The question of what percentage of funds a sending church should give their Sent Ones can be tricky to answer, and there is certainly no hard-and-fast rule all sending churches should follow. We could suggest a target percentage all churches should aim for, but no church or sending setup is the same, and there will be several major factors each church should consider. Unfortunately, this means there is not a simple, one-size-fits-all answer. Your pastors or missions team will need to devote time to discussing, thinking through, and praying about your church's funding practices, and then give however your church is able.
While we can't make the decision for you, there are some questions we think you should consider as you determine how your church will fund those you send.
Your pastors or missions team will need to devote time to discussing, thinking through, and praying about your church's funding practices, and then give however your church is able.
What are their total financial needs?
The total amount your Sent Ones need will vary dependent on their stage in life, if they're married or single, if they have children, the cost of living in their country, etc. In many cases their mission organization will have a recommended salary range for them to raise. Talk to them early in the process about their needs and what has been communicated to them by the organization. The percentage you are able to fund may be determined by the total amount they need to raise.
What is the size of your missions budget?
Many churches aim to give away 10 to 25 percent of the tithes they receive toward mission endeavors, and these funds are usually divided between local, national, and global partnerships. You need to consider what amount you have available to distribute and what your other giving commitments are. Smaller churches generally have a smaller missions budget, and if those funds are being divided between several different missionaries or organizations, then they won't be able to commit as much to each partner.
How many Sent Ones are you currently financially resourcing?
If you are only funding one missionary unit, then you may be tempted to give them as much support as possible. It's important, however, to consider the precedent you would be setting for missionaries you decide to support in the future. If you send out others in your church, then you will either need to raise your missions budget or decrease the amount you give to each partner. It may be helpful to add a line item for future Sent Ones to your budget, even if don't have any candidates in the pipeline. Having those funds set aside can help you ramp up for sending more members in the future.
Establishing your giving guidelines in advance will protect you from making haphazard decisions about funding and prevent confusion over differing support levels among your partners.
For churches that are already funding more than one unit, do you have a set funding amount, or do you fund each one differently according to their needs?
Churches who fund multiple partners often do so without establishing any funding guidelines or limits. Some churches will give more to missionaries being sent out from their church and less to outside partners. Some churches will give more to workers who are serving in areas where the church has a strategic focus and less to those working in areas where the structure is still developing. Some churches will give more to people engaging in frontier and church planting ministry and less for those who are serving in support roles. Establishing your giving guidelines in advance will protect you from making haphazard decisions about funding and prevent confusion over differing support levels among your partners.
Do you allow your Sent Ones to talk to other church members about financial support?
This is a conversation you should have with your pastor leadership team and/or elders. In most cases, since the Sent Ones will not receive 100 percent of their funding from the church, they will need to find other supporters to join their team. While they will most likely need to look to other partner churches or supporters outside your church, they will probably anticipate receiving support from fellow church members as well, and your team needs to decide if you will allow them to solicit funds from within the church. In some cases, you may even help them find other financial partners inside your church, but you need to have honest discussions with leadership on this topic ahead of time. There will likely be people inside your church who will want to join their support base, and it is good to have a policy in place and determine what, if any, opportunities you will give them to raise money from within if they are already receiving direct support from the church. (Also, remember that if they are receiving support from other churches, then those churches will probably want them to visit and share when they are back on home assignment. In other words, if they need to raise support from others, then you will need to be willing to share them with others.)
Personally, I think the maximum amount from a church should not exceed 25 percent. I know some churches give more and it works fine, but as a rule, I feel that 25 percent should be the high end of what a church provides. I have personally seen people who have received 25 percent or more from a church have to leave the field because the church changed their leadership or mission direction, and the missionaries lost such a high percentage of funding that they had to return from the field to raise more support. Twenty-five percent places a lot of responsibility on the church to provide for their Sent Ones, and not every church can commit to this amount.
There is no reason why a sending church cannot come alongside those they send and help them meet their financial goals as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Personally, I like to see sending churches provide at least 10 percent to their Sent Ones and also give them permission and opportunities (with guidelines) to communicate with the church membership about their ministry and their financial needs. While not every church can commit to significant financial support, there is no reason why a sending church cannot come alongside those they send and help them meet their financial goals as quickly and painlessly as possible.
We would love to hear your thoughts on churches funding their Sent Ones. Please comment below or visit the forum on our website and continue the conversation.
Larry is the co-founder and Executive Director of The Upstream Collective. He and his family have lived in Europe for nearly twenty years, where he has served in a variety of strategy and leadership roles. Prior to moving to Europe, he was a church planter and pastor in the US. He is a co-author of Tradecraft: For the Church on Mission, The First 30 Daze: Practical Encouragement for Living Abroad Intentionally, and The MarketSpace: Essential Relationships Between the Sending Church, Marketplace Worker, and Missionary Team.