W. Austin Garder and Tony Howeth, “The Deputation Manual for Missionaries,” BCWE Publisher, Inc., 2006. Kindle Edition
- reviewed by Karl Dahlfred
“How do you get so many supporting churches?!”
This was my question to a missionary friend who kept posting Facebook and Twitter updates about all his new supporters and new supporting churches from around the U.S. Five new churches here, four new supporters there, and more than a thousand people following his Facebook page... and he hasn’t even been to the field yet. Since my wife and I were at the end of our home assignment and needing to get our financial support back up, I wanted to know how he was doing it. He sent me the link to this book: “The Deputation Manual for Missionaries” by Austin Gardner and Tony Howeth.
Our own support seemed to be slow in coming in, so I was open to suggestions. And since it was a Kindle book for only $0.99, I downloaded it right away and dove in.
Authors Gardner and Howeth have done their support raising in the context of independent fundamentalist Baptist churches in the deep South of the U.S., a context quite a bit different from my own. For that reason, I found that I did not want to directly copy all of their advice. But on the whole, I was glad to discover a very readable and practical, yet serious and spiritually minded approach to support raising.
There are three aspects of the book that I found particularly helpful in my own support raising:
1. Don’t Be Lazy
Compared with other missionary literature about support raising that I’ve read, the repeated exhortations to work hard and not be slothful really stuck out. I don’t think about myself as being particularly lazy but I sometimes lack self-discipline. The authors emphasized that you will need to work really hard in order to see support come in. Their advice was to be on the phone all day, every week day, calling churches and asking to come present your mission work at their church.
“Talk to 1,000 pastors, and you will get into 300 churches. Get into 300 churches, and you will get 100 churches to support you.” (Kindle Locations 2094-2095)
“You can also expect to drive 100,000 to 130,000 miles to get your support.” (Kindle Locations 2241-2242)
The authors also had specific advice on sending follow-up letters to pastors, and generally communicating promptly, professionally, and pro-actively. Self-discipline and hard work are not optional but necessary - not only for deputation but also for long-term ministry. The authors warn, “If you have a difficult time setting your own schedule, you will not make it being a missionary.” (Kindle Locations 559-560)
I don’t like cold calling and I have doubts about how effective it is. But apparently it has worked for the authors. My wife and I have previously raised our full support without cold calling, and have not needed to drive all over the country, visiting hundreds of churches. However, the authors’ point is well taken that the reason why some missionaries linger on for years at a low support level is because they have not been pro-active and self-disciplined in seeking supporters. My take-away application from their point about not being lazy was to:
- Put more regular and disciplined effort into communicating with current supporters, looking for referrals to other people who may want to support us
- Network with lots of people, not just because of what they could do for us, but also to genuinely bless them and serve them
- Be more prompt in replying to email and following up on those who’ve shown some interest in our ministry
- Make sure I have a ready supply of prayer cards with me to hand out to people
2. Have the Right Attitude
There is nothing worse than a whiny missionary. “Why doesn’t anyone want to support us?” “Doesn’t anyone care?” “Are we ever going to get to the field?” The authors’ advice to this kind of attitude is basically, “Stop it, and focus on Christ.” It is easy to get discouraged when support is not coming in, even though you are putting in herculean effort to contact people and churches. The silence can be deafening. But when times of discouragement come, we must turn our focus upon Christ:
“God not only wants to raise your support, He also desires to work on your inner man. Walk with Him on a daily basis. Remember, it is our privilege to rise up early and meet with Him. God in heaven has already raised your support, but now you must find it. Scripture says that without Him we can do nothing.” (Kindle Locations 224-225)
Missionaries need to understand that deputation is hard work and will come with many times of discouragement. We must be prepared for these times of discouragement, and press on. This will allow us to be a blessing to the people and churches we contact, instead of coming off like a self-centered sponge looking for money. A bad attitude will show through when you communicate with potential supporters no matter what you do to hide it. And nobody wants to support a self-centered missionary with a bad attitude.
3. Be Professional
There is sometimes a tendency for missionaries to over-spiritualize the work of deputation, thinking that potential supporters will see their love for God and the people they want to reach, and want to support them regardless of any other factors. But the truth is that if you neglect answering email promptly, show up late, take up more time than you are allotted to speak, or otherwise expected to be served instead of to serve, than you will not get support. I appreciate bluntness and clarity and the authors’ admonitions in this category were a helpful reminder:
“Comb your hair. Iron your shirt. Make sure you and every other member of your family is dressed modestly and neatly. Make sure your children are respectful to their elders and know how to sit quietly in a service.” (Kindle Locations 3007-3008)
“Do not walk into a church shuffling your feet, with your head hung low. Do not mumble your words. Stand tall. Speak clearly and confidently. Keep your tie and coat on. Dress as nicely as your budget will allow.” (Kindle Locations 3203-3204)
Those who know me know that I am not a particularly sloppy dresser. However, I thought that it was a helpful reminder to not have the attitude of “What’s the minimum I need to do?” when I visit churches and contact supporters. Rather, I should be asking, “What’s the maximum that I can do to present an image of professionalism and competence and be a blessing to other people?” Whatever I am when people meet me in the U.S., they are going to assume that I am like that when I am out on the mission field. If my family is disorderly and running late, what does that say about the seriousness that I will bring to the missionary task? As the father of two small children, I would be lying if I told you that our family is always on the ball and my kids never get out of hand at church. But on the other hand, there is probably more that I can do to rally the troops, and to prepare my family physically and spiritually for visiting churches and following the call that He has placed on our family.
I really appreciated the fact that “The Deputation Manual for Missionaries” was short, straight-forward, and easy-to-read. There was a great balance between the spiritual and personal aspects of deputation, and the more practical nuts-and-bolts tasks that need to be done. There were lots of “How-To” sections in the book, making it a fairly comprehensive quick start guide to orient new missionaries to raising their support for the first time. Even as a missionary who has already served on the mission field and just needs to get support back up, I found lots of good food for thought here, and many helpful reminders and admonitions.
Whether you are a missionary candidate preparing to go out for the first time, or a veteran missionary needing to work on support development, I would recommend “The Deputation Manual for Missionaries” as helpful resource that will help you build more partnerships for the kingdom work that God has called you to.