doing all kinds of ministry has gone up.  No matter how wonderful historic methods of raising support for ministry were, or how deeply attached to them we are, we do have to address current realities and challenges.  This is what World Missions is attempting to do.  Interestingly, most of our missionaries have embraced the change as challenging but necessary. 

…I am going to name one of the elephants in the CRC living room

the reason why the CRC was "succesfull" in the past is very simple, and it has more to do with anthropology and sociology than with faith and religion: racial solidarity

those who grew up in the bosom of the CRC know very well what I am talking about

I think this conversation at least is helpful to remind churches about the importance of at minimum a once a year check in with the missionaries they support to see if their funding needs are being met. (Presuming we are regularly praying and supporting our missionaries as well).   It's relatively easy to repeat the same budget number year after year -- but a brief connection to talk about funding needs acknowledges the changing funding pattern.  One of our missionaries has been asked to raise an extra $1,000 per month in support after years of always exceeding their pledge numbers.  If we don't ask - we don't know -- and there is a fear/perception that asking for more funding puts them in a bad light so often they don't ask -- let's free our denominational missionaries up for missions and not fundraising - Please check in with your missionaries please before your church drafts its 2014 budget.

A recent comment posted in this discussion forum was removed because of racially offensive content.

Here is the comment that was posted (as a reply to another comment) on Wed, 09/11/2013 at 8:03pm EST.

"the reason why the CRC was "successful" in the past is very simple, and it has more to do with anthropology and sociology than with faith and religion: racial solidarity"

I have am not Dutch,  have no ties with the CRC, and never heard of the CRC until I was over 50 years old and moved 10 blocks from [my church]. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into 20 years ago when i joined the CRC, an ethnic local church dominated by maybe 4  or 5 families.  Still very glad that I did.

I suspect that if the CRC had remained an ethnic Dutch church then the CRC would be much smaller but debt free. OK, at least in much better financial shape.  I think it was opening the doors to outsiders, particularly ethnic minorities that caused the financial problems -  that and the CRC doesn't seem very good at investing large sums of money. 

These types of comments are not acceptable on The Network and fall far short of our desire for conversations on The Network to be polite, courteous and Christ-like.

We would like to see some good come from this incident. Over in our Racial Reconciliation forum, a new topic has been posted that invites discussion of this incident. To participate in this learning opportunity this comment has generated visit this discussion topic in the Racial Reconciliation and Anti-Racism discussion forum.

- Jonathan Wilson (Network Community & Content Manager)

The notion of having missionaries -- or anybody involved in Christian ministry -- raise the majority of their support is apalling. It is valid to have folks seek prayer support and even a bit of personal support from friends, local church or family. That is tied in to an affirmation of the sense of 'calling' to the ministry.

That's the point: being called. Firstly, we're ALL called to the ministry, and for some that ministry is the pulpit; for others it is business or carpentry or teaching or collecting garbage.


Why is it that when a seminary graduate is called to the ministry, he/she is given at least a modest salary and a house or housing allowance. When a seminary graduate is called to serve as missionary ... and has the gifts of teaching, leadership, cultural awareness, we suddenly expect that person to have the gift of fundraising.

Fundraising is a specific talent. Some are very good at it; many cringe at the thought of having to ask for money.

World Missions has a highly qualified staff in the denominational office: men and women gifted to serve in administration, leadership development, communication, etc. Hire an employee who feels called to raise funds. That allows those who feel called to serve on a mission field to use their God-given gifts in preaching, teaching,leadership, etc.

If there is a World Missions missionary who regularly delights in asking for an increasing percentage of fnancial support every year, peraps he/she is called to that task. My hunch is that most overseas staff cringe at the thought of having to raise tens of thousands of dollars. They may even be paralysed by the notion and it may severely impact the effectiveness of their ministry.

I have had the privilege of working in the denominational offices of a few mainline denominations where those missionary staff were expected to raise a good portion of their own support. The CRC was always held up as an ideal model: If you feel called, the Church sends you. No strings attached.

Well, today, missionaries must feel the burden of that financial chain around their necks.

The CRC has always avoided that archaic notion of having to raise your own support for ministry. We don't do it for pastors, college professors, worship directors. Why do we pick on mission staff, domestic or overseas? Are they not worthy of denominational support? Why do they need to 'affirm their sense of calling' by raising their own support? Try that with our next crop of Calvin Seminary graduates: If you can raise $50,000 then we'll consider you for our pulpit. Nonsense!

If you feel called to serve as a missionary, the Church needs to send a strong message of encouragement: Go! No strings attached.


Hi Keith,

While the CRC has not had a required support raising expectation in the past, missionaries have always had a role in gathering the financial support needed for the work to be accomplished.  At our Michigan 125th anniversary celebration one of our former directors commented that when he began mission service in 1957, a single congregation provided 100% of his support.  Currently, the largest church-missionary relationship is about 10%.  CRWM's Ministry Share income, which made it possible to not have a required support level, this year has about half the purchasing power it did in 1990.  

While I definitely understand and deeply appreciate your concern for our missionaries, something has to change if we are going to have a growing ministry.  There are several ways that this burden can be lightened for those missionaries.  One is to ask missionaries how their support level is, so they don't have to bring up the topic, and get others to join you in responding to the need.  As you mention some people have a hard time with this part of the missionary task.  The new Veenstra Missionary Support Fund is there to assist people who lack the kind of connections that enable the building of a strong support network.  And, of course, Ministry Share will continue to cover the full cost of children's education, children's travel, outfitting allowances and several other categories so that these are not counted in the goal calculation. 

Most younger missionaries expect that support raising is going to be part of the missionary task.  After all, that is how the overwhelming majority of missionaries gain 100% of all the cost categories plus a significant administrative charge.  CRWM and the CRC are well equipped to lighten the burden through the means already mentioned, and have a growinng ministry into the future.

I have always accepted the dictum, "The one who pays the piper names the tune." If a person raises 100% of his business expenses . . . .

In the "90's" I was a church planter in FL and a significant portion of our revenue came from CRC supporters who were not members of our churh. They may have been the "Piper" however they knew that the local church leadership had to make the decisions...that was our verbal understanding and that is how it worked out.

Supporters of missions, or anyone else have NO EXPECTION of having a "say" in what the missionary does and no missionary would accept support from someone who gave with "string attached". As was said to me frequently, "I was not caed to plant a church, however God HAS given me the gift to make money which can be used to extend the boundaries of the Kingdom."

Bill, I share a number of concerns with you. Some of it is certainly my ignorance so please bear with me.

How are the salaries set? If I am a skilled fund raiser and raise, say $500,000. Is World Missions liable for $50,000? Can I hire a fund raising firm with the needed expertise? What part of the $500,000 is taxable? In which country? Who audits the expenditure of the $500,000? Who handles the withholding? Can I apply for tax exempt status as a stand alone entity? Can I put my wife on the payroll?

It seems to me that at 10%, there is insufficient leverage to,"call the tune." At some point, the individual is no longer a CRC missionary, but rather a free lancer. In addition, the potential for fraud is quite apparent. And, if we exert control over employment conditions, does the CRC have liability?

And please stop whining about diminishing ministry shares. We stood by and watched a third of our denomination (mostly the conservative, reliable givers) walk away over the women in office controversy. Now, we are doing the same thing with the hyper environmentalists. If we cannot find ways to embrace those that think a bit differently, then we must be prepared to cut all denominational programs in half, again and again. Those decisions have consequences.

I am not cynical, but my orientation is sales/business. From that perspective, we sometimes do some really dumb things.

Steve Van Zanen on October 3, 2013

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hi Bill,

I'll give a quick response which others might want to add to.  Budgets, not just salaries, are set through a very careful process.  The salary is set by a formula used by all denominational gencies.  No one can decide for him/herself what their salary ought to be.  World Missions provides the needed expertise to assist in the fundraising effort.  The taxable portion is determined by what the IRS deems as salary.  Sometimes missionaries also pay certain taxes in the country of service as well. All World Missions accounts are overseen by a CRCNA finance office person who is designated as CRWM finance manager.  She in turn is audited by an outisde firm and there is potential for an IRS audit as well.  The IRS makes it relatively easy to become a tax exempt organization and if you did, you could put your wife on the payroll, but that doesn't seem to have anything to do with the question of how CRWM funds and oversees its missionaries.

Missionaries in a number of our other categories have raised 90% for years.  Only the career category had a lower threshold.  However, you must remember that most of the missionary support funding is given by CRC churches and individuals who trust their denominational agency to serve them by providing proper oversight to the work.  We are blessed with strong relationships off trust which we will work hard to maintain.  I am confident that the concerns you raise will not derail the purpose of the mission: to gather and build the Church of Jesus Christ and advance His Kingdom.

I don't mean to "whine" about ministry shares, but many suppose that, as in the past, they carry the bulk of our budget.  They remain very important, but without new sources of revenue, we can grow our ministry.  That is just factual information.

Thanks for the conversation Bill

Greetings all:

A lot of good comments going on.

     I have heard said that some organizations suffer from too little administration and the staff suffer from burnout and the 'clients' in the field waste huge amounts of time trying to get answers from untrained and unavailable staff. Meanwhile the organization can boast how little it spends on adminisration. On the other hand, there are organizations which hire all kinds of administrative staff and they create make-work projects to justify their jobs. The 'clients' in the field get burned out, not because they do not get answers, but because they have to produce answers for all kinds of people.  I have seen both sides of the coin. 

  Yet, it would be interesting to crunch some statistics with organizations to see what the administrative staff to 'clients' on the field actually is, where it has been, and where it is going. If the trajectory is to more and more admin staff, and less and less 'clients' one has to wonder if a problem is developing.

  As long as the admin staff does not need to have the entrepreneurial mindset of the 'clients' who now have to raise more and more of their support, essentially you will have an organization who is riding on the backs of the 'clients'.

  Any thoughts



Thank you Wendy for a good review of funding models for missions. I started with highlighting the difficulty of asking missionaries to fund raise and applying that model to other CRCNA agencies. I want to be careful to exclude World Renew as they are not tied to ministry shares. To some extent this agency is reactive and gets support based on specific disasters or other  situations that people can readily identify with. Also their government support for programs is significant because of the doubling or tripling of gifts received. My suggestion is to take World Renew out of this discussion. 

But they do have one very interesting principle and that is their  "Joseph Program". Simplistically every dollar they get from estates is spent over a seven year period. If you look at the estate receipts for all the CRCNA agencies you will note the BTGMI has the highest level if income from this source.  They put 100% of these gifts into current year operatings. My position is that they, and all the other agencies, should copy the WR policy.  If readers of this blog want to find out what the trends in estate giving is over the next 15 - 20 years, just ask the Barnabas Foundation in the USA or Christian Stewardship Services in CND. 

While churches have to be careful to amass pools of capital, the Joseph principle, given some of the aging trends in society and especially in churches, should cause us to consider such an approach. 


Steve Van Zanen on October 15, 2013

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hi Harry, Thanks for this contribution.  Christian Reformed World Missions recently revised its protocol for dealing with estate gifts.  As long as our "ready reserve" is funded, additional estate income is split between our Johanna Veenstra Missionary Support Fund and our New Initiative Fund.  The first fund is designed to assist those missionaries who have difficulty reaching their new (and higher) missionary support goals.  A few years ago we sent a young woman as a missionary who had become a Christian as an adult so she had no Christian family and was only really known in one congregation.  This makes it pretty difficult to raise support.  She is the kind of person who could benefit from this fund.  The New Initiative Fund will enable us to seize opportunities that come up after our long planning process is under way, but which are compelling.  This year we are doing a conference on Muslim ministry for CRC and RCA practitioners and leaders.  If we develop balances in these funds we will need further refinement of our protocols for their use.

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