How to Raise a Support Partnership Team

The Welcome Trend
People of all ages are following a vision for ministry and are spending their savings, vacations, and sometimes more, to meet critical needs outside the church. The ministries that spark these visions vary widely: from the inner city to overseas. Some require special skills, some can be done in a few weeks, others could take a lifetime. The ministries differ, and so do the workers. But they all have one thing in common—the workers need prayer and financial support from those who stay home.

Frequently someone, from grandchildren to fellow missionaries, asks me for ideas on how to raise the support team they need. Here’s what I say:

The Advice
“The same God who prepared you to get involved in this ministry has also prepared people to support you through prayer and gifts. Ask God to lead you to meet these prepared people. Then be ready to share your vision with them.”

Friend RaisingThe Simple Outline
A simple outline and one clear, plain story to paint a picture can cast a strong vision. I usually advise the worker to simply answer the following questions and illustrate with a little story:

  1. Need: What is the deepest need wherever it is that you are going to work?
  2. Vision: What makes you the perfect person to help meet this need?
  3. Obstacles: What are the obstacles that stand in your way of meeting the need?
  4. Action: What do you want your audience or friend to do?

Here’s an effective three-minute example that can be adapted to any support-raising scenario:

The Need
Country X has very few Christians and almost none of the women can read, write, or do simple arithmetic. Some of those that can read, run small businesses from their homes. Their families prosper in comparison to the families of women who are illiterate.
(I heard of Lita, mother of four who tried to run a small store from her home. The business failed within a month because the merchants who sold her the goods cheated her, she couldn’t read the simple instructions that came with the items she sold, and she had no way of keeping records except in her head.)
There is a deep need, therefore, for a teaching ministry among illiterate women, coupled, of course, with friendship evangelism through God’s Word.

The Vision
I am an experienced schoolteacher and, through an outreach ministry of my home church, have worked for years with immigrant women who needed to learn English. I loved coaching and teaching them, and have led many women to Jesus. As a schoolteacher, I enjoyed a good salary and pleasant working conditions. My life was great, but as I prayed, I felt I could do more to advance God’s Kingdom if I worked in an area of greater need. So I quit my job, sold my furniture, gave up my apartment lease, and am now ready to leave. I will be working under the direction of mission agency X which will keep me accountable, orient me to the local culture, and guide me as I improve my language skills.

The Obstacles
Satan opposes Christ’s Kingdom and is certain to counterattack. Just as David had thirty mighty fighting men as his close friends, so I need thirty men, women and children in my prayer protection team to pray for me daily, informed by my regular emailed updates.
I also need $X to cover travel, as well as financial partners who will commit to sending enough money each month to cover my personal and ministry expenses, which will be about $X.
I long to go right now and help hundreds of women like Lita learn the skills she needs to provide for her family. Unfortunately, neither the prayer protection team nor the financial partnerships are yet complete. These are the only obstacles to my going.

The Action
Please consider joining me in this critical, Kingdom-building ministry by becoming part of my prayer protection team, or one of my financial partners, or both.
(In the rack in front of you is a small envelope, please take it out and look at it now. Please check the appropriate boxes on the envelope, fill in your contact information and drop it into the offering plate. Or, better yet, hand it to me some time later.)
I’m ready to answer any questions you may have.

The Adaptation
A simple three-minute speech like this covers everything a potential partner needs to know. The example was in the setting of a speech to a group, but can, of course, be used in a one-on-one conversation as well.
By dropping the story about Lita and the references to the envelope, (both in parentheses) the whole presentation is just over two minutes long. It is what writer’s call an “elevator pitch” where the writer presents the idea for an article to an editor while riding in an elevator.

You may not need this advice personally, but you may know someone who does. Feel free to forward it to them.

Some Golden Oldies and Some Shiny Newbies

Some of these “before” sayings have been around for generations, and, like old gold, keep their value. Then there are some new sayings that look like they could last for quite a while too.

“Look before you leap.” We’ve all heard that saying. Had I followed this bit of wise advice in the first year of our marriage, I would not have committed to buy that set of books we could not afford. We’ve probably all made the mistake of leaping into a project before checking it out. There are many other bits of similar advice.

Cut too short“Measure before you cut” is excellent advice for every kind of craftsman, from seamstresses to carpenters. It goes along with saying such as “Measure twice, cut once,” and the chagrined exclamation, “I’ve cut this twice and it’s still too short!”

“Try before you buy” is good advice to follow when buying cars or clothes. But, when choosing a marriage partner, following this advice will have dire consequences.

“Think before you speak.” We’ve all heard that ever since we were kids. Now we can add writing, especially e-mails and tweets. Think first! As a similar saying has it, “Speak in anger (and thoughtlessly) and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”

“Experience before you criticize” is well-stated in the First Nations proverb, “Walk a mile in the other person’s moccasins before you criticize them.”

“Listen before you speak” is solid, biblical advice. It is like other sayings such as, “Speaking is silver, silence is gold.” There is a time for both, yet it’s a fact that listening ears are harder to find than speaking mouths. Christians who are patient, active listeners have a ready ministry to those who desperately need someone to listen to their story.

“Live before you Die” is a popular saying, not only among Christian preachers. It was also the theme of a commencement address by the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple and Pixar. The basic idea is that we are alive here on earth for reasons that go beyond just pleasing ourselves.

“Earn before you spend” is a piece of wisdom that deserves to be listened to. It has been ignored by millions of North Americans whose personal debt is at record high levels.

“Study before you take a test” is advice every successful student follows, and all the other students wish they had followed.

“Trust before you commit” is an excellent piece of advice for people considering making a commitment in business, education, finance, or relationship.

“Try before you reject” is advice ignored by many people who end up living constrained,  impoverished lives. We all know some people who utterly refuse to taste a food that they haven’t seen before, even though everyone else around the table is eating it with obvious enjoyment. Some look at a task and say, “Oh, I could never do that,” and walk away while other people their age, gender, size and educational level are doing it well, and enjoying it.

“Believe before you pray” is not a popular saying. It is advice that is often ignored. God’s people are commanded to pray. But God responds to our prayers, not because we pray with passion, but because we pray with faith. For faith, we need to heed the next saying.

“Read before you believe.” Faith comes through hearing (or reading) the Word of God. (Romans 10:17) It matters what our faith is based on. It can’t just be wishful thinking; our faith needs to be based on the facts of God’s Word.

Do you have any other favorite Oldies or Newbies?
How about picking one you tend to ignore to focus on this week, or month, or year?

The Other Side of “Silence and Solitude”

Early last month I wrote a blog post extolling the disciplines of Silence and Solitude to unlock the treasures within our innermost being. Many of you readers responded, telling me how much these disciplines have helped deepen your spiritual lives. The impact of that blog post seemed to be so strong that I now realize I need to present the other side of the coin to bring some healthy balance.

God not only designed us to need time for being quiet and alone, He also designed us to communicate and be in fellowship with other people.

The Biblical Basis for Communication and Fellowship
After each act of creation God pronounced His work as “good.” But after creating Adam, God said, “It is NOT good for man to be alone.” He created Eve, not just for Adam, but to produce the human race, so that human beings could communicate and have fellowship with one another.

Canela Men's Group Breakfast Together

Canela Men’s Group Breakfast Together

David was a great warrior and reigned as a strong king, but he didn’t do this alone. He had his “thirty mighty men” with whom he planned strategies and on whom he depended for victories and safety.

His son Solomon wrote a poem eulogizing the concept of partnership to work effectively, to help each other, to provide mutual comfort and safety. It was written on the flyleaf of my parent’s Bible and read during their wedding eighty years ago, “Two are better than one . . . a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Eccl. 4:9-12)

Jesus chose twelve special disciples to be with Him and later sent out seventy followers to do ministry all over Palestine. He sent them in pairs, not alone.

Jesus also promised His followers that whenever two or three gathered together in His name, He would be there with them.

The apostle Barnabas chose Paul, and later Paul chose Silas and eventually Paul was joined by others like Luke and Timothy to travel with him.

North American Cultural Bias to Independence
We North Americans have grown up to value independence and self-sufficiency. We honour the rugged pioneer who, on his own, braved the wilderness, and carved out a homestead for himself and his family. We teach our children to be independent, even our schools focus on training students to work independently. This self-sufficient characteristic leads to shallow relationships, and lack of commitment to others.

Yet, as Christians we need to realize that independence and self-reliance are not biblical values. God designed us to live and work together with others, to be interdependent—each of us depending on others, and others depending on us. God loves to see us, His kids, being honest, open and transparent with each other, working together for the good of the whole group and to meet the needs of others. He values interdependence and practices it Himself. He has chosen to work through us in this needy world. The hands of believers are His hands, our feet are His feet, our mouths are His mouth, through which He speaks and works.

God Speaks to Us Through Other Believers
As we are in fellowship with others, living, learning and working together, God tends to speak to us through the actions and words of other believers. We can all remember times when others held us accountable, encouraged us, or taught us a needed lesson. We have done the same for others, comforting, correcting, and sharing our joys and sorrows. We have been challenged to live better by looking at the lives of other believers. And we go to church, not just to sing some worship songs and listen to a sermon, but to develop relationships with other, likeminded children of the Heavenly Father.

A New Year’s Resolution That God Will Help Us Keep
My prayer is that, in silence and solitude, we will all make a resolution to develop some deep level relationships with others during this new year. Let’s write out the resolution, then find some person we trust, tell them what we have resolved to do, and ask them to hold us accountable.