This is the last of a three-part series exploring self-funding short-term missions. In this post, we explore whether you should consider self-funding your next mission trip. Read Part I and Part II of this series here.
An estimated 2 million people or more in the United States take short-term mission trips each year. If you’re one of them, or even if you’re considering long-term missionary service, should you try to pay part or all of your own costs? Should you fundraise for the whole amount?
“There’s really no best way to do it,” said John*, who uses seasonal work to cover the costs of his missions work in a creative-access country. “It depends on the situation you’re in.”
It seems right that discerning this question should begin with prayer. In some cases, God may strongly lead you to forgo fundraising and try to save up for a trip yourself. Short-term missionaries interviewed for this series suggested that the next question you ask should be, “Am I able to do this?”
Some jobs lend themselves to self-funded missions. Teachers and anyone working on an academic calendar, for example, can use their summers both to earn a little extra income and take a short-term trip. Working for two summers in a row might yield enough earnings to take an extended trip the following summer.
Individuals with skills that lend themselves to freelancing or contract work can also earn extra income on the side to put toward a mission trip. If the trip is longer than a few months, and the local infrastructure offers reliable electricity and Internet access, freelance work could even go with you to help fund a longer-term period of service. We know of a missionary serving with Youth With A Mission who supports herself working as a hairdresser.
For serving in creative-access regions that may be unfriendly toward missionaries, it’s worth considering a portable profession that could get you to the region where you want to serve. Most don’t issue visas to missionaries anyway, so you’ll need some valid (usually work-related) reason to be there. Think technology (programming and web development), teaching, or business. Most missions agencies like TEAM work with missionaries to secure professional work visas even if they do have to raise support. But finding a paying job that can take you into restrictive countries — also known as “tentmaking” — could provide both the visa and the funding.
Even if you do self-fund your mission trip, John recommends that you still work to build a relationship with churches and a support network, as well as a missions agency like TEAM. Having that kind of community is essential to having an effective ministry abroad, even if you don’t raise support. And you never know when you may need that network down the road if you transition to long-term service and do find yourself someday raising support.
“You still want to have that connection with the body and with the agency,” he said. “You’re going to want to be in communication with other people.”
For those who are able to cover their own costs for a mission trip, there is really just one key: Ultimately, you must choose to invest extra income in your mission trip rather than in, say, a new television. Make no mistake, it is a sacrifice for ministry — the same type of sacrifice that faithful missions supporters make all the time.
Although for his part, John thinks of his decision to self-fund less as a sacrifice, and more of an investment in what he hopes will be a future of long-term service.
“I’m planning to live abroad most of my life,” he said. “I just looked at being out in the field and gaining experience as investing.”
*Last name omitted to protect identity.
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