After recently taking my 9 year-old cousin to see Star Wars: The Phantom Menace 3D for his birthday, I’ve decided to pretend that our SBC Voices comment club is our own version of the Jedi Council and to do a few posts asking for wise, sage, and Yoda-like counsel. To quote Yoda himself, “Up to you it is if happen such wise counsel will.” :
Let me begin with a disclaimer: I fully admit that I am asking these questions because of direct and personal benefit I hope to receive from the answers provided. As discussed in a previous post , our family is preparing to move to Queens, New York to evangelize and plant churches among the 60,000+ Bengalis living there. As such we are responsible for raising a fair amount of our support and have enjoyed some of the highs and lows of approaching churches with whom we have relationships for support. But I believe this discussion could be of help to other missionaries, church planters, etc., as well as beneficial for pastors to learn from each other.
What’s the best way to approach churches about funding?
I’ve been on both sides of this issue. As a youth pastor for 3 years, I received more than my share of solicitations, mass mailings, phone calls, and office visits from various mission agencies, denominational entities, Christian publishers, Christian magicians, and music acts. “Christian spam” I called it. Now as a stateside missionary raising support, I get to make the phone calls, visit the churches, and “network” (I hate that word) with pastors and other church leaders about joining our support team. I’m certain I’ve done a lot of things right but maybe once or twice I’ve gotten it wrong in the process. (Ok, let’s flip those numbers for the real picture.) Some of the conversations were pretty easy to navigate (home church); other interactions were awkward in the junior high dance fashion. I’ve heard a few horror stories from some friends who are planting churches to know that this is commonly encountered issue.
We as Southern Baptists are a little spoiled with the excellent ways the Cooperative Program handles some of these issues for us, especially for vetting our international missions work. However, there are many individuals and groups (like local crisis pregnancy centers or stateside missionaries/church planters or vocational evangelists or campus ministries) that still require additional funding even if they are supported by the CP. Hopefully the following discussion can be of mutual benefit for all of us. I’m certain the many pastors and/or other involved church members have their opinions on the following questions:
What is the best way to approach churches about sponsorship opportunities?
Some questions for discussion:
How do you like a church planter in your area or who has some degree of connection to contact you? How close a degree of connection to your church must a person/group have to realistically be considered for support?
What manner of contact do you prefer? Are you warm to the cold call? Personal visit? Email? Glossy mailing? Facebook stalking? Late-night texting complete with emoticons?
How much stock do you place in being introduced to a church planter or mission group by one of your members? Through the local association or state convention? Or do those interactions make you feel more awkward?
What kind of materials do you expect to see from someone requesting money? What things give you a positive opinion of the person/group? What things give you strong negative reactions?
What’s the best way to respond to deny those requests? Ignore them? Send a kind but honest letter or email? Call on the phone? What factors determine your method of response?
There may be more questions raised here as well, but let the discussion begin.