I have officially begun the process of support raising. As a worker with Greater Europe Mission, I will be living and serving in Frankfurt, Germany, supported in prayer and financially by people in America and around the world. The prayer support is vital, but that is easier to comprehend, even if we sometimes don’t quite grasp its necessity and power. I’m here to talk about the financial side of that support.
Let’s just acknowledge the awkward.
I understand that in Western, particularly American culture, we hate talking about money. Even in the church, money is a taboo and uncomfortable subject. But Jesus minces little when it comes to addressing money, in fact 16 of the 38 parables are about the subject and 1 out of every 10 verses in the Gospel says something about money. There are over 2,000 verses in the entire Bible on the subject.
So, if this is your first time reading about money in a public, or in a Christian space, just embrace the awkward.
If you haven’t been around this world or have never heard of support raising, I want to validate your thoughts if it feels like a foreign, strange concept. Like if you had questions about work in Europe, I want you to know that your questions are legitimate and that they have a place here. I’m giving space for your questions; all I ask is that you meet them halfway, willing to be stretched and challenged in your own views on money and support raising.
But first, the basics:
What is financial support raising?
Financial support raising is where someone partners with others, who support them financially, so that they can devote 100% of their time to service and ministry. It makes it so that the burden of a livable wage is not on the people that they are working with and serving.
There are lots of different ways and models of support raising. Some denominations support people through a general “pot,” where everyone donates and that gets disbursed to the workers. Some organizations pay workers a percentage of their income, and the worker is expected to raise the rest. Recently, “business as missions” has become a popular avenue of ministry, where people can either raise support for themselves, while they run a self-sustaining business, or they are able to take a salary from a for-profit business.
In general, there aren’t inherent value judgements for any of these models.
The models don’t make me sad, it’s the fear that seems to be associated with them. Having to raise support is one of the main reasons that people cite for not being obedient and not going. The faith required to raise support isn’t a trust in people but in God, who we believes owns everything in the first place. I understand that “jumping off the ledge” and trusting God can feel terrifying, especially at first, but what could be more amazing than the ways that He gets the glory when He comes through for our needs.
It shouldn’t be a question of raising support, it should be a question of obedience.
For me, obedience looks like raising 100% support, meaning that every part of my living expenses (including medical coverage, airfare, rent, groceries, disability insurance, etc.) will be covered by monthly ministry partners. It also means raising a one-time launching fund, which covers the costs of actually relocating to a place where you have to buy your own kitchen (seriously, homes in Germany don’t come with kitchens. Look it up).
(this is all separate from the student loan forgiveness that I received, but I’ll tell that story of provision later.)
I'm not even going to read the rest of this post because I'm not a Christian/am questioning my faith. Why should I give to missions?
You can do what you want, but I think there’s still a reason for you to give, irrespective of faith. Here’s why: while you may not agree with the worldview, faith, or motivation, it’s likely that we share the same core principles. My days will revolve around caring for people, particularly refugees, providing community to ease their loneliness and English training to aid in their transition. I will be advocating for people who are marginalized and forgotten; my heart is for those who are being ignored, rejected, or belittled. Your giving doesn’t have to be on a Jesus-level, it can be on a personal one. If you care about humanitarian issues, if you have a passion for social justice, if you want a hand in caring for the refugees in Germany, or if you just love me, you have a reason to give.
Also, every gift is tax deductible. If that’s the only motivation, that’s okay.
I am a Christian. Is there any Biblical basis for support raising?
Yes! You may not have realized it, but raising financial support for ministry is all over the Bible. If you want to back it up to the Old Testament, you could call the Levites the first “home workers,” living on support. They lived in Israel, but unlike the other tribes, they didn’t have an income. God called them to be a tribe that was fully devoted to the priesthood and care of the temple, which meant that they were fully supported by the tithes of the people (see Numbers 18:24).
Paul is perhaps the most common and obvious Biblical example of support. Philippians could be described in a lot of ways, but it could also be considered a support letter to the church at Philippi. He makes this clear in his introduction in chapter 1, and then he also makes a significant parallel in chapter 4. Paul writes:
“I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” Philippians 4:18
This idea of a “fragrant offering” for their giving isn’t surprising; it’s all over the Old Testament in regard to sacrifices to God. But check it out. The only other time that Paul calls something a fragrant offering is in his letter to the Ephesians:
“and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2
It’s not that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and the financial partnership of the church in missions are equal, it’s that they are aimed at the same thing. Christ’s atonement meant that the veil was torn between God and humanity; our sins were forgiven, His people were redeemed, and we were adopted into His family. Isn’t that the point of ministry? That message is what gets shared and it means that people are redeemed and become sons and daughters of God. Jesus is still the one doing both of those things, we just have the incredible privilege of partnering with Him now!
Don’t let the profundity of that escape you. If you need to sit with it a second, go ahead (I needed to when I first heard it from Brian this past week – credit where credit is due).
For as amazing as that is, here is the highest model of all: Jesus also lived on financial support. Before entering full-time ministry, we assume that he worked as a carpenter, but when he begins his three-year teaching and preaching work with the disciples, Scripture makes it clear that others are financially supporting His ministry. The first three verses of Luke 8 are devoted to an explanation and the name’s of some of Jesus’ financial ministry partners.
You keep saying "partners." What does that mean?
It means that I view my prayer and financial partners as exactly that, partners. This isn’t a cartoon where I see you as dollar sign instead of a person. If you have this idea that I’m going to be doing the “real work” in Germany while people in the U.S. send me money, you are vastly mistaken. If that’s your view, I pray that this post helps shift that.
I cannot serve in Europe without people here praying and supporting me. More than that, I wouldn’t want to, even if I could. Every time someone lives on support it is an opportunity for the body of Christ (and others) to rally around them and serve, care, and impact alongside them. Hear this: giving in prayer and in finances means that you will changing the lives and hearts of the people in Germany, as much as I am. God is doing the work. He wants to do it through you and through me. Our roles look different.
I’m being obedient in going, but I can’t do that unless you are obedient in sending.
The story isn’t just that God loves the people in Frankfurt, Germany enough that He’d send me (though, that is both incredible and true), it’s also that 100+ other people, who perhaps have never even been to Germany, love the people of Frankfurt, Germany enough to give their resources to send me. Imagine how powerful that is to share with someone.
You have an integral part to play in this story.
How can I be sure that my support money is being used well, and not just to fund some European getaway?
First, I hope you know me well enough to know my heart for ministry and good stewardship. Even with my current, personal, earned finances, I strive for that. For as obedient as my partners are in giving, I also want to be obedient in my stewardship. That means living simply, being contentious, and seeking wisdom in my purchases. It also means transparency and disclosure about my finances. If you ever want to know where your money is going, all you have to do is ask.
Second, there’s the security of the organization. This is why a sending organization (in this case, GEM) can be so wonderful. Besides the communal support of the team and the emotional support of the member care staff, both of which are assuring in their ability to sustain me overseas in the long-term, a reputable organization provides accountability for your giving. All the money you give is managed through GEM. They set up my budget and process your donations. And they’ve been sending people to Europe since before the fall of the Berlin wall, so they’ve about seen it all when it comes to fluctuating exchange rates, ministry budgets, and paying taxes. For more FAQs on GEM, see here. A small part of my support money goes back to GEM and their overall mission of “reaching Europe by multiplying disciples and growing Christ’s church.” It’s pretty great.
Because I’m going through a sending agency that has been certified by the ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability), you can be confident in your giving and receive a tax-deduction for all your gifts!
I want to give, but I don't have/make a lot of money. What am I supposed to do?
First and easiest answer to this: you can pray. We need prayer support. And not just prayers for provision. They need prayers against spiritual attacks, prayers for the hearts of the people they are working with, and prayers for wisdom. Prayer is not the second-best way to support someone in ministry, it is the most critical.
However, I want to caution you against a “prayer support” co-out. You may genuinely not having anything to give financially, or you may not feel led to partner with me, specifically – grace and freedom for you, because that’s great! Way to know what obedience looks like for you. But Scripture makes it clear that we often have more to give than we think we do. Sometimes, when the giving is most uncomfortable, it is most obedient.
If giving or tithing has felt a little routine and stale to you lately, I’d challenge you to ask the Lord if He’s calling you into more. I’ve found that my greatest joy in giving often comes when it’s radical, more than I would’ve come up with on my own, and a when there’s a little tension with the initial transfer of funds.
Two of my favorite verses in the Bible about giving are Luke 21:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 8:2-4.
Luke 21, is the story of the widow who dropped two coins into the church treasury, after multiple people before her gave larger amounts. The reason Jesus praises her offering is because she “gives all she has.” She gives back to the Lord something that doesn’t make conventional sense, giving above and beyond what seems reasonable, for the sake of the Kingdom. He delights in her obedience.
The story in 2 Corinthians 8 is similar. Paul praises the church in Macedonia for their financial partnership in his ministry. He doesn’t praise the amount, he praises their hearts:
“They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will” 2 Cor. 8:2-3
Paul goes so far as to say they begged him to give more for the privilege of sharing gifts with believers in Jerusalem. If you need some wisdom on how to give, and what it looks like to give joyfully and beyond what you think is reasonable, start by reading 2 Corinthians 8.
The people in both of these stories give in such a way that demonstrates their understanding that their money isn’t inherently theirs. They are stewards, managers of gifts and resources that the Lord has given them. Why wouldn’t they give it back to Him and His Kingdom, believing that He is their sustainer and will provide for their needs?
Ask the Lord what He would have you give and be obedient to that.
It’s as simple as that.
Just don’t be surprised if what He asks is a little harder than you initially thought (whether for me or something/someone else).
Just because the amount feels a little painful or uncomfortable doesn’t mean that it’s not right. That actually might be one of the best indicators of obedience.
I've realized what the nudging is: the Holy Spirit. I want to partner with you. How do I make that happen?
First, thank you! It doesn’t surprise me when people say that God is compelling them to give, what is essentially His money, back to Him (see Deut. 10:14 and Hag. 2:18). What never ceases to amaze and humble me is that I get to be a part of it.
Follow the link to my GEM giving page. I’m needing monthly and one-time partners, so that I can begin ministry in Germany as soon as possible. If you aren’t sure about amounts, I’d encourage you to ask the Lord. You aren’t being obedient to me by giving, you’re being obedient to Jesus. Ask, give, and praise the Lord!
You answered a lot of my questions, but I'm still confused/have more questions/don't understand. Got anything else?
Of course. I would love to talk to you more about any of this. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or shoot me a text. I would love for this to be an opportunity for you to understand God’s heart for your finances and the joy that it is to give to missions.
So, let’s have the conversation.