Supporters: Long Term Partners In Ministry
Supporters are the essence of my life as a global worker and yet sometimes, the bane of my existence. I have been a global worker 17 years. In a practical sense, I need my supporters, and they need me. In a spiritual sense, we are partners in a God given mandate.
The ideal supporter is independently wealthy, generous, sensitive, and an incredible prayer warrior. Not many global workers have met her. Most supporters are one small spoke in the sacrificial wheel that makes up a sending team.
Similarly, the ideal global worker is someone who writes great prayer letters, brings droves of people to Christ, plants churches, and disciple men. In truth, most global worker are very ordinary people asked by God to do a difficult job.
Somewhere between the vast extremes lies a realistic goal: senders that are co-workers in the ministry to which God has called the global worker.
How can we shrink the abyss that separates us from our supporters and make them feel involved in our ministry? Communication is key, but how and what we communicate is vitally important.
- Instill a sense of mutual objectives in ministry. Senders have a desire to see lost people saved and Christians trained. That is the ultimate goal of global work. In order for them to feel a part in that goal they need to see how the work you are doing is contributing to that objective.
One global worker sends a yearly packet that is a type of mini-seminar on his family and work to each supporting church. The packet contains a few trinkets from his country and a video showing people that he is in direct contact with in ministry. It gives an idea of where they live and what they do on a day-to-day basis.
- Instill a sense of mutual responsibility. The global worker is looking for supporters that are faithful in their giving and praying. Supporters are looking for a global worker that is faithful in the task God has called him to.
“It is definitely a two way street,” a pastor turned global worker said. “As a global worker, I consider myself a staff member of my supporting church. When we were pastoring, I looked at the global workers as an extension of our church’s ministry. I expected to be kept current about their ministry.”
E-mail is an excellent way to keep news current and prayer requests fresh. Call-back companies make even telephone conversations affordable.
- Instill a sense of mutual encouragement. My husband and I try to pray through our supporter list when we get a read-out from our global work. We pray for each one by name. When our children were little we put contributor names on cards with some distinguishing remarks or requests. We each drew a card and prayed for them after the supper hour.
We are still on the field today particularly because one supporter encouraged us through those first years. She organized a card shower when we were discouraged. She taped the local Christian radio station playing songs for us. She kept people praying.
Supporters also appreciate it when global workers care about their lives. A postcard or short note mentioning their kids or assuring them of prayers strengthens a partnership of encouragement. Verbalized personal encouragement enhances trust and transparency on both sides.
Like any long distance relationship, the global worker/supporter partnership needs nurturing. Keeping our co-workers informed is time consuming and even costly. “It’s like housework,” someone said. “It never ends.” The benefits are on both sides. The rewards last forever.
This article is a classic originally published in our early print magazines.