As one high net worth donor put it, “Supporting these Eurasian guys provides a tremendous return on investment. Do you know what they can do with $10,000 or $50,000? Quite a lot.” In fact, research shows that indigenous mission workers do 90% of the pioneering work but only receive 10% of Western mission giving.
That is a huge return on investment when compared to the cost of sending and supporting Western workers. Imagine what indigenous workers could do with 90% of Western missions giving!
Missions Giving Stewardship: Investing Other People’s Money
When church members give to their missions program, they are entrusting those funds to their church leaders. They believe good things will happen with their giving. In a way, they are giving those leaders God’s money, because the principle of tithing is meant to give back to God for the financial blessings he has provided. So, the people making spending decisions are actually spending God’s money. And God gave the Church some pretty clear and simple instructions about how he expects them to invest those funds for significantly greater results (Mat. 25:14-30).
The high net worth donor deeply understood his responsibility to steward his significant wealth for the greatest possible return in his missions giving. No wonder he is so excited to give to indigenous leaders rather than Western workers.
Unfortunately, many churches and church goers are not actively looking for ways to increase results with their missions giving. They are locked into an old Western mission paradigm that was indeed very effective at one time. The early modern period (1800 to 1950s) saw tremendous growth in Western missions leading to the establishment of churches worldwide. As a result, Christianity became a global religion, now with nearly 2.4 billion Christians. There are now more Christians outside of the West than there are in the West. This is why they are now doing 90% of the pioneering work.
Rethinking Your Church Missions Giving Strategy
Consider these statistics from Excellence in Giving (EIG, 2012)
- Supporting a long-term American missionary is 50 times more expensive than supporting national ministers. For the cost of one American missionary at $70,909 per year, 50 local missionaries can be supported. (EIG 2012)
- Indigenous missionaries are 23 times more cost-effective at planting churches. In addition, most indigenous missionaries count an established church to include 10 or more people, while American missionaries count church plants with 1 – 5 people involved. (EIG 2012)
How does this relate to the average church missions giver? Here’s an example.
Margaret and David’s monthly missions giving of $250 forms 1/320 of the annual cost to send an American to a foreign country. The missionary loves God and is willing to make a great sacrifice, but there is little indication how this westerner is making progress learning the language and culture in-country, or whether they are effectively reaching people and training local leadership so they can one day leave the work in local hands.
By comparison, Steve and Nancy see that their $250 can support 10 students for a year in established local programs taught by Indigenous leaders, lifting families from poverty and making sure their children can attend school instead of working. Based on past years, it’s likely that several of the students will become mission leaders and go on to establish more schools and churches. The Indigenously led organization makes audited financial statements available and is known for accountability and communications with its supporters.
Taking Financial Stewardship Serious
As we have shown in this article, the best use of limited funds is to utilize it for the greatest possible results. High net worth donors aren’t the only ones who should steward their significant giving well. As Mat. 25:14-30 teaches, some are given a large amount to invest, some a medium amount, and some a small amount, each according to their ability. All three people are responsible to produce good results with those funds. No one is exempt from this responsibility based on their level of giving.
Five Ways to Improve the Results of Your Giving
- Describe what you want to see happen with your giving?
- Determine what kind of people and organizations are in the best position to produce those results these days?
- To know your giving is not being wasted, what method will you use to track progress? Statistics tell you how much, but stories confirm what is changing. Both are necessary in reporting.
- Ask your funding recipient about their strategy to produce good results. This gives you a way to know if your giving is going to be used in such a way as to see increasing results with the use of those funds.
- Ask your church’s mission committee how they are leveraging the culmination of all missions giving according to numbers 1-4.
Copyright Moving Missions 2021