Is missionary deputation a good thing or just all bad. Many are trying to figure out what to do. It takes a missionary from 2 to 4 years average to raise their support. They must travel thousands of miles and make hours of phone calls.

I usually say that they need to make thousands of calls to talk to over 1,000 pastors to get a meeting in 300 churches and then have 100 churches take them on for support.

It is doable. It will work but it takes lots of work. There is a great deal of friction caused between the pastors and the missionaries. Missionaries feel upappreciated and unwanted. They feel like the “red headed, step child of our churches and ministries!”

Pastors do not like being bothered. They hate getting calls on their cell phone. They are called for meetings several times every week. They do not have enough money to take on all the missionaries. They, I believe, want to do all that they can but simply do not see how.

The church or congregation is bothered because missions has lost its fire and excitement. It seems now that the mission’s conference is all about money. Many of them are already giving and if missions is just about raising money then they are not interested.

So what can we do to change how we get missionaries to the field?

1.Some denominations have a fund raising method of their own.

They provide the missionary with all he needs as a salary. So that once accepted the missionary can be deployed rapidly.

The strength is the quickness of getting the missionary to the field. It means that the denomination must have a strong set of filters in place to be sure and select the right missionary.

For the churches the weakness is that the members do not get to see the missionary. The church gives a percentage of the offering, budget line item or even if they give an extra missionary offering they never or rarely see a missionary. I grew up under this system.

The weakness for the missionary is that he is an employee. He will go where he is told and do what he is told. That can be good but limiting. He will build buildings, make purchases, etc according to dictates from the head office. The strong missionary that is accomplishing a lot will be limited by this.

2.Others do “friend raising” and get their money through their friends instead of churches.

The strength is that they can talk to their friends quickly and not have to talk to strangers.

The weakness is that they may not have that many friends. Also it is quite awkward to talk to your friends asking for money.

3.So what can we do?

We can set up fellowships or denominations that will take up offerings from the churches. We can then set up a bureaucracy that can administrate the money and determine who gets to be a missionary where.

The weakness here is that independent Baptists simply do not want to be in a denomination. That is why they left where they were before.

4.A church could take on the total support of its missionary.

That would be great if they could. But then all would be limited to how the church budget does.

Also the pastor and church might not understand the realities of the field. They might not know what is needed and that will cause real friction and frustration.

5.There are advocates of “tent making missionaries!”

Those that would have a business or work full time would have much less energy to do the ministry. Just like the pastor who must work 50 hours and then prepare messages, make visits, pray, disciple, and train leaders.

I knew of a group of churches in New York that took on the complete support of their missionary nearly 30 years ago.It was a group of 12 churches. Later they ended up needing to get additional support due to financial pressures on those churches. Their goal was that the missionary would spend at least one month with each church and really get to know them before going to the field.

Someone has to have another idea. I would love to hear it.

The following is taken from C. Gordon Olson and Don Fanning, What in the World Is God Doing?: The Essentials of Global Missions, Seventh Edition, Expanded, Revised, & Updated. (Lynchburg, VA: Global Gospel Publishers, 2013. I thought that it might be an opinion from another source that might interest you!

The hang-up of ‘deputation’

Does deputation ministry really mean going around begging for money? Nobody likes to be a beggar because it’s demeaning! These days many mission agencies are referring to deputation as ‘pre-field ministry,’ but this only changes the image, not the reality. What is the reality?
Many denominations have a unified denominational budget which makes ‘raising one’s support’ unnecessary. But most missionaries under evangelical mission agencies, whether denominational or interdenominational, have to ‘raise their own support’ before they can depart for the field. Some missions stress non-solicitation of funds after the example of Hudson Taylor, so as to avoid ‘begging.’ The emphasis is upon asking God to touch His people to give toward the missionary’s needs. A prospective missionary should cast a vision of what can be and should be done. It is an opportunity to catalyze the church in a team effort to make a difference.

Perhaps a better perspective from which to view deputation is that of giving God’s people an opportunity to get involved in worldwide missions by giving. But there are many other benefits of pre-field ministry. Not only do appointees learn lessons of prayer and trusting God for supply, but also appointees have opportunity to ‘sell’ missions, sometimes in churches that have little missionary vision. They can encourage churches to be more missionary-minded and may also recruit other missionaries.

One classic example of this was the ministry of millionaire Bill Borden of Yale 1909, who did not need support for himself, but recruited many other missionaries before he left for Egypt. The most important aspect of deputation is recruiting prayer supporters to stand behind the missionary while on the field. This is an essential for effective ministry.

Missions Support

Local churches are and should be the foundation of prayer and financial support for missionaries, even though a significant amount comes from individuals directly. Both denominational and interdenominational missions have struggled with the problem arising from a missionary having thirty or more supporting churches, some of which are “nickel and diming it.” Recently consortiums of ten or less churches are being formed to eliminate this problem. The missionary’s home church takes on a substantial portion of the support (typically 30%) and others make up the balance. A major purpose is to shorten the length of pre-field ministry for the missionary and to keep supporting churches in one local area.

When church members commit to becoming missionaries, it should become a church project to get support and get them to the field. The home church could greatly facilitate the raising of support if they were willing to get involved. A personal recommendation from the pastor to His Pastors’ Association members could open a number of doors. The church could encourage small home groups, Sunday School classes, and individuals to meet with candidates to hear their vision and passion for God’s will to decide what part to play.

One of the challenges for new missionaries is getting sufficient exposure to share their vision and proposed ministry. A volunteer committee could be formed to make hundreds of phone calls to area and regional churches to promote the missionary’s candidacy. What if the local church took more responsibility for getting their candidates on the mission field? What would this say to others who might be interested in becoming missionaries? Local churches must become more creative and involved in getting their candidates out to the field. In doing so, they can share with other churches a model of what a missions-minded local church really is.

  • Posted April 22, 2015 10:36 am
    by Dave Welsch

    I completely agree with you and have struggled with this exact question. I personally don’t think its fair to ask our missionaries to drag their families all over the country to raise money but I also realize theres not a better option at this point. One idea I have thought of, and would be curious as to what your thought would be on it, is to have local churches support mission boards instead of individual missionaries. So in some ways sort of a hybrid between the two options. So a local church might support 4 boards that they trust and like each at $1,500 a month, the board would then screen and select missionaries. Instead of deputation for 2-4 years maybe each missionary goes out on a 6 month deputation just to build relationships with churches, he isn’t going to ask for support (of course he would get a love offering for travel expenses) because he is already fully supported. The challenge of course would be to still build relationships between the missionaries and the local church but I think that could be accomplished, you could simply assign each missionary x number of churches to keep in communication for. I realize this may not be a better option but you asked for ideas so heres mine!

    • Posted April 22, 2015 10:50 am
      by Austin Gardner

      I appreciate the comment and the idea. I think that could, possibly, work. The problem would be to get the church and the pastor to give up control of what missionaries get support. They might not like the missionary that they get assigned. Also it takes the leadership and oversight out of the church and places it in the mission.

      The mission would decide who, where, and when. Our pastors tend to be very opinionated. If one of their guys didn’t get accepted by the mission then there would be real problems.

      I feel like personally, that the greatest problem in missions is not the money raising, the deputation, etc but the lack of training and preparation our missionaries have. They are not taught how to do deputation. They are not prepared for cross cultural work.

      I wish I could get people to look at that side of the equation.

      I do sincerely thank you for your comment, your reading and thinking. We need more people talking about our great responsibility to get the gospel to the world!

  • Posted April 22, 2015 2:44 pm
    by Mark

    Thank you for writing and for all you do for World Missions.

    How to address and solve the problem of the missionaries’ lack of preparation?

    Also, could part of the problem be that churches are supporting too many missionaries for a low amount each?

    • Posted April 22, 2015 2:53 pm
      by Austin Gardner

      Thanks for writing Mark. It is good to hear from you. As a church and training center we are doing all that we can to train missionaries and to help other churches to learn to reproduce what we are doing. We also maintain this blog and open communication to try and help with the training. The purpose of the leadership with vision podcast is to help train also. I do not believe that we are doing enough. I surely welcome any ideas.

      As to the churches supporting too many for too little. I do believe that is a problem. I would like to see the new minimum be $100 a month. I am hoping to get our church up to $200 for our strategic partners.

      The downside to that is that we can’t take on new missionaries when we are trying to increase support.

      It is a hard problem to deal with.

      Thank you for all you are doing to reach the people of Portugal and the world. God bless you!

  • Posted April 22, 2015 4:26 pm
    by Andy Wallace

    You’re probably in a better position than anyone to postulate viable solutions, having been on all sides. I don’t have any trite answers but I wanted to comment if only to support this conversation.

    Similar to Mark’s comment, my philosophy, as a Pastor, has been “less missionaries for more money.” What would you say are the pros and cons of each missionary having just 5-10 partner churches? My goal is for the ratio of members to missionaries at hrbc to be something like 20:1. This would allow us to take a much more personal interest in our missionaries and give them 2.5% (at least) raises every year. I realize that this ties the growth of the missions program very directly to the health and growth of the church. But that’s a good thing. “The light that shines farthest shines brightest at home.”

    I think that what makes this such a complex issue is that missions is something that a healthy church does naturally. Is it possible that a lot of the problems we see stem from decades of unbiblical ministry? If the head is sick, can the arms ever really be effective or efficient?

    I don’t know. Just some thoughts

    • Posted April 22, 2015 4:39 pm
      by Austin Gardner

      Thanks for commenting. I agree with less missionaries and more money approach. The problem is to realize that a missionary will need around $8,000 a month depending on where he is going. He will need $50,000 set up fee to buy car, set up house, get moved over etc. That can be done with say 10 churches at $800 a month that never miss.

      The set up will cost $5,000 a piece. One church gets in trouble and the missionary is in trouble. Jealousy, pastoral changes, economy shifts, mission budget being the first thing cut makes this difficult.

      If each of the 10 churches were healthy they would each produce one missionary a piece. That would be that the commitment goes up 10 times. That is what is the hard part.

      I love the discussion. I am all for it.

      The truth is that most churches do not produce missionaries. Mission funds are quite volatile. A missionary friend hasn’t gotten to the field and one of his churches is already closing.

      Deputation is hard to get started, should be done quicker, and the missionary needs more training but the truth is that it works. If you get lots of support from different places the whims of pastors or the economy don’t cause your support any great danger. It gives the missionary real freedom.

      Pastors need to learn how to treat missionaries. Missionaries need to learn how to treat pastors. Missionaries that learn how to do deputation correctly do quite well. Only the missionaries that have no training, didn’t make it, or those thinking about it are so against it.

      Our people give tons to missions. Our missionaries are well cared for. Vision missionaries that have worked at raising their support never complain about how well it is working.

      Thanks for commenting. Thanks for being concerned about this great endeavor.

      God bless you

  • Posted June 6, 2016 1:46 pm
    by Stacy

    Hi. I am a current missionary. I am going to rock the boat here. If I am not mistaken, Jesus told his disciples to go out and make disciples. I do not believe he told them to go and build churches and give the staff a comfortable salary. I am frustrated. Let’s get real here. The Bible says that all are given different gifts in the body and also that we should honor and respect those put in authority over us. I can love, honor, respect, AND disagree with business as usual. How on Earth could you justify less missionaries for more money given that Jesus commanded us to go out to the ends of the Earth and make disciples. I have to be honest. I love Jesus, I love people, but this whole business (in the literal sense of a business) is making me sick. I have woken up and I pray that others do the same. I don’t really know what the solution is. I have missionary friends who come from a church of 4000 members and they were recently driving a very old junky car. Where we live, you could live very comfortably on 2000 a month. Let’s do the math. That is everyone in the congregation giving .50 cents on ONE Sunday toward that family. Does it really have to be so complicated. Larger churches in that instance could help missionaries of smaller churches. It is time for a revolution. Yes, I am frustrated. Blessings and peace.

  • Posted April 30, 2018 4:17 pm
    by Dustin Brown

    Great thoughts! I’m excited about starting deputation in the future. One of the things that I learned and believe was a good point in this article is that deputation is not only about raising funds (though that is an important purpose of it), it is also a time to raise up laborers for the harvest, it’s time to teach the missionary how to depend on God and how to seek God when in need. Pre-field ministry is a good term but truly pre-field proving and training would be a good way to look at it as well.

  • Posted July 24, 2018 9:10 pm
    by Raj

    I’m a missionary on deputation. I’m thinking of giving up the traditional method of deputation. I tried calling five different states and not one supporter yet. There is a huge need where I want to go, but churches do not want to support me. I am now praying, and thinking what to do now.

    • Posted August 13, 2018 9:51 am
      by Austin Gardner

      I suggest you get some training on how to do deputation.

  • Posted August 17, 2018 8:54 am
    by Justus

    Wow, I loved reading the comments and discussion!

    I can say that as a normal church member I’ve never even thought about a “deputation system.” All I thought to do was give as much as I could to missions.

    And as a missionary in training I’m looking forward to starting deputation as that is the next part of getting to the mission field. I’m very blessed to have the leaders in my life that I do. They have loved me and been training me for two years, and this is BEFORE deputation.

    Currently my wife and I are in Asia on a six month internship with veteran missionaries. This is after taking 2 years of missions specific Bible college courses. We are very blessed to have the training that we have.

  • Posted July 22, 2020 12:36 am
    by Nathan

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this! What if churches supported missions boards (as previously mentioned) but in stead of the board choosing who they support, they could either make a request to the board for a list of missionaries to a particular region or country, or get a list of all of that board’s missionaries, and then the board facilitates all the meetings, the missionary would still be required to travel, possibly to just confirm that the church is behind what they are doing and can see the missionary’s heart, and also to build relationships with the people, therefore building the needed prayer support mentioned in this article. I am very interested in a solution to this problem as I am a missionary on deputation currently who is seeing the long journey I have ahead of me before I even reach the field God has called me to, which is where my heart is.
    Perhaps the board could even have representatives who do nothing but travel to churches to gain more support for the board. It would obviously work best if only one board of this type was in existence, and a large percentage of churches got behind the this idea. But I truly think that if our churches today were presented with a streamlined, more efficient version of our current idea of “deputation” many would hop on board.

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