Article also available on Connect Magazine…
Everyone would agree that the way we used to do things ten years ago is massively different from the way we do things today. There is no guarantee that what worked with a previous generation will be as effective with a new one. This is especially true in a missions context. Being involved with missions for the last fifteen years, I have seen some very interesting ways in which people are raising funds for the causes they believe in. I can still recall the first day I realised that my life was going to be different from that of a traditional missionary, and I had to walk away from the norm into the unknown. Financial security was not a given, and the possibility of entering a new month without any finances was a huge possibility. After seeking counsel, reading numerous books and talking to many veteran missionaries, my journey started. I used my best writing skills, gathered the greatest photos available, and designed a newsletter explaining what I was about to do. I requested various forms of support from different people. Because many people knew about the importance of sending the gospel to all, and because they already had busy schedules, it was easier for them to give and to allow me to do the witnessing on their behalf.
As time went by and the Matthew 28 message made it clear that we were all to be involved in preaching the gospel, even in our workplaces, things started to change. A new generation was emerging. Significantly this generation realised that we have to move beyond talking, and be the change. No longer was it about ‘me doing it and them funding it’. Today, mission opportunities are emerging daily and young people are way more interested in being part of the experience than in funding a traditional missionary to do it.
For missions organisations this presents a huge challenge. Many such organisations have over the years developed complex structures to ensure they have the ‘big boat to shoot the cannon from’. Our own organisation used to think that we needed to increase in size if we wanted to do more (of course, with that came the responsibility of securing sufficient office space as well as the required financial support). We had what we thought were some of the best worked out plans and execution strategies… but no-one was interested in committing financially to them. We quickly discovered that there were many young people interested in making a difference, but very few willing to contribute financially to it. They all agreed that the need exists and that something needs to be done, but the difference was that they wanted to do it, and not ‘pay’ us to it.
That realisation led us to get involved in a project which would reshape our entire way of thinking about missions. Instead of being the one ‘doing’, our organisation became a platform from which it can ‘be done’. Suddenly we saw a huge increase in commitment, and where we once thought there was little to no money left for missions, even students were by themselves able find the resources needed. The key lies in giving them the opportunity and platform to move from.
In a nutshell, what is actually happening today is that ‘small has become the new big’.
As I write, we have seen more than 2000 young people making use of the various platforms from within Focus Team Leadership Training (FTLT) – and although we have physically seen very little of it coming through our financial books, millions of rands have been raised for missions.
I have no doubt that the traditional way of financing and raising support for missions has changed and will probably undergo more changes in the years to come. What we have realised is that people are no longer looking for the big boats; instead they are searching for the harbours in which to park their own.