“Tentmaking is increasingly part of many agencies’ way of doing business.”
Are you sure you don’t want to have an agency? Tentmaking is increasingly part of many agencies’ way of doing business. To launch out completely alone, with no agency backing you, can be a quick recipe for disaster. The safety net of an agency to help you navigate a new country is invaluable.
As you look at where you want to go and what you want to do, begin to explore what agencies DO work in that region and ask them how they handle tentmakers. You might raise a minimal amount of support (or pay a fee) to cover things like insurance, paper work, etc., but in return you have someone to turn to that has far more experience in the country/region than you do.
Answer from Elizabeth in Michigan, who has served with SEND International in multiple countries in Asia for forty years.
“Some do, but why do you need an agency?”
There are several agencies I know of that will work with you this way, and I’m sure there are many more I’m not aware of. That said, as someone who has worked with three agencies and as a semi-tent maker, I’d be hesitant to join an agency if I don’t plan on raising any funds.
Mission agencies can provide useful services to missionaries other than donation processing, but if you aren’t planning to raise any funds that will be funded through them, that takes away about 90% of what they do. Very few mission agency will admit that their primary function is donation processing, but most of the services they provide are on the front end – recruiting you, orientation, giving you a list of requirements, etc. I wouldn’t call providing insurance a service since it’s easier and usually cheaper to do this on your own.
After you make it to the field, even if you are working with others from that agency, more often than not, you will be on your own in many regards anyway. Even the biggest mission agencies usually don’t help you to obtain a visa or have much to do with your work on the field.
My advice would be to connect with an existing ministry in the country where you want to serve. Back home, find experienced mission people to advice you on the training you should seek pre-departure and preparations you should make.
Answer from Eric in Colorado, who has served in missions for eight years in the U.S. and Singapore.