Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Manipulating people into giving money for mission

I’ve said it before: I struggle to come to terms with missionaries manipulating funds from people in order to support their mission. Yesterday I received an email from someone that I don’t know within a mission that I know nothing about. The only time I hear from him is when they are in dire need of money. Freely translated, the email says the following: “Please pray with us that Father will provide and will bless our bank account at XXXX bank, account number XXXXXXXXXXX with R1720.85 (Rand – the South African currency) for essential reparations which need to be made to the mission vehicle. The reparations cannot be postponed and must be done as soon as possible. Also praise the Lord that HE will provide for the reparations.”
My emotions see-sawed between fury, indignation, frustration and disappointment after reading this.  Most mission newsletters do speak about their needs. I have no problem with this. On many occasions people have said to me that they do want to hear about specific needs so that they can find means of providing what is really necessary. From time to time someone would ask me for a bank account number. But I’m getting sick and tired when I feel that missionaries are trying to manipulate others in giving money to them by taking them on a guilt-trip. Looking at that email my first question is: Make up your mind. Do you want us to pray that God will provide the money or do you want us to give the money? I would probably not even have had a problem if they had sent out regular newsletters to a number of prayer supporters with whom they have some kind of relationship and then to contact them with this special need. But asking that we pray that God will put the money into their account! I feel that I’m being misused.
I know a great number of people reading this blog are missionaries themselves. I would like to hear from those who are not missionaries but who feel obliged to support missionaries: How do you want to be approached when there is a specific need in some ministry? Do you want to be asked directly? Would you rather that God indicated where He wants you to get involved? Do you ever pray about where God wants you to give your money?
Help us, who are full-time missionaries, to understand how people feel who support missionaries.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008 - Posted by | Giving, Mission, Poverty

16 Comments »

  1. I work for a local mission organization (Youth for Christ), staff and board all raise funds. We send out a letter every month, providing a receipt from the previous month and an envelope for people to respond with their donation. Many are regular givers. We tell stories of ministry and life change, fruit from the investment. We also ask people to prayerfully consider investing. Today was all about getting our Christmas card/letter ready.

    We know that our letter is one of many that show up in mailboxes every month. We worry that so much communication could exasperate people. We also worry that without regular communication, people might forget us. It is a tension for sure.

    We know that donors should be made to feel like partners, because they are. It would be great if we could communicate personally with everyone (with many we do). But the reality is, with a mailing list of 2000+ people who have donated at least once in the past two years, people could feel that the only time they hear from us is when we send an “ask” letter.

    Because I live in this world, I am generally very understanding about communications that describe a need and ask for financial support. What I want to go with each communication though, is evidence of how God is using the funds they already have. Are there stories of changed lives? Is God multiplying what they’ve been given? Asking for more without telling about fruit is not honoring.

    Wendi Hammond

    Comment by Wendi Hammond | Friday, November 21, 2008 | Reply

    • i understand what you are saying, and i am glad that many people in this world has a heart to give, a heart to help. But we cannot avoid people asking for help, asking for a support and they do that through letter of prayer..in fact i also want to help little kids in Barangay Kabulusan, Pakil, Laguna here in the Philippines. The mission of this childrens school named GOLDEN WORD CHILDREN SCHOOL, is to create new Filipino leaders that are God fearing, leaders that will serve the God of this country and the people of this country with all their hearts, like serving God..But the problem is the church who manage the school has no school building, the name of the chuch is CHRIST THE KING FELLOWSHIP.

      Comment by edgardo abrea | Friday, May 8, 2009 | Reply

    • Hi are you from that place kabulusan pakil laguna?cause i live there and im born again christian and im not sure if your talking about this church that i got invited in..they are good brothers and sisters in christ in that church i would like to help also about the children over ther who is i need

      Comment by aida | Tuesday, December 7, 2010 | Reply

  2. I’m going to be attempting to radically change gears where I serve. Currently the majority of our communication asks for money. What I’m pitching for 2009 is to start relationship-building. As Wendi said above, donors are partners. I want us to really start treating them like that. Not to just ask them for money, or even send them information. But really work to start a dialogue with people. And from there, to find the passionate people and give them a megaphone. And that’s the mentality I want to deploy that mentality right across the board. It’s quite the paradigm shift for us!

    Having said that, I’m not offended by your example above. I’ve made myself immune to the inherent manipulation in that type of request. Instead, I’d simply pray for R1720.85 to be deposited into bank account XXXXXXXXXXXX at XXXX bank. 🙂

    Comment by brad | Friday, November 21, 2008 | Reply

  3. Wendi,
    Asking for money is a tricky thing. I appreciate the way you are doing it, even if I may not feel comfortable doing it that way myself. What I sense is that you approach people in a professional way and the fact that you see them as partners and not only as the cow that has to provide the milk, is something very positive. And I really like your last sentence. Very true.

    Brad,
    May God bless you in your quest to build relationships. I know you’ve been following this blog for a long time and that is probably one of the words that I’ve used the most. As you build relationships, these people truly start sharing your passion with you and then they start speaking on your behalf.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Friday, November 21, 2008 | Reply

  4. As a supporter, I need to know what are the needs. (I’m not “spiritual” enough to hear from God about every penny to be spent – I often also rely on my mind and emotions to make financial decisions.)
    So those missionaries who never let me know of their needs might miss out.
    But I like all communications to be honest:
    – If you only trust on God to provide without asking people – then say so.
    – If you’re asking for money, then do it.
    – But don’t hint.
    – and above all, don’t play on my guilt – don’t try to make me feel guilty about not giving.

    If I don’t give and you wish I would – ask me or talk to me about it. If I’m sorted out in my own mind I should be able to give you an honest answer without guilty feelings.

    OK, not all supporters (nor all missionaries) are spiritual adults in regards to their finances and honesty. So we should have grace for those still learning and growing. We can help them in love (and even offer advice where we are in the correct relationships).

    Yes, I still need to learn a lot!

    Comment by Ferdi | Saturday, November 22, 2008 | Reply

    • Ferdi, I wish you could know the situation of the CHRIST THE KING FELLOWSHIP, their drive is to create new Filipino leaders with a God fearing people, their Pastor is Pastor Panlilio of BARANGAY KABULUSAN, PAKIL LAGUNA, thank you very much and God bless.

      Comment by edgardo abrea | Friday, May 8, 2009 | Reply

  5. Ferdi, thanks. This is exactly the type of answer I was hoping for. I think it helps me, and other missionaries reading this blog, quite a lot. Thanks for your honesty.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Saturday, November 22, 2008 | Reply

  6. Being straightforward eliminates the impression of manipulation if done in appropriate language. Finding appropriate language isn’t always easy, esp. since not everyone hears or reads the same words in the same way.

    I am a supported missionary mobilizer and a missionary donor. I am, personally, a straightforward communicator. I like others to be the same way. Your exclamation inquiring about whether one should be PRAYING or actually GIVING is valid. However, I also commiserate with your comment that suggests we should each approach fundraising within our own giftings (and of course within Biblical parameters) though, and some people just aren’t comfortable sharing details.

    There are a few methodologies when it comes to support raising. Some are likened to Moody, who was very direct and specific in his ASKS. Others cite Mueller, who instead asked for prayer. What some people fail to note, however, is that even Mueller was being fairly specific (from what I’ve been told) in how he shared the needs of his ministry. It may have been a soft ask, but some of the details were still there.

    Comment by pNielsen | Wednesday, November 26, 2008 | Reply

  7. Hi Paul. Welcome to this blog and thanks for your positive input. You truly have a gift for words! After attending Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit in August, I purchased Bill Hybels’ latest book “Axioms” and one of the chapters has the heading” “Ask the ask!” What it boils down to is that he says that you need to pray about asking a certain individual about support, then make an appointment, sit down with the person and discuss the need and then ask clearly what you want that person to pray about. Something like: “I’ve prayed about this issue and feel that the Lord has led me to ask you for your support. Would you please go and pray about this as well. If God shows you to give your support, I will be thankful. However, if God does not convince you about this, then this will in no way influence our friendship our my respect for you.” Although this way of asking does not come easily with my own personality, I find this acceptable.
    I personally prefer Müller’s way of getting funds, but I have heard the same what you mention, that he spoke clearly about the needs – something which I try and address in my newsletters as well as when personally speaking to groups of Christians.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Wednesday, November 26, 2008 | Reply

  8. My wife and I were introduced to fundraising via Steve Shadrach’s fundraising Boot Camp (http://www.thebodybuilders.net/bootcamp/index.html), which you might be interested in looking up. Hybels ideas sound along the same lines as Shadrach’s. (who is now the director of the Perspectives program here in Arkansas). The boot camp was very helpful, very practical, but also set us up for some disappointment (timelines were a bit unrealistic for the majority, it seemed).

    Comment by pNielsen | Wednesday, November 26, 2008 | Reply

  9. I know there are organizations that may play on people’s sympathy but 9 time our of 10 money is the need.

    I know that a mission I am partnering with in India takes in orphans and wants to expand. If they cannot expand, that means some child or children will remain in dire poverty and perhaps be victims of child rape or sold as prostitute…all for a lack of funds.

    Yes, we can pray all day long, and God WILL hear those prayers, but if there is not sympathy for the ministries and their real needs people won’t give financially.

    I KNOW the people running this orphanage/ministry in India in one of the poorest places in the world; I KNOW they pray fervently and believe without doubt and I KNOW that God IS answering their prayers, but He DEPENDS on His people to be the instruments of these answered prayers.

    Paul commended the poor churches for giving out of their poverty, and that is indeed what this ministry does every day. They have a leper feeding program and they take money from their own personal accounts when funds are runnion low or run out to keep the ministry going. Only the wife in the family is working, other churches help, but all these people are poor people.

    I am so sick and tired of reading on my FaceBook page the vain things so-called Christians spend their time and money on, and thinking about, i.e., what restaurant is really great, awesome they say sometimes; “got to have my latte…going crazy without it. But ask them for a donation to help a poor missionary, “we will pray about it, and see what God will do; He will let us know which mission to give to; I know they need cots to sleep on, I know they need windows to keep the rain out of the boy’s building and to keep the grain dry, but God will answer their prayers…”. Now some of these folks are church leaders; they bang you on the head for money to build a multi million dollar church/school/educational facility, and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to have the plans drawn up; and because the preacher is so popular with the people they, like sheep, keep giving when so many are out of jobs and have health concerns. I am tired of the churches who are rich and yet who are poor; I am for the churches who are poor and yet who are rich; I say shame on people for neglecting to give to legitimate mission needs. God owns cattle on a thousand hills, but there is not one cow anyone can get off those hills unless they pay for it.

    The tithes in the storhouse were used to supply the needs of the people, and to the priests who had not other means of support but their service to God. Jesus condemned the leaders of the temple when He said the widow who gave her last mite gave more than them all; she could not give a tenth of her mite so out of fear of displeasing an angry God, or the “church leaders” she gave her last mite. Jesus condemned the leaders for requiring that she give what she did not have. God does not need money, people do.

    After begging and begging one ministry got another ministry build a well; they did help purchase a building that was in terrible condition and not fit fot habitation, but they never came through on helping have it renovated and the windows now let rain come in or dampness; all that is between the outside and inside of the building is plastic; some would say well, thank God for the plastic. Right, well what if it was YOUR child living in that building?

    What does it mean go “love your neighbor as your love yourself”? Didn’t the good Samaritan give until the man was made whole and able to care for himself? Where is the God given sense of people who think they deserve the good life they have and don’t want to be bothered with the problems of poverty or “bad luck”, or think that the people involved some how don’t mind living like they have to live.

    I am very angry right now aobut all this, and I believe with all my heart that God is angry about it, too !!!!

    Comment by Glenda Smith | Tuesday, December 1, 2009 | Reply

  10. Glenda, I understand your anger. And I also think that God is angry about this. I was more concerned about missionaries often manipulating a feeling of guilt into people so that they will give – very often not for a ministry but for the missionaries themselves.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Tuesday, December 1, 2009 | Reply

    • Well, I don’t know this particular missionary or the mission or their circumstances. But missionaries usually are people who leave the “good life”, go to a foreign place, live in the circumstances of the people, leave family and friends behind, and do not get much money at all for their work. So, I think we all need to think about things like this. Maybe they don’t realize they seem to be manimpulating…they want people to feel the need, the pain or whatever.

      Sometimes, it makes me very sad, angry and frustrated to see Christians second guessing each other. What about the admonition to, “love one another as I have loved you; even so shall you love one another…”; or “love your neighbor as you love yourself…”;

      When it comes to money, it seems to me, love goes out the window, and we all sit back and expect God to send in the fish with money in their mouths !

      Hoping for more brotherly love,

      Glenda Smith

      Comment by Glenda | Wednesday, April 7, 2010 | Reply

  11. God loves a cheerful giver not a manipulated one.

    Comment by Bible Study | Wednesday, December 8, 2010 | Reply

  12. I have a personal missionary friend who continually asks and says things like “since I’m not on vacation I’m sure God will bless you” and “trust me, the devil doesn’t want you to help anyone” and I need to have the ticket by this month or the airfare goes up…I won’t get to see my wife and baby…etc. and when I say I’m not led to give at this time…”when you decide about monthly support it would really be helpful to the mission…” When he left he was divorced, married a Philippino and had a daughter without proper planning and had to return to the states to work for these things…the work consisted of “raising support.” Why won’t self missionaries work?

    Comment by Alisa | Monday, September 30, 2013 | Reply


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