On November 6th I created a survey for missionaries to see their experience with support systems. We had 40 missionaries take the survey. The idea for doing the survey came out of a comment on the blog that made me wonder if I am lobbying for a different type of support system that missionaries do not even want.
We had a wide variety of participants, many newer missionaries, but plenty of veteran missionaries. Some needed little support, like less than 3000 a month, but the rest spanned the spectrum up to 7500+ a month. There was a trend of people who needed less than 3000 dollars a month. They generally had just a couple supporting churches and it took them less than a year to raise their support. It seems like this crowd would be more shorter term missionaries, even though there is no way of telling since I did not think of that as a question.
The stats showed a difference between the newer missionaries and veteran missionaries. The veteran missionaries had much more church support as opposed to individual support. Of the 9 veteran (16+ years on the field), all but one had more than 11 supporting churches, and only one had more than 45% of their support coming from individuals. All but two did their pre-field ministry in less than two years. They were almost even (5-4, preferring more supporting churches) on the question of whether to switch to a system of having 3-5 supporting churches as opposed to 15-20.
The newer missionaries (less than 10 years on the field) were different in most aspects. Again, the ones that did not need as much money mostly took less than 1 year on pre-field, but the others took a little longer and in some cases, really long. Of the 24, eight took 1-2 years, four took 3-4 years and four took more than 5 years. It definitely seems like pre-field is taking longer now than it used to take. Half of the newer missionaries have more than 45% support coming from individuals and half have more than 11 churches and half have less than 10 churches. There was much desire for a different system of support as 19 said they would rather have a 3-5 church system as opposed to 5 who liked the system we have right now.
My eyes popped when I first put out the survey, because the first 10 respondents said they had no monthly accountability from churches. But it ended as 60% saying they were not held accountable each month. I kind of regret saying monthly and wish I would have put bi-monthly or quarterly, although it may not have changed the results. I had a question about how many churches really partner with the missionary in ministry, which could really vary on the missionary’s definition of partnership, but 18% said no churches do, and 28% said that 1-2 churches do. Of course Dave Southwell said he has lots of churches who do! But not every missionary can be as cool as him! It seemed to me though that the church/missionary relationship has plenty of room to grow closer.
Overall, 2/3 of the participants said they would rather have a 3-5 church support system. 55% would be pleased with that change. 31% said they might be pleased with that change and 13% said they would not like it. Almost all thought it would take work.
One of the respondents told me about his situation in which he needed a lot of supporting churches because of the work he is in with planting churches. It takes a lot of money to plant multiple churches and so he needs a large pool of resources. He really helped me understand that perspective (and made me wonder if my perspective will change as we start planting churches this next term). I do however believe that most missionaries believe they would benefit greatly by traveling less when they are home and having great partnerships with churches that exceeded the churches just sending money.