In many countries, the cost of living is less than at home. How do I justify a seemingly large support figure to supporters?

“Understand – and if necessary, explain – total employment cost.”

Ask your agency to give you the complete breakdown of what you are raising. Our supporters tend to think in terms of their salary, but a missionary is raising what is called total employment costs: insurances, healthcare, ministry funds, and often travel funds, cost of children’s schooling, and housing allowance. In addition, most missionaries raise a small percentage for their agency that pays for their care as part of that organization. The missionary is raising their salary plus the overhead it costs for them to serve. 

Missions usually have charts to help supporters understand where every dollar is going. This can be very helpful as supporters may be connected to missionaries with different agencies, each of which divides the “pie” a little differently. 

We had a supporter ask about the difference between what we raised for a specific country, and the lower figure another missionary raised for the same place. We inquired and found that our support included our travel costs to and from the ministry country, while the other missionary had to raise those separately every time they came home. 

While it is less to live some places than at home, keep in mind that it may cost more to live in some other places in the world than it does in your home country. Cost of living is such a relative thing, but few missionaries are living “high” wherever they are.

A deep love for the lost of the world cost God his Son.

Answer from Elizabeth, who served SEND International in multiple Asian countries for thirty-seven years.

“Approach the topic like a business.”

I find it helpful to explain the support total you need to raise like a business would if they were adding a new employee. A lot of your potential donors might be business people… and for churches, even better.

To add an employee (or pastor) a business needs to find money for compensation, in all forms, as well as funds for what they need to get their job done:

  • Salary
  • Company’s portion of the medical insurance
  • Dental, vision
  • Retirement
  • Office or workspace, furniture
  • Computer, phone, and other technology
  • Training and travel expenses

Remember, you are not raising support to live on, you are raising support to accomplish your ministry. And there is a lot more to accomplishing a ministry than covering someone’s salary.

Answer from Eric, who served in missions in Singapore and the US and currently works with Joshua Project.

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