When we picture missionaries, we often think of simple lives, free of material pursuits, focused entirely on God. But even the most frugal, godly missionary has to pay for airfare, language classes and every other normal expense of daily living. So, where does a missionary’s money come from?
There are two main ways missionaries get paid: a salary or self-funding.
Missions agencies generally choose one for all of their missionaries to use. And while there are pros and cons to both models, the goal is the same: to bring God’s salvation message to the ends of the earth.
Missionaries Who Serve on Salary
Salaried missionaries are usually backed by a church denomination. The denomination or sending agency does the fundraising and missionaries are paid accordingly.
This can take the financial burden off the missionary, allowing them to focus on their ministries. When missionaries return on home assignment (or furlough), they may be required to speak at a certain number of churches or conferences. However, they won’t have the pressure of asking for personal support.
On the downside, this model removes some face-to-face relationships missionaries might have with financial and prayer supporters. Life on the mission field will always have its challenges, and the people back home can give us strength and encouragement when we need it most.
If you go with an agency that will pay you a salary, make sure you still put in the effort to build an independent prayer team. Send regular newsletters so they know how to pray for you and how to support you when you return from the mission field.
Missionaries Who Raise Support
Many missions agencies, like TEAM, require missionaries to raise their own financial support. This means asking friends, family and churches to financially support your living and ministry expenses before you get to the mission field.
For most people, asking for money sounds like one of the most intimidating things they could do — even more intimidating than packing their bags and moving to the other side of the world as a missionary! The good news is, many agencies have dedicated staff and resources to help you accomplish this task.
For example, TEAM missionaries get ongoing coaching from TEAM staff. They also get to join an online peer group, where they can share their joys and struggles in raising support with people who understand.
Curious what fundraising with TEAM can look like? Here are a few resources we share with missionaries from all organizations!
At TEAM, missionaries are encouraged to see raising support as a real and important part of their ministry. It allows you to invite people into your ministry in a way earning a salary doesn’t.
Here’s what we mean: Let’s say you’re going to use basketball to disciple teens in Italy. Many people back home may never get this kind of opportunity. But when you invite them to join your support team, they get to actively participate in your work. They can see how their generosity directly impacts others’ ability to hear the Gospel.
On the flipside, you get to clearly see God’s provision in your work. You see your dependence on Him to work in people’s hearts and lead them to action. And this understanding will shape the way you minister abroad.
As you raise support, you’ll also get to build personal relationships with all of your donors. You get to disciple people in biblical stewardship. When you ask for financial support, you get to tell your story and, therefore, God’s story.
You’re building a team back home that will be there for you. They’ll be praying for you and your ministry because they’re invested in the work.
Which Way is Right for You?
There’s no right way for missionaries to get paid. As you look into Christian missions agencies, ask God for direction. Talk with your church about your calling and ask them to help you find the best fit for your situation.
Talk with missions agencies about the resources they’ll provide you. Do they offer coaching in raising support? What kind of salary do they expect missionaries to live on? Are any current missionaries with the agency willing to share about their experience?
Ultimately, know that whichever way you choose, God is your provider. If His plan for the nations includes you on the mission field, He will bring it to pass.