A Difficult Topic…
Dr. Randy Smith, YMI President
Dealing With A Touchy Subject: Missionary $upport
It is with a bit of fear and in trepidation that I write this article, but here goes anyway.
When it comes to financial support for missionaries, it is almost always a touchy subject. I know VERY FEW missionaries who complain about or report getting too much monthly support! However, and unfortunately, I do hear some pretty sad and even depressing stories from missionaries who do not receive enough monthly support to meet their needs.
Without a doubt, one of the most difficult tasks for a missionary family is that of raising the necessary monthly support to travel to and live in the country where God has led them to serve.
On average, it can take up to three years for an American missionary family to raise their required monthly support, as well as the additional funds needed to prepare for, travel to, and set up their home and transportation in a new country. Fortunately, for YMI missionaries, the average time needed to raise their support is only about 18-24 months instead of 36. That is a blessing.
However, it is not the purpose of this article to discuss the actual cost for missionaries that is required to prepare for, get to, and live in a foreign country. Actually, I want to briefly talk about the idea of losing and/or gaining monthly support while on the mission field, which can be very challenging.
Once on the field, there are at least two sad realities that missionaries (including those with YMI) have to face regarding their monthly support and budget.
#1 – Losing support. Most of the missionaries I know live on a very tight budget with very little, if any, reserve built into their monthly budget. Our YMI goal is for all our missionaries to have about a 3-month salary reserve in their accounts as a buffer, but most only have a 1-2 month reserve.
So, when a missionary loses a supporter, it can be very challenging and stressful. First of all, sadly and too often, when a missionary loses a supporter they seldom get any, or very little, advance warning. In fact, many only get at most a one-month warning. That means that they immediately have to start drawing down their surplus or cut their budget to make ends meet. Then they also have to immediately start developing a plan to do more fundraising when they get home on their furlough. This puts undue stress on them at a time when they are supposed to be resting and recovering from a challenging 3-4 years living in a foreign country.
If it becomes necessary for any individual or church to cut support, I highly encourage the individual or missions committee to first try and figure out some way to defer that cut until the missionary returns home for furlough. It is almost impossible to raise new support while living on the field.
#2 – Missionaries seldom, if ever, get an “increase” in support by donors while they are serving. Imagine if you had to go 10 years or more on the exact same income you started with?
Most of us could not do it due to inflation and higher costs of living such as increase in taxes, enlarged family size, increased education costs, rising food costs, transportation, health insurance, and housing, etc.
About the only way for a missionary to get a pay increase is to wait until they get home on furlough and then try to find new supporters, which is always challenging, even if they were living back in the U.S.
What am I saying, or perhaps more importantly … What am I asking?
It would be wonderful if missionary donors would pray about, and consider, the possibility of raising their missionary’s monthly support by at least 10-15% every 2-3 years.
For example, if a missionary is getting a combined net income of $5,000 per month for their salary and overall budget, a 15% increase every 3 years would mean that a missionary family would get a $750 per month increase. Over 3 years that would only be an average of 5% per year. Typically, inflation is much higher in non-western and developing nations, as much as 5-50%, or more per year.
For example, as of 2017 some annual rates of inflation are: Ukraine -14% | Russia – 6% | Malaysia – 4% | Mexico – 5% | Romania – 5% | and these rates are for every year.
Consider this – an increase of 10-15% every 3 years may be the support needed to keep a missionary “in the black” financially, or even keep them on the field or have a bit of extra income to take a decent vacation with their family.
So, I am asking, if you have not increased your missionaries support in the past three or more years since you began your support, that you graciously consider an increase in giving, as much as you think you can, but considering a minimum of 10%.
Again, I know that money is a touchy subject. AND, if you do not want to directly ask your missionaries if they could use “a raise,” then please feel free to call me and I will let you know if their budget is tight and whether they could use a financial boost.
I would ask you to please pray that God will lead other supporters to consider an increase if you are unable do so yourself. I know that most of YMI’s missionaries could use a boost in their support, but unless donors ask, they would likely be hesitant to bring up the issue.
Thanks for your consideration regarding this highly sensitive topic. AND, thanks for the support you are now giving, no matter how big or small… it all helps.
Thank you most of all for your prayer support!