The words hit my ears like a foreign language.
I had just been told that in order to go into college ministry I would need to “raise support” for part of my salary.
“Raise support?” I knew what it was in general – I had done fundraising many times for short-term mission trips. But raising support for salary was a different thing, an unfamiliar thing.
Over the next several months I prayed, I processed, and I learned about what is involved in raising support. What I learned then, and in the seven years since, has transformed how I think about support raising. To be upfront, much of what I learned early on was from the book The God Ask, by Steve Shadrach. That book laid an excellent foundation that I have since been able to build upon and apply in my own situation.
Here are two benefits to remember and two pitfalls to avoid. I hope they are helpful to you as you raise support for your ministry.
This was one of the most mind-blowing revelations for me. Raising support is Biblical! I will only give two passages that speak to this, but there are more.
In Luke 8:1-3 Luke tells us that a group of women was traveling with Jesus and the twelve disciples “to support them out of their own means.” There was literally a group of women that traveled with Jesus while He did ministry and one of their main purposes was taking care of His physical needs so that He could focus on spiritual needs.
The book of Philippians was basically a support letter written by Paul to the church at Philippi. In Philippians 1:3-5, Paul thanks God for their “partnership in the gospel.” I love that word “partnership” because it contains a mutuality, a unity, that is so central to the gospel. From the beginning of the church, starting with Paul and Jesus, we have a template for people contributing out of their means so that others can be more fully devoted to hands-on ministry.
Having a network of supporters for your ministry extends your community well beyond yourself, which is an essential part of ministry in the first place.
In Philippians 4 Paul tells the church at Philippi that “it was good of you to share in my troubles.” He also says, “You sent me aid more than once when I was in need.” This group of many, who were called the church at Philippi, contributed from their finances so that the one (Paul) could be fully focused on the ministry that God had given him. I encourage you to read the book of Philippians again with this relationship between the church and Paul in mind!
An older man once told me a story about raising funds for a mission trip. He was going on a trip that he was easily able to fund himself. But when he mentioned his intention of paying for it himself to a woman in the church she told him, “Don’t you rob others of the opportunity to participate in what God is doing through you!” That statement completely altered his perspective.
Do not rob others of the opportunity to participate in what God is doing through you.
Ignoring Your Supporters
As we have seen, support raising is communal. One of the implications of that truth is that you need to involve your supporters in what you are doing. The bare minimum of involvement is regular communication.
What does “regular communication” entail? Some would say once a week, some would say once a month, and some would say once a semester. I aim for once every three weeks, or sooner if there is a big event happening that I want to let supporters know about and pray for. You want to aim for keeping them updated without flooding them with updates.
As someone who has supported others for a long time, I will say this: your ministry might not be top-of-mind for your supporters as much as you might think. I know, it stings! But this is somewhat freeing for me whenever I feel guilty for forgetting to update them during the time I had planned.
The bottom line is this: do not take your supporters for granted. This is so easy to do in an age when everything is automated, and you are not as consciously aware of the regular dollars coming in that literally allow you to do what you do. So set reminders and be intentional in involving them in what God is doing through you.
How should you keep supporters updated? It depends on the nature of your supporters. I use a Facebook group (because most of my supporters are on Facebook) and I do a paper newsletter twice a year (summer and Christmas). At Christmas I include a handwritten thank you note with the newsletter. Many support raisers use an email newsletter, which my goal is to do once a month.
I know what you are thinking, how is being budget-driven a pitfall? I mean, what would Dave Ramsey say?
I do not mean that you should neglect planning. I mean that when you are deciding how much support you need to raise to meet the needs of your family, think less, “What is the number I need to pay my bills?” and more, “What is the number necessary to be able to focus on ministry and not stress about bills or the future?”
Steve Shadrach calls this being “vision-driven” rather than “budget-driven.” Envision what God is calling you to and what level of income will allow you to wholeheartedly embrace it without the burden of pinching every penny to survive.
To be clear, I am not saying to aim for wealth in support raising! I am also not saying to neglect wisdom and frugality. I am simply saying that you can feel free to aim for raising enough support to provide for both immediate and future needs.
Raising support to engage in full-time ministry is biblical and communal. As with any worthy endeavor, there are pitfalls to avoid, such as ignoring your supporters and being budget-driven rather than vision-driven.
Since the day the words “raise support” first rang in my ears, I have grown in humility, faith, and dependence upon the body of Christ. It can be this way for you, too. Let me know if I can help you or encourage you in any way!
Ben Muir is the Associate Director at UT Arlington. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow the UTA BSM on Instagram @utabsm.