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The Ultimate Guide to Missionary Support

The Ultimate Guide to Missionary Support

There’s a long list of exciting reasons to become a missionary: to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples, to use your gifts to make an eternal difference, and to experience another culture, to name a few. But one thing that rarely tops anyone’s list is raising financial support for ministry.

Whether that stems from fear, negative past experiences, or something else, we want to set the record straight. Truly, the financial journey can be one of the greatest blessings of being a missionary!

You probably have preconceptions about how missionaries support themselves, and you may have questions about some aspects. Convincing you about the value of raising support is not the topic of this blog. (Read about that in “Why you should want to raise support.”)

In this blog, we’ll answer common questions about what it’s like to be a support-based missionary and help you set healthy expectations if God calls you to become one.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Short-term mission trip fundraising guide: 6 steps to raising support for mission workDownload our free short-term fundraising guide and learn how to raise support for a mission trip in six actionable steps.

1. Do missionaries get paid?

The short answer is yes — missionaries receive a paycheck, have a bank account, set a budget, track expenses, and manage their finances, just like you do. Where their paycheck comes from can vary. Some missionaries are paid by their church denomination or are self-funded. (This could be the case if they’ve retired from their career and want to serve overseas for a few years while living off their retirement savings.)

The majority of missionaries raise the funds to pay their salary through a process of support-raising. They partner with a missions agency like Crossworld, which processes tax-deductible donations, pays their salary, and provides financial accountability.

2. Are there paid missionary jobs?

Yes, you can get paid to be a missionary without raising financial support. Often this involves engaging your professional skills on the mission field. For example, you can get a paying job teaching English in Thailand and earn a salary from your school as a missionary teacher. You can do the same as a missionary doctor at a hospital in the Middle East, a missionary IT professional in Central Asia, or a missionary business consultant in Africa.

It takes some effort to find a job you’re qualified for in another country, but when you do, you can get to the field faster than the support-raising model and you gain immediate influence among the local people.

3. What does the Bible say about raising support?

Getting a paying job is a great option, but don’t overlook support-raising just yet. Though some people have a less-than-favorable view of missionary fundraising, God esteems it. About 2,500 verses in the Bible mention money. Some of those verses talk specifically about money as a means for God’s work in the world — in other words, financial support for ministry.

Though some people have a less-than-favorable view of missionary fundraising, God esteems it.

From the building of the tabernacle to Paul’s missionary journeys, God intended his people to provide for his work. Indeed, the apostle Paul said gospel workers ought to be provided for (3 John 5-8). Jesus himself lived on the support of others (Luke 8:1-3)! God owns everything (Ps. 50:10), he allows people the means to give (1 Chronicles 29:14), he invites them to give generously (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), he overwhelms them with the joy of giving (Acts 20:35), and he meets their needs in return (Philippians 4:19). 

Read through passages like Luke 8:1-3, 2 Corinthians 8-9, and Philippians 4:14-20. Whether you’re on the raising side or the giving side, you can be confident that this is the way God designed his kingdom to function.

What does the Bible say about raising support

4. What do missionaries raise support for?

Most missionaries raise support for two broad categories: personal funds and ministry funds. On the personal side, global workers raise support for their missionary salary, housing, kids’ education, healthcare, insurance, taxes, and retirement savings. On the ministry side, they raise all the funds they need to do their work, including supplies, hospitality, travel, training, continuing education, and membership with a mission agency like Crossworld.

5. Who holds missionaries accountable for how they use their funds?

One of the benefits of partnering with a mission organization like Crossworld is the financial oversight and accountability. Each missionary is required to raise enough money to do their work effectively and provide a sustainable situation for their family. From there, every dollar spent for ministry goes through an approval process by the missionary’s leadership to ensure it furthers the stated ministry purposes.

If you’re a donor, ask questions about accountability before you give. Make sure the organization belongs to a financial integrity group like ECFA or CCCC, which holds the organization itself to ethical financial standards.

6. How much support do missionaries raise?

Everyone raises a unique amount of missionary funding, determined by factors like cost of living in their host country, type of ministry, family size, and other sources of income. In general, Crossworld starts with the average salary of a teacher in the U.S. and modifies it based on the missionary’s situation to determine how much he or she should raise. Sometimes a missionary will earn a salary from a local job and raise additional support to cover expenses a local salary doesn’t. This is called a hybrid funding model.

It’s important to raise enough funds (perhaps more than you think) that you have a buffer to cover unexpected crises or to take advantage of unexpected ministry opportunities. Living cross-culturally is stressful enough without the added burden of financial instability!

7. How long does it take to raise missionary support?

The length of time it takes to raise support varies for each worker, depending on the amount they need to raise and the time they can devote to support development. Some raise all their support in a few weeks and some work at it faithfully for a few years.

God uses every minute of your support-raising experience to shape you into a more effective missionary.

On average, expect to spend 6-12 months raising your missionary funding, but don’t be discouraged if it takes you longer than that — God uses every minute of your support-raising experience to shape you into a more effective missionary.

8. Is there missionary support raising training?

Yes! One of the benefits of joining a missions agency is the training and help you receive in every aspect of missionary life, including fundraising. Crossworld’s training for missionaries includes in-person and online sessions about the biblical foundation for raising support as well as the practical aspects of giving a ministry presentation, asking for financial partners, and cultivating ongoing partnerships with donors. You can also explore online tools, books, and podcasts from organizations like Via (formerly Support Raising Solutions) and Tailored Fundraising.

9. How do you raise financial support for ministry?

The first step is to develop the right attitude:

  1. Build a heart posture of trust toward God. Everything belongs to him, and he always provides for his work. Demonstrate your dependence on him through persistent prayer for your support-raising journey.
  2. Nurture a heart of gratitude toward financial donors. This is about so much more than money. You’re building a team of partners who are eager to reach the unreached, who care about your well-being, and who cheerfully give to see God’s kingdom grow.

If you approach fundraising with these attitudes toward God and people, you’ll find the practical tasks much easier.

  1. Prepare a presentation about your future ministry that includes a story illustrating the spiritual/physical need, a description of how your ministry will meet that need, and ways people can make an impact by partnering with you.
  2. Brainstorm a list of friends, family, church members, coworkers, teammates, etc., whom God might be calling to join your team.
  3. Meet with those individuals in a one-on-one setting to share your presentation and ask them to become a monthly partner. Remember, you’re only responsible for inviting them to join the work God is doing; the decision of whether they will give is between them and God.
  4. Follow up with those who join your team by thanking them well and letting them know how their gifts are making a difference.

10. What makes a good missionary support raising letter?

The missionary support raising letter has been the standard for decades, and it still works. But with so many forms of communication available today, don’t feel locked into it. You can opt for an email, phone call, video message, or even text instead. More important than the medium is the content of your message.

To write a good missionary support letter, give a personal greeting, briefly introduce your ministry opportunity, and ask to schedule a one-on-one meeting to talk about potential financial support. Don’t ask them to give in the letter; save that for your meeting because face-to-face asks are almost always more effective. Be sure to follow up a few days after you send your letter so you can get a meeting on the calendar quickly.

Here's a ministry support letter template you can adapt.

Dear ___,

Recently God has impressed upon my heart a desire to join his work among the nations. You have been an important part of my life, so I wanted to share this news with you and ask if you'd prayerfully consider partnering with me.

God has provided an opportunity for me to join a ministry in ___ [country] doing ___. I’m excited to use my skills to serve the local people and to share the good news about Jesus with those who have never heard.

I know I can’t do this alone. I need the prayers and financial support of a team of partners who are eager to join in this work with me.

Could we meet next week to talk about what your partnership might look like? I'd love to tell you more about this opportunity and answer any questions.

Here are some times I'm available to meet: ____.

What works for you?

Thank you for considering how God would have you be part of this ministry with me. Through your partnership, people in ___ [country] will experience the love of Christ in a new way.

11. How do you raise support for a mission trip?

Fundraising for a mission trip or internship is very similar to raising support for long-term missionary work. The same principles we’ve talked about in this article apply to a short-term mission trip. You still brainstorm names, contact potential donors, and ask for financial partnership. The more personally you engage, the more effective you will be! The main difference is that you’re asking for one-time gifts instead of monthly commitments.

Short-term mission trip fundraising guide: 6 steps to raising support for mission workDownload our free short-term fundraising guide and learn how to raise support for a mission trip in six actionable steps.

Do you have a question about missionary support? Ask us at [email protected].

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