Questions for Fund Raisers
when they come knocking.
This page is meant to be a help for pastors who have a dearth of missionaries and others that want to stake a claim on your missions budget or to come into your church “to minister”.
by Missionary David R. Cox
The first thing above all is to understand and stand on the fact that you owe nobody nothing. People come presuming you owe them something, and this is how they get control of you. You owe nobody nothing. Having said that, now you do owe the Lord faithfulness and loyalty.
The point is that there are thousands of people raising funds from religious groups for religious groups. A simple polite, “I am not interested in what you are offering” most often is sufficient to end a conversation.
As a missionary, let me vent my pet peeves. I know that pastors get dozens of letters, emails, and phone calls every week, sometimes every day. Living from this business of visiting churches, let me put out for you what is necessary and courteous and polite.
(1) Respond – I put my phone number, email, and snail mail address on everything I send out. It is extremely frustrating to send out 100 letters (with promotional things that cost me dearly) and get 2 responses saying “no”. Do not confuse saying no with not responding. There is no shame in saying “no”, but there is great shame and disrespect for not responding.
How to organize a response – First have a plan. You should have a set process in place and functioning to respond to every appeal from evangelists, to missionaries, to people selling things. That plan should not start with you, the pastor. It should go to a secretary and if you answer the phone because the secretary is out, you should let the person know up front that they have to go through the process and it has to start with the secretary. That saves you from having to hear, lose time, and deal with these people.
Next you need to have the process public, and the preliminary steps public. I would recommend a church website with a page of requirements for those coming to speak at your church, and an application that they can print or copy into an email and answer. By doing this you will immediately cut out more than half, perhaps three fourths of the people who contact you, especially if you design this part wisely.
The idea here is to force the fund raiser or missionary to decide on his part not to pursue your church instead of you having to tell him no. By doing this this way you save him time and money and you save yourself the hassle of several contacts, missed telephone calls, etcetera until you finally get in touch with him to say no.
The best way to handle these things is to simply lay down some rules, put them up on the internet, and tell whoever calls to go there, read them, and then decide if they want to pursue things. Go to a form page, fill it out, and return it to you.
The next suggestion I have is to have a definite internal policy about when you take on new missionaries and to be very clear with those who call about when is the best time to visit you. For example, every April and September you take on one new missionary (or just one time a year if less funds, no none this year if you financially cannot). Set aside 2 Sunday nights for two or three months before that and let them come. This keeps the missionaries “fresh” in your people’s minds, and they have a more valid basis in judging.
It is good to publish on your “Mission’s Policy and Requirements” page the times when you will be taking on missionaries, and the months that you will not have missionaries come to speak. Missionaries really do not want to come if there is zero chance of support. You do not raise funds by visiting churches that have no money. By following this procedure, you can very easily set a date to decide on a new missionary, and send emails or letters to all those involved. I would not allow these missionaries to set up meeting dates until 6 months before the next decision is made.
A note of courtesy here. It is courteous to inform a missionary that has come and has not been accepted for support his situation in very clear and definite terms. First if he was rejected, is he eligible the next time there are funds? Will he need to come again and present his ministry again? That kind of thing. It is crushing to a missionary to hear that a church will take him on as soon as there are funds available, and he goes waiting and hoping and counting on that, and he runs across another missionary that visited the same church a month ago and you took him on immediately. The dishonesty and deception is what hurts here. You do not know if you should keep trying, or what.
While on the issue of responding to the missionary, let me say that a canned response does not hurt me as much as no response. If there is no response, and the pastor does not explain to me his situation, then I am in the dark, and I continue to spend money, time, and resources trying to maintain contact with you. It is better to give me an honest heads up of what is going on so that I know and can make an informed decision.
I would keep a form letter of denial, we have no funds available at present try back in x months. We do would not consider support of you and your ministry because: and check boxes with various reasons.
Some churches have policies to support only missionaries under a mission board (or independent). Fine. Have that on your website, and publish it. Even for those under a mission board, it is good to list what mission boards you are accepting and looking for, and possibly will consider others, and these boards definitely no. That helps the missionary know what to do regarding you.
Again all of this does not have to come directly from the pastor, but it is better to come from somebody that to be left in the dark. Have the secretary send it out to the missionary as the pastor directs her.
(2) Give me at least some consideration –
Another one of the issues here is that some pastors and churches are just so closed that it is difficult to handle as a missionary. What I have found over the years is compassion by pastors is expressed by giving a meeting when it is impossible for them to even consider taking you on. Usually finances is a problem, but sometimes other issues are involved. In one church I went there twice, 6 years between the visits, and the last one it came out Saturday night over a meal in the pastor’s house that they simply could not consider us for support because I am a Caucasian male, and my wife is Mexican (Hispanic), and in his sight we had a mixed marriage and were living in sin. Fine. Your opinion. You are entitled to your opinion, but why do you waste my time, one of my valuable Sundays to come when you feel this way and know this fact ahead of time?
I do not want that kind of compassion from pastors. I want a real consideration apart from where I went to school, apart from your views on personal matters, apart from you like or dislike of the Mexican people. Compassion is to give me a chance to present my ministry and evaluate it on the basis of God’s word and the Holy Spirit in your heart. That we seldom get it seems.
(3) Be honest with me –
Here another issue is people, sorry, pastors, that lie to your face. Excuse me, but lying is of the devil, and God’s ministers should not use lies of any kind in their lives, much less in their ministries. Do not tell me what I want to hear, tell me the truth. I can handle a weirdo that believes something off the wall that 99% of godly men out there would reject. In fact I can even handle a man of God that differs with me over an issue that is not a fundamental of the faith. But I cannot tolerate a liar.
Just tell me the truth, and tell it to me early. I don’t want to travel 20 hours to your church, suffer through a half dozen fights in the back seat with my kids, kids throwing up, and it costing me $150 after your love offering doesn’t pay my expenses to find out that you never would really consider me for missionary support. I put right up there the problem of next year we will take you on, you are on our list, etcetera, and nothing ever coming from you after 5 years. Just be honest with me. Say “we forgot about you, had another missionary in and took him on instead of you.”
Here you need to be very clear and upfront on your particular views, standards, and norms. I have had pastors tell me on the phone that they want me to come and they want to take me on, that they like greatly my promotional material etcetera, but for example the pastor is divorced, and I said something in my promotional material that we do not support that. I declined the offer. One church offered us $400 a month in support without even having to go present our ministry to them, but in the end of the conversation, the pastor asked me if it was a problem that they are Southern Baptist? I clearly state I do not go to Southern Baptist churches. We declined everything.
I went to one particular church, and the pastor has a mission board under his local church. I felt very betrayed, because the visit was not really about presenting us to his people (they only support their own missionaries) but was about the pastor recruiting me for his mission board. I was greatly displeased with that situation.
Let’s be frank here, the bottom line about doctrines is that very, very few churches can even list what essential doctrines (Fundamentals of the Faith) they believe in, and in many cases if they did so publicly in their church, they would start a church split. The pastor cannot defend what he believes, he cannot accept what is of a different opinion, the most extreme and distant doctrines in the church are held by the ones who control it or the biggest givers, and the church is a mess doctrinally.
There are some churches that do have a defined set of doctrines, and they can clearly state them. These are good churches. But the starting point is to know what you believe in, and to defend that by teaching it and holding to it.
The church needs to put out a public doctrinal statement. It would be very good not to publish it and ask the missionary to state what he believes so that you can see what he believes before he knows what you as a church believe, but that just won’t work. You must be public about your doctrines, so it is best to go ahead and submit to those wanting to come what you believe.
The way to truly get at the bottom of what the missionary believes is to ask him to please give you reference materials that state his doctrinal position. Then ask him for references of churches that support him, and call them and ask them if they believe the same. Looking for Southern Baptist Convention churches, churches that are Pentecostal or Charismatic, and other such things will scare off some missionaries and others that are two faced, but we must go deeper. We must demand that those who receive funds from our church have the basics of doctrine correct, and they must publicly put those doctrinal beliefs in their promotional material. If he has a website, then it should be posted there also.
A missionary or Christian Organization can hide their true beliefs up to a point, but after that it becomes difficult. If it is a Christian Organization, several visits to their facilities when it is open to pastors and other people and mingling with those who come will see where they have their friends. Summer camps for example will have different weeks for different groups, with the standards at the camp changing as each group comes (some groups like Christian rock, others take a stand against it). A little bit of anonymous asking can get you a lot of critical information. Ask at the front desk or on the phone after you identify yourself, and you will get what you want to hear always tailored so that you will be favorable to the establishment.
to be continued