Just recently I received four support letters from college students who are not members of New Life. They are all planning to go on a mission trip this summer and they each needed to raise at least $3,000 if not more for their trip. This is a lot of money.
As I was making online contributions for them, various thoughts came to mind in regards to church and missions. Why are they asking for money to go on a mission trip? Why is it that their church is not taking care of them? What will they learn and gain from participating in these mission trips?
Many churches don’t have a robust mission strategy and program because they are either too small in size or not mission-minded at all. Every church and every pastor talks about missions and evangelism. But how do we know if they are being sincere and genuine about doing them? We can know their sincerity by looking at their calendar and budget. If a bulk of their time is being spent in reaching out to VIPs and if a substantial amount of their budget is being used for missions, then we know that missions and evangelism are important to them. “Put your money where your mouth is” is a good litmus test in evaluating the genuineness of people’s words.
You will have a very hard time finding a church that spends even 10% of their gross budget for missions. Typical churches struggle to set aside even 5% of their budget for this purpose. There are three reasons why churches have such a hard time spending a generous portion of their budget on missions. One, they spend at least 50-60% of their budget on staff compensation because much of their church ministries are being done not by lay members but by hired professional staff. Two, they spend 30-40% of their budget on building project/facility maintenance because they build their facilities not functionally but expensively. And three, they spend 10-20% of their budget on programs and ministries for members. Due to these priorities, values, and practices, it is obvious that they don’t have much money left over to do any missions, let alone generously support their members going on short-term mission trips. So, the students who are members at these churches who desire to go on short-term mission trips often find themselves joining parachurch organizations because their churches don’t have a missions program and/or don’t support them financially.
One thing that puzzles me about these students that are going on mission trips is that they themselves don’t seem to contribute anything in terms of money. Nowhere in their letters do they say anything like, “I have been financially preparing myself for this mission trip by working x number of hours each week and saving x amount of money, and now I have x amount of money saved up. Therefore, I will need to raise just x amount of money…” Often, these students that go on short-term mission trips raise 100% of the cost from friends and family members. I am making a big generalization here, but I often feel like those who go on short-term mission trips with 100% of their cost paid by others are going on glorified vacations. Where there is no sacrifice, there is no gain. Mormons are taught to save from early childhood so that they can go on a two-year mission assignment abroad as young adults. They do this to earn salvation. As Christians, we go on missions because we are saved by grace and we have this amazing message to share with everyone. Our zeal, passion and sacrifice for missions must run deeper than that of Mormons.
New Life supports everyone who goes on a short-term mission trip up to 50% of the total cost, which is never more than $3,000. Therefore, our members, as of now, don’t pay more than $1,500 to go on any mission trip. However, we expect our members to work hard and save up the other 50% instead of asking people to support them. We want to offer God what is costly to us to show how much we love Him and are thankful to Him! Since New Life’s financial situation is very strong, we will be able to continue to support everyone up to 50%. This is a staggering amount of support and I don’t know of any other church that does this for its members. This plus several other things are the reasons why our missions budget is about $600,000, or 30% of our current total budget, not including compensation for our Missions Pastor. We are able to do this because we are committed to the Four Pillars we find in Scripture, the third of which teaches us about the division of labor between pastors and lay members. Pastors train and members minister. This is the Bible!
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