The HOW and WHY for building up your own personal operating fund to purchase the boring stuff like printers or renting a car.
By: Erin Bergen
It’s no real surprise that in most occupations, labor costs can account for the majority of the outbound cash flow. That translates into employee wages, medical benefits, retirement, and taxes. It’s really no different for those of us serving in ministry. Our salary, insurance, housing, and the like often make up most of the amount we need to raise while living on support. As we meet with people and invite them into our prayer and financial support team, it’s common to get a question like “How much does it take?” or “What will my gift be used for?”. Of course our supporters want to hear that their gift is being used on the frontlines of Christian ministry, directly impacting the folks we minister to for Christ. It’s a rare individual who’d be excited to hear that their sacrificial gift was being used toward funding a piece of software, a printer, a car, or your phone bill. That stuff is boring! That’s not what ministry looks like, right?! Right?
Well, actually, it is. It takes all those things and many more to maximize the fruitfulness of our ministry sometimes.
At a seminar recently, one of the field directors from my organization remarked how vital a particular program we instituted was. This online tool was purchased to provide monthly IT cybersecurity training for our home staff. His wife had received phishing and spam emails trying to con her out of information and money. Thankfully they were office staff first and received this training before heading overseas. Her sister, however, didn’t and was caught in a scam which ended up costing her several hundred dollars and a lot of wasted time. I was reminded that because of a lack of funding, this product was limited to just our home staff. If we had seen the long-reaching value of a resource like this and prioritized making it available to everyone serving with us, how many hours could have been dedicated to ministry (instead of calls to cancel credit cards and freeze bank accounts)?
When you raise support, we say face-to-face wins the race. There is something honoring when you spend the time to meet with someone and share your passion for the ministry. If you can’t afford the cost of travel for the trip (airfare, rental car, or a place to stay), how are you going to get face-to-face with people outside your immediate town? Those practical things are important! Without them, you lack the same impact.
It doesn’t matter if you are in sports evangelism, Bible translation, medical ministry, or administration; we all have those non-glorious things that we need to do ministry well. How would the Jesus film ministries have thrived without the light bulbs for the projector or gas for the generator? How do nurses and doctors perform surgery or administer vaccines without the syringes and alcohol swabs? How do we reach into the hard-to-reach places and communities that are historically closed to the Gospel without traveling to them first?
How do we help people see that good planning and visionary spending often have impactful results, even if the items are less than glamorous? We need to start with prayer and ask God for the right appointments and also the words to share! We never want to try to do these things in our own strength. We need to paint the picture and share the eternal impact of the ministry God has called us into and that we are lucky enough to be a part of. We tell the story, His story, the love story of how He values these people living and dying every day without hope and without Him, and then we pray some more. People want to do their part, and it’s going to take some effort on your part to tell that story but don’t shy away or apologize for the unglamorous parts.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:7 ESV). He owns all the cattle and all the hills they graze on. He knows our worries, our needs. He sees our hearts and we can trust Him for the big and the small, the visas or excess luggage and the light bulbs, too.
Erin Bergen serves with SIMUSA in Recruitment and MPD leading webinars and facilitating support raising training. Erin lives outside Charlotte, NC with her husband, Ben, and their three daughters.