What is the norm for raising support as a missionary?
Since the beginning of our ministry in Alaska, we have taken hundreds of people to serve there. In the process, we have learned many things. One is the diversity of perspectives that people have about how money is raised for sending people on our teams. Here are two different approaches to consider:
The Classic Missionary Model – Most people who come from missions minded churches immediately understand why we do what we do. The Bible gives us a glimpse into the missionary journeys of different people in the early Church. All of them were sent by local church leadership with the laying on of hands (that communicated representation). Frankly, most of the leadership in LightShine Ministries was taught from that missionary model – raising support by handing out support letters to family and friends – humbly being accountable to them as a sending church (or individual). Each of our team leaders make a support letter available for their team members to print out and give to their family and friends at church. Here is an example of what a support letter could look like:
The Self-Supported Volunteer Model – But we also have had people serve with us who do not approach paying for their trip by the “Classic Missionary Model” way. They have skills and simply want to help. Many of them choose to pay for the trip themselves and give a week of work because they feel it is the right thing to do.
Which way is better?
Obviously, the most important thing is that the money is there to pay for your trip. We all know that in the end, it’s all God’s money that He provided for you to do the work – whether it comes from you or from others. Giving it yourself reveals your heart is in the right place and God sees you act of love and will reward you for it (Matthew 25:40/2 Corinthians 5:9-11).
On the other hand, we have seen God work powerfully in people and actually blow their minds with His undeniable, supernatural provision when they made the choice not to just “pay it themselves” but, instead, seek out financial support from others in the Body of Christ. Our ministry staff believes it is very important for you to be involved in your local church and being accountable to them. We have seen people learn strong life lessons on trusting in God by totally relying on Him rather than simple writing out a check. But you will have to decide what you will do personally.
We are thankful that we live in a country that allows people that give money to faith based organizations like ours to benefit and receive a tax deduction. Because we are a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization registered with the IRS, any amount of money given to LightShine Ministries is tax deductible. Therefore, it is a benefit for anyone to support a team member. This official statement is required by us to post by the IRS:
LEGAL STATEMENT REQUIRED BY LAW: We are a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization registered with the Internal Revenue Service. All donations are tax deductible. Contributions are solicited with the understanding that LightShine International Ministries has complete discretion and control of all funds. However, we endeavor to honor all designations. The official registration and financial information of LightShine International Ministries may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free, within Pennsylvania, 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement. If you have any questions about this, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would encourage you to read more on our “Policies” page for more insight into how our organization works.
Where does the money go that you raise?
Every team has expenses to complete the assignment of the team. The obvious things are expenses like airline fees, ground transportation and the cost of food. It is our goal to set a price per person (serving on the team) in order to cover those expenses and also provide a “buffer” for the unexpected. Tools break, vehicles need maintenance, and our ministry base has many hidden costs that need to be provided for. Some of these include website domain, design and update changes, newsletters, graphic design, accounting fees, insurances, etc. and are just a “tip of the iceberg” in things we need to run this ministry. You should also know that part of each team member’s support total goes to pay a percentage of your team leader’s support because he/she has chosen to lead the team. With that responsibility comes a lot of work. Just like any business, we urge everyone to consider the amount of overhead we have and realize that the fee set per team member is designed to cover those expenses.
What if I come to Alaska on my own to work with LightShine? Or maybe I already live in Alaska and want to serve on a team?
Yes, we are beginning to see more and more people combine a personal vacation with working 40 hours in a week on one of our teams. Times are changing and LORD willing, LightShine will soon have facilities to connect more and more people with needs in Alaska. The Classic Missionary Model (described above) works. But we know that we will constantly need to re-evaluate our policies as we grow.
For example, in 2018 we had an individual pay their way to Alaska and spent 5 weeks working hard at our new property alongside other team members who raised their support through the traditional way. We simply gave that person a cost for meals (which they ate with the rest of the team) after the trip was completed. We have had other Alaskans work with our teams for years and we simply asked them to cover the cost of meals. Working in ministry is always an act of giving to the LORD. People need to understand that as an organization, we are simply trying to keep a machine in operation that is a “vehicle” for others to walk in the calling that God has chosen them to do.
Shouldn’t LightShine provide meals for people who come to work for them?
This is a mindset that we want to avoid. We are not a business using people’s time to charge for our work. Therefore, we cannot compensate them in exchange for what they do for us. Money comes in to LightShine Ministries by the generosity of people who give. Everyone that works with LightShine is putting money “into the pot” to pay for expenses related to them – whether through raising financial support or by giving the needed amount themselves. Some might ask, “But I see other ministries giving food and lodging”. Yes, that may be correct for certain ministries. We pray that someday we can be able to do that also. But the money for food and lodging has to be donated from somewhere. We need to continue to seek God in how we are to develop more of an income stream to accomplish these things. Our leadership would appreciate your prayer.
In the meantime, we hope this page has given you a better understanding why we expect people to give in order to serve with us.
Tom Denlinger (pictured here with his wife, Ruth) – Ministry Director