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The art of seeking ministry support

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Wide White: The art of seeking ministry support

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The art of seeking ministry support

I received a ministry support letter 3 days ago that began:
Dear Joey and Jamie,

I know we have never met, but I recently spent and [sic] evening with (NAMES REDACTED) sharing our new ministry vision and your name came up. You must have made a deep impression on them. After sharing with them what the Lord has been doing in our lives they thought that you might also be excited to hear as well.
The letter went on to describe a ministry that this couple is starting. They said they'd like to meet us and "see how the Lord will draw us together for this journey."

A few things struck me about this letter.

First, as noted in the letter's first sentence, I've never met the person who sent it. In searching for support, they're relying on referrals from people they know, which is common in people looking for support, but leads me to...

Second, I barely know the people who referred me to this couple (the people whose names are redacted). Apparently I left a "deep impression" on them, and while I recall the husband as being a really nice guy, I don't remember the wife at all. In fact, when I forwarded the letter to my wife, she asked, "Who are (NAMES REDACTED)?"

Third, this letter was sent to an address that's over 3 years old. The referral apparently didn't know me well enough to know where I live. I actually didn't know them when I lived at that old address, so I'm not sure how they even found it.

I've never had to seek support for a ministry. I have friends who have and I'm guessing they're more sympathetic to this person. I'm trying to be sympathetic.

But it bothers me that someone I hardly know is handing out my personal (if outdated) information to someone I don't know at all without asking me first.

I don't support ministries simply because someone goes to my church or (in this case) goes to a church I used to go to. I support them because A.) I have a passion for the ministry, B.) Someone I know and respect recommends the ministry and/or C.) I have the funds with which to support the ministry.

The letter also felt like an awkward sales pitch. My wife made an interesting observation when she noted, "Ministry support gathering feels way too similar to a pyramid scheme."

I think there's a right way and a wrong way to seek ministry support. The right way is for someone you know and trust to approach you about a ministry they really believe in and refer you to that person. The wrong (or at least more ineffective) way is to send letters to people with no real connection to you other than your mutual interest in serving Christ, which is an interest that covers a lot of people.

Unfortunately, we found the approach in this letter to be decidedly ineffective. (I should add that I received a very gracious response from the guy to my email letting him know that we wouldn't be supporting him.)

What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Have you been faced with a similar situation before?

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Bill Roehl declared,

Whenever I'm acting as a go-between for two people I know in some capacity and one wants to know contact information I will offer to send their contact information along to the other person and leave it up to them to reply if they feel it's something worthwhile.

I do exactly what I'd expect others to do for me. This includes mass emails with BCC instead of a public To: field. If someone doesn't respect that and ignores my suggestions on how properly to protect my email address they are marked as spam.

5/12/2011 7:32 AM  
Blogger Andrea declared,

It's an interesting gig to support raise your income. Having been very involved in Campus ministry at the U of MN and having gone through new staff training with Crusade, I definitely commend those on staff who need to support raise.

It's awkward and not easy and we agree, can seem like soliciting. What we've done in the past is emailed a group of potential contacts on behalf of the person raising support asking if they would be interested in being contacted to hear more about so and so's ministry.

This has seemed like the best way; we're trying to help the person we support, we're asking our friends before they are cold contacted, and it helps the support raiser so they don't have to do more work than necessary.

We all know it's awkward and walking the line but how else can these people grow their support team in order to stay fully funded?

5/12/2011 7:47 AM  
Anonymous Joey declared,

Andrea, I agree with you. We support some people we'd never met after an email from a friend, followed by meeting the couple. I don't think there's any argument that they need to reach out to people they don't know in some way and it can be tremendously awkward. The referral process just works much better when it's handled a bit differently than this one was.

5/12/2011 8:15 AM  
Blogger watchman declared,

No sympathy from me. I hate getting those things from other people and I hate sending them to anyone (in fact I don't). Also, I think Jamie is exactly right. It all sounds like networking marketing, Amway style.

5/12/2011 8:28 AM  
Blogger Reuben declared,

Interesting. This whole situation just doesn't exist in giant world-wide churches (like Mormonism).

I'm wondering how much pressure you (anyone) feel to make sure your money goes to worthwhile causes, or causes that will be successful.

In other words, charitable giving to ministries isn't like investing in companies - where if the company fails, you receive no benefit from it. The blessings of donating are received whether or not the ministry grows or disappears. Or at least that's how I would see it...

5/12/2011 9:17 AM  
Blogger Joey declared,

Interesting to hear "no sympathy" from the man in ministry, though I can't say I'm surprised.

Reuben, I find myself conflicted over whether these ministries should really be supported through the church or whether they should have to be supported separately. But I don't really consider how "successful" they'll be as much as I consider whether I'm capable of supporting them and whether it's a cause I feel passionate about, as well as whether I feel I can trust or have faith in the people leading the ministry.

5/12/2011 9:58 AM  

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