“Don’t ask people to give money; just ask them to pray.”
I have encountered many missionaries that deploy this method of support raising. I respect their convictions, assuming they are from the Lord and not from some other reason, and would never seek to persuade them otherwise. However, I get a lot of missionaries coming into my office extremely frustrated. The conversation usually goes something like this:
Missionary – “I sent out my initial support letter 5 weeks ago and I have not received a single donation.”
Me – “In your letter did you specifically communicate what you are asking them to do?”
Missionary – “Yes I asked them to pray.”
Me – “That is great! You probably have a lot of people that are motivated to pray for you. But you came in here upset that you have not received a single donation? Did you communicate to them that that is a need?”
Missionary – “No! I do not believe it is ok to ask for money.”
Me – “Did you put in your letter any links to your giving page or an address to mail checks to?”
Missionary – “No.”
Me – “What then do you expect?”
I have played out this conversation more times then I can think to remember. I even had one missionary so animate and passionate that he declared that he would never ask for a penny. He ended up spending a year on the mission field struggling to feed his family. Inevitably at the end of one year he had to return home for an indefinite period of time to “raise support.” It was as this time that his perspective changed and he came into my office and apologized and asked for help.
I do want to make extremely clear that I am not encouraging missionaries to be flesh filled cut throat business’y salesmen and pinning everyone with a financial ask. I am however promoting an honest communication with people about the needs you have as a missionary. Most people have never even thought of the realities of becoming a missionary. Most people have never even thought about the fact that you can not get a job in a foreign country (nor how that would not be beneficial for the ministry). So a little honest communication is usually received with thankfulness as now the person feels educated and equipped with the appropriate information to be able to fulfill their calling as a sender.
The osmoses method might seem admirable at first because it is usually presented with the phrase, “I am just going to pray and trust God.” Which how could you argue against that? We should all be doing that. However, I want to promote the idea that the Body of Christ (the senders at home) need a little missional education and need the appropriate training on how to send missionaries well. That is a huge role the missionary (and hopefully their church leadership) takes on.