Disclaimer: This is in no way an attack against non-profits, missionaries, YWAM or any other organization. The purpose is to open this topic up to discussion and ask questions I don’t hear being asked enough.
So….you want to be a missionary. Spread the Love of Christ to those far and wide, near and dear. There are many organizations with which you can work, many ministries and project partners. You run into a problem however: finances. How on earth are you going to pay for lodging, airfare, food, and daily expenses? Does this work pay? Can you raise support? Do you need an extra job? Sell plasma? Sell a kidney?
This issue of financial stability in “ministry” is something I’ve been grappling with for years now. I went to a bible school where the staff hardly were able to be paid, I worked with YWAM where most people struggled to pay rent and buy groceries. These people worked 40 hours a week…where was their income?
If you’ve been in Christendom for a while, especially in the missions and outreach niche, you’ll start to notice some lingo.
- “Raise support”
- the act of acquiring funds for your work/project/ministry from others
- “Like the Levites”
- A doctrine based on the Old Testament structure of Israel providing for a tribe of priests who worked in the temple.
- “Faith Based Living”
- Not necessarily having a steady and sure income, putting trust in God’s provision.
- “Sacrificial Living”
- Giving up lifestyles, excess, or certain things to live the lifestyle you feel called to live.
- One who works for a paycheck on the mission field, raises their own support.
I’ll be honest and say I have a really difficult time right now reconciling myself to any of this.
I feel called to live and work with a certain people group, or city and thus am a “missionary”. However, I am a firm believer that everyone in the body of Christ is responsible for being missional wherever they are. A mechanic, a customer service rep, a teacher, grocery clerk, CEO……that’s your job, that’s your life and that’s the area you have to serve and bless others. The 20 something year old with a backpack and a selfie stick in Rwanda is no more qualified for working in the Kingdom of God, does not have a higher place, is not more special. So why are they the only ones sending out pleas for money to live their dream and calling?
This mostly stems from the non-profits being volunteer based. Staff are still volunteers. Sounds noble right? The heart intentions are probably very good, but let’s take a look at some problematic situations and ask some questions.
- WHY ARE NON-PROFIT STAFF NOT PAID?
- Many non-profits tout the “we live on faith” slogan while receiving an incredible amount of donations. One organization I applied for paid in- country web designers a generous income, but the designers in China doing the same work were not paid because they were “doing the Lord’s work”. When I asked about this, I was told “It’s just how we work, and what we believe.”. (I understand for some governments, the income of non-profits dictates whether it is a non-profit…..but are there ways besides requiring staffers to literally pay to work? Or how about just admitting that this ministry is profit based?)
- WHY DON’T WE SEE MORE BASE FUNDRAISERS?
- I wish I could see the numbers. I’m desperately curious to see base/headquarter needs and what that base is doing to fund-raise for itself. What if bases had separate funding goals and the money from students went towards paying staff members ? Is this less Holy? Sadly, I think some might take it that way.
- WHY ARE MISSIONARIES THE ONLY ONES ASKING FOR HELP?
- It’s tough world out there. Everyone is struggling. Why am I, the missionary, asking for help, but it’s taboo for the mother and school teacher to ask? If one person can ask for help to accomplish a dream, I wish there was more liberty within the church for others to ask as well. “Hey it’s my dream to open a restaurant….who’s with me?” It’s all the Lord’s work.
This is all coming from a place of curiosity and frustration. I’m currently mid-application process for a west coast YWAM. This isn’t malicious or ill willed.
Seriously though, WHY? I know the arguments for Levitical living………but are we Levites? Is this BC Israel? I know the argument for 1st century church “supporting Paul”…but the church lived by pulling resources together for all in the church..not just Paul and Silas.
I would just like to be paid for my work, like any one else. I think those people making my bed at a YWAM retreat should be paid fairly too.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, missionaries and school teachers alike.