Question about Funding for missionaries:
"Where do missionaries get money to live on when they return home after serving or between assignments? Do you ask supporters to continue to provide for you?"
There are several answers to where a missionary gets money [to live on during time off]; it's unique to the individual, her sending church and family, supporters, and the missionary's marketable skills outside of evangelism. First, pray and ask God to bring to mind these financial considerations. Saving, planning, and communicating with others is critical. Consult a financial professional about your career plans.
- Let your support team and family know when you will be returning to your home country and what your need may be.
- Develop other marketable skills other than evangelism. Keep up your own professional designations in your home country.
- Purchase real estate with a family member so that you have some equity when you return and possibly a place to live.
If you are twenty-five, this is VERY DIFFICULT to think about, but when you are thirty-five and have completed years in ministry, you will be grateful to have already started on this.
Missionaries who return home after serving, if they retire, are another story. Many missions have provided retirement funds, raised during the career of the missionary, and that, with social security (assuming SS has been paid out of support) give the retiree money to live on. In the past retired missionaries didn't have this kind of a pension, and churches continued to support them.
Retirement funds are another good question to ask when inquiring with an agency (and setting a budget): "When I retire, and churches/individuals no longer want to support me because they'd like their money going to younger workers, will I have enough to live on?"
If you complete a commitment and are resigning from your position and moving on to other things, you may be able to continue receiving support for at least a brief season. Think of it as sort of a "severance" to provide for you while you seek out or prepare for what's next. But it may be only one month's salary. So yes, you'll need to be faithful about looking for and finding a new job if you have bills to pay!
Missionaries who do not have adequate support or who have been overwhelmed by unexpected expenses may continue to ask their supporters for help for another reason: they may find themselves "in debt" to the agency which has been covering for their low support or unexpected costs. So, while the missionary doesn't continue to receive a salary, he or she continues to raise support to pay back their agency.
All of this reinforces three good practices to keep in mind:
1. Don't let your bank account or support level drop to the point where you don't have a buffer to cover for surprise expenses, a low month or two of giving, or a significant change in your ministry that requires you to leave the field.
2. Don't be a lone-ranger missionary; make sure you have a reliable relationship network, agency, and/or sending church structure. In times of crisis and transition, you'll be glad you aren't alone.
3. If you go out with an agency, ask questions about their policies or practices regarding money and missionaries in transition.
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