5 Major Challenges for Mission Agencies. 3. Financial Stress

Posted: February 15, 2013 in Missions
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1.       The challenge of financial stress is somewhat influenced by globalization, as the global financial crisis has negatively affected charitable giving in the United States. The generational changes have probably had an even greater impact, however. The “Builder” generation, the great givers, are going on to glory. The “Me-First” generation is worrying about retirement, and rescuing Social Security. The “Busters” are too few to make up the difference, and the Millenials are still too early in their careers to have a lot of disposable income.

And frankly, there is less interest in supporting “institutions,” especially those that may be out-of-touch with the post-modern, globalized and multi-cultural world. Perhaps the Millenials will rescue us yet, and perhaps the Western church will undergo a revival of biblical values and a re-awakening of biblical stewardship. And perhaps those organizations that remain out-of-touch will not survive.

We do need to be more creative in funding, whether through grants and foundations, or whether through more tent-making missionaries. As well, strategies that focus more on individual connections, trust, and transparency will work better than expecting people to be loyal to an institution.

But – the financial stresses show no real sign of weakening. This factor in itself may produce the greatest change in the worldwide mission force, as North American missionaries (expensive) are forced to return home, while majority world missionaries (much less expensive to support) grow in numbers. Meanwhile, the merchants, construction workers, soldiers and nannies will still be the majority in God’s mission force.

  1. Marti Wade says:

    Hi Randy! One thing I’m wondering about: Yes, “majority-world” missionaries are, all things considered, less expensive to support, but what is the source of their funding? The same folks the expensive North American missionaries are tapping, and to whom Americans have greater access? Or, if they are supported by those in their own contexts, are they looking for funds from those who have proportionally less, which therefore makes their funding just as difficult?

  2. That’s a good point, Marti. Globalization is changing the answer to that question, too, isn’t it? Your question raised a number of others for me: What ARE the sources of funding? How do Western missy expectations differ from majority world missionary expectations? How does giving compare? How does the “go-home” financial breaking point differ?

  3. Marti Wade says:

    I don’t have solid answers on those questions, but my agency has been involved in encouraging the emergence of locally based sending structures. What I’m hearing is that few have them have been able to establish sustainable models for sending workers long term. E.g., asked a field leader about the back to Jerusalem movement (China) and he said you don’t hear much about it anymore. There was a lot of training but not much success is workers arriving on the ground and staying. Indigenous sending should be encouraged, definitely. But much of it has been primarily short-term. Often the resources have been a problem. So I’m interested in finding healthy ways to subsidize those efforts without making them unsustainable or inappropriately controlled/owned by outsiders, e.g., whomever pays the bills.

    • Although I mention our agency has developed local sending agencies, I honestly don’t know how successful that has been. I should ask. Those indigenous agencies have been around long enough now, that there should be a good base of lessons learned. You and I represent agencies with enough differences that if it did work for us, it doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing will work for yours. I wonder though, if in this respect, the strengths of yours (very large, international, more effective with short-term) haven’t mitigated against success here. What I consider to be our weaknesses (North American only, denominational – at least until just a short time ago, and with an overwhelming focus on career ministries), meant that Filipinos and Brazilians, remaining part of the denominations we established in those countries, had to create their own agencies – with our help, encouragement and subsidies – in order to go elsewhere as missionaries.

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