- what ministry I'm currently working with (What is it you *DO* exactly???)
- what we're doing here at YWAM Perth (What YWAM Perth *does*)
- my plans for the future (What's happening down the road...)
- perspectives on sharing my needs - outlining the big picture
- a scripture study on giving to missions and missionaries
- a discussion on the standard of living for missionaries
- why I'm in it for the long haul (and why that matters)
Alrighty then - let's jump right into it! I will be open and transparent with you in admitting that laying it out there regarding finances is one of the most difficult aspects of what I do. I tend to avoid it whenever possible. However, it is a very real aspect of missions.
First off, I suppose I should explain what the philosophy of YWAM is regarding finances. In a nutshell - we receive no financial compensation from YWAM for the work we do, so in that sense, we are all "volunteers". This is true from the founder right down to the newest student. We are all responsible for raising our own support. This is actually true of nearly all missions agencies throughout the world.
There are a few reasons for this approach. First, it causes us to stay in a place of dependence upon God for our provision and not walking in pride and independence. Second, we know that God most often works through people, so it gives us the opportunity to work in partnership with others - some of us are "senders" and others are "goers", but it is in working together that the work of the Kingdom is accomplished. Third, it brings us to a place of deep gratitude and awe as we see God's faithfulness over and over again and experience His miraculous and loving provision.
Hopefully that gives a bit of background and understanding. Having been in missions full-time for a few years now, I've seen a couple of different approaches to fund raising. Here's a bit of a list...
a la George Mueller - never ask anyone for anything; your needs are between you and God only. This one can be appealing to many for the fact that you don't have to put yourself in the humbling position of asking for help. However, it can rob others of being part of what you are doing with the Lord! The most important thing to remember is that George received a very specific and direct word from the Lord about this. While that can still be true for some, most often it is not. There is a very real tendency to over-spiritualize the whole issue in this approach.
yikes! help me! - this tends to be an emergency based appeal. In my opinion, this approach is a good way to burn out supporters and can be attributed to either an issue with being perpetually under-funded or unwise stewardship.
being poor makes you more holy - this takes living simply to a whole new level. Somehow, these guys convince themselves that living below the poverty line is glorifying God and earning them points. The problem is that is another facet of a "works" mentality - that we can earn our way into God's favor. Also, this person becomes a burden on those around them when they are in such dire need all the time. This is another approach that can be over-spiritualized.
it's not a *real* job - this is a problem with many, that they don't see what they are doing as a "real" job and therefore not worth supporting financially. It is a lack of understanding of the value of the work being done, and can be a reflection of the world's value system. The Bible tells us that the "those who work deserve their pay" (Luke 10:7).
I don't want people to think I'm after their money - fair enough...and it's important that we aren't after people's money! Always, always, always - relationship is more important than money. Period. I think the key to this is that we are communicating, and that we are very clear that a decision to support or not support is not a statement on who we are or someone's love for us. Also - trust the Lord in this. We have to get to the point of giving people absolute freedom to hear from the Lord on this issue.
I can do it on my own! - this approach is most common in those of us from a Western culture, such as the US, where we have core values of "picking ourselves up by our bootstraps" and "making our own way in the world". It stems from pride and independence, and robs others of the opportunity to partner with you and to be a blessing to the Kingdom of God. There is a difference between standing in pride and independence with finances (or life) and being a person who does have the means to be self-supporting and choosing to use their money to serve the Lord - I guess it comes down to a heart attitude.
I don't want to bother people - this is probably the one I struggle with most. Recognizing that the world is in a financial crisis, and people have their own struggles to deal with, we just get by on the minimum, turning down opporunities out of fear/lack of finances, rather than because the Lord said 'no'. I have been challenged that this is unbelief and lack of trust in God, who is bigger than our world system or the global financial crisis! And, once again, we are robbing people of a blessing.
Hmmm...notice any type of thinking you recognize? Well, these are a few different approaches I've seen. I'll spend more time going over them in the next few articles, but maybe for now just a little fodder for thought. I can honestly say, however, that I've wrestled with each of these approaches at different times throughout my time in missions. I guess it's a process of learning, isn't it?
I'm in a new place of how I'm approaching my finances, a place I think the Lord has shown me. That is the approach of making a realistic spending budget that reflects real life - not just bare minimum monthly obligations, but also planning for future and unknown expenses.
For example, there are some things that I know I need to budget for - things like healthcare, schooling for Sierra, visas, travel for ministry, travel to visit home, on-going training, new clothes/shoes, etc. Then there are always those unexpected expenses that come up - emergency trips to the doctor, unforseen expenses, price hikes, etc. And finally, there are those things that would be wonderful to have, but aren't necessarily *needed* - things like a car, dance classes for Sierra, a gym membership, a night out at the movies, etc. Truth is, these are all things that need to be taken into account as I budget wisely.
At this point, my budget covers the minimum montly obligations. A few months back I had a bit of a cushion because the exchange rate was favorable to the US dollar (about $0.83 US cents to $1 Australian dollar). However, the exchange rate has plunged (about $1.02 USD to $1 AUD) and my cushion has disappeared. It was with savings from this cushion that I was able to pay for Sierra's ambulance and ER care back at the end of September.
Considering all of the above, I would say that I am at about 50% of where I need to be. As I look ahead at the next year, there are several big expenses approaching for which I don't have the needed finance...things like going home and Sierra's schooling.
Well, I think that is all for now. This is a lot to think about, and could very well be challenging some deeply held beliefs about finances and giving. Next we'll be looking at what scripture says, because at the end of the day, we want to know that we are acting in accordance with God's word and not being manipulated by emotions, fear or anything else. Please let me know what you think!!