Churches or Individuals: Which Should You Focus On?

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By on January 1, 2005   /   Leave a comment

In March of 2003 sportswriters for USA Today rated the most difficult thing to do in all of sports is to hit a fastball coming toward you at 100 mph. Any major leaguer knows it requires laser like focus to connect with the tiny blur hurling toward them.

Similarly, a successful support raiser must exercise incredible concentration if they are going to get to their ministry assignment quickly—and fully funded. In Bill Dillon’s book, People Raising, he contrasts two different, but true, cases of support raising—one focused on churches, the other on individuals:

Case One: Couple Focused on Churches
Support raising training: None
Raised support full time
Churches contacted: 164 (called, info packets sent)
Church meetings: 51
Number of supporting churches: 16
Miles driven: 33,000
Travel expenses: $8,530
Time to get to 100%: 13 months

Case Two: Single Girl Focused on Individuals
Support raising training: 1 day
Raised support part time (had 40 hr week job)
106 initial letters sent to individuals
41 people called for appointments
38 appointments
31 pledged support
14 others called her to pledge, from word of mouth
Time to get to 100%: 10 weeks

I know this is just two cases, but I have seen this played out many times. I believe you should ask your home church to anchor your support team for at least 20% of your total—and if you have time, approach a few other key churches. But, if possible, the main focus of your support raising should be on individuals. Some denominations like their missionaries to go from church to church to raise support because it builds vision in those congregations, but the wear and tear on that traveling missionary can be substantial.

Going to people you do know will almost always bear more fruit than going to churches you don’t know. Here’s why:

   1. The church approach usually takes longer—Even if you find churches who will meet with you, it takes a lot of time to work through the maze of church committees and policies.

   2. Individuals are more personal—If a church comes on your team there is usually no one person that has a heart for tracking with you. You want to have a personal, involved team of people to support you, not just organizations who send a check.

   3. Church leaders come and go—I’ve been a pastor and elder in my local churches. Turnover seems like a constant for many churches and if a new pastor or missions committee chairman comes in that doesn’t know you, your support may be at risk.

   4. Church support usually goes to their own—The last 15 years churches have been funneling more and more of their mission dollars towards launching their own members into ministry rather than doling out money to the revolving door of missionaries constantly passing through.

Churches or individuals. Which will you focus on? Choose wisely…

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