Raising Money is part 2 of 8 in a series called Vineyard Missions & Money
As we’ll see at various places throughout this series, we believe there should be parallels in the way we raise money and give money for missions. This only makes sense given what we know about the principles of sowing and reaping: “You reap what you sow.” As we often like to say in the Vineyard, “You can only give away what you have.” So financial health and maturity in our mission partners overseas begins with mature practices in our churches and partnerships.
First, we encourage local churches working internationally in a partnership to set aside money for that work as a line item in their budget. This is part of the stewardship of the church community’s resources. It’s how our local churches resource their vision. If your church has a vision to care for neighbors in need, then it’s common practice to set aside money in your budget for a food pantry or some other community outreach. If the church has a desire to step out and grow in worship or youth ministry, then it’s prudent to budget accordingly. Money is an expression of stewarding the vision we believe God has given us. Budgets help manifest our plan to see this vision become something more than just a good idea. Budgeting toward a vision expresses ownership of that vision. So, we encourage all local churches engaged in cross-cultural mission to plan for their partnership work as part of their annual budget.
Varying Regular Amounts. The amount churches set aside will vary. Some churches will determine a set amount of money every month (or quarter), based on their financial picture and the situation on the ground. Many churches budget for a percentage of their monthly income. I know of some churches that budget an equal 1% for missions and 1% for local church planting efforts. So, on top of their commitment to 3% giving to Vineyard USA, they are setting aside 5% for work beyond their “four walls.” In fact, Bubba Justice, V-USA National Coordinator, has indicated that a best practice for growing churches is to make a tithe of their income too. We’ve been doing this at the Renaissance Vineyard Church for years now, and the fruit has been wonderful in terms of kingdom impact in our community.
Similar to how we would encourage our church members, as an expression of their trust in God and commitment to God’s mission, to give 10% of their income to the church, so the church commits 10% of its budget to work beyond the church: to work among those in need, the homeless, food pantries, justice work, and more. Church planting and international missions, along with our Vineyard USA contribution, also fall within that category. The decision to give is, of course, made by the leadership of the local church.
Needs-based Giving. Second, we all know that needs arise on the mission field from time to time. Bad weather causes extensive damage, health issues arise impacting the families of local leaders, conflicts in the surrounding community disrupt the lives of our friends and threaten the work. Because of this, we encourage local churches to raise money toward specific projects through special offerings. In doing so, we engage different “pockets of giving.” These projects will often be particular compassionate needs, or for a new building effort, or some tangible, felt need. I know of one local US Vineyard church that gave a portion of every dollar raised for their own building campaign to help fund a building project for an indigenous church with which they had a relationship in another country. Not only did the U.S. church have a huge impact on that community, enabling more than the indigenous leaders had hoped for, that same church received everything they needed for their significant capital campaign, finishing their building campaign debt-free.
Special offerings such as this building campaign giving can help leaders engage members of their church in new ways, or beyond how they might normally give. Giving to needs like this might even be a way to get people involved for the first time, or to connect friends and neighbors outside the church in the work the church is doing.
Not long ago I posted a prayer request on social media related to the partnership work our church is doing alongside our Ethiopian sisters and brothers. One of our Ethiopian leaders shared a picture of a member of one of the Ethiopian churches who had had his Bible burned in a recent conflict in his village. A member of our church saw that picture and asked how we could buy that man a new Bible. She shared the story and within minutes we had received enough commitments to buy several Bibles. Within a few days her efforts had raised more than $1100. This was enough to provide for many Bibles and help folks in that village recover from many challenges brought on by the recent violence. Special offerings and projects-based fundraising can be a powerful way to collect money to support the specific needs around the work we are partnering to do in a nation.
Yet we need to be careful.
A Caveat Concerning Compassion Fatigue
As Mark Fields, Director of Vineyard Missions puts it, “There is always some crisis in the world. We would quickly cease to be strategic if that is what drove us. I have learned that need alone is not sufficient to discern God’s calling.” If we only, or even primarily, engage in project giving, then we can quickly become overwhelmed. And so can the people we are asking to help. First, we may easily end up in the position where we have to think about our response every time something comes up. Then there is the issue of how the money we raise is distributed. As Mark has expressed out of his experience, “Sometimes it is easy to collect money and more difficult to distribute it well.”
Here is how one long-term cross-cultural worker articulated this point: “When it comes to relief projects in emergency situations, we have learned to not be hastened to disburse the funds until we have assessed the situation and determined the most effective and helpful use of the funds. The results of this practice has seen really cool outcomes. For example, after [one particular crisis situation] we didn’t just send funds right away. We instead helped [the national point person] find [the resource needed for the] relief goods. In another case, we waited to just disburse the cash and agreed with an entire village to use the cash to restore water to their village.”
Lastly, of course, there is the amount of need in the world. It is altogether too easy to end up constantly responding to needs around the world, frequently promoting causes, and our folks quickly quit responding. “Instead,” Mark says, “we are trying to build systematic (or recurring) engagement rather than crisis response.” The crisis response may feel better in the moment and yield more immediate results, yet perhaps it brings less tangible lasting results like churches planted.
This is why Vineyard Missions advocates a best practice as a balanced approach founded on regular engagement, with crisis response used only as needed.
In the next part, Jim Pool discusses Managing the Money including practical distribution and unintended consequences.
Jim Pool and his wife, Megan, have four adventurous children. Together they’re the Pool Party. They love living in Ferndale, an inner-ring suburb of Detroit. One of his joys right now is walking, especially if trails are involved. He’s also following in Megan’s footsteps and started the School of Spiritual Direction with Sustainable Faith. Jim is privileged to serve as the lead pastor of the Renaissance Vineyard Church. He has transitioned from being the Regional Coordinator for Sub-Saharan Africa to being Co-Regional Coordinators for North Africa, Middle East, & Central Asia for Vineyard Missions.