Church Plants and Missions: A Framework: Termination; Pay

Termination

  • Should the missionary fail to adhere to the moral and spiritual standards that apply to all our ministers, we may, at our discretion, cease all support immediately without severance.

It’s a sad truth that sometimes you have to fire a minister or missionary. This language comes from a covenant that a missionary proposed to us, and I suppose it works well enough. The fact is that we’d likely be a little more generous to the missionary than one a on-site minister just because it’s so very hard for a missionary to find alternative support once the church cuts him off. I mean, he’s in the wrong country to do fund raising.

I think most churches tend to cut their missionaries quite a bit of slack when it comes to performance just out of appreciation for the very challenging work they’ve taken on. Rather, where congregations tend to be most unfair to the missionary is where they cut the missionary off for purely financial reasons — such as a desire to build a new building or a decline in contributions.

  • Should we terminate our support of a missionary before the expiration of the term of our commitment, other than for a failure to adhere to the moral or spiritual standards that apply to all our ministers, and not by mutual agreement with the missionary, we will continue the missionary’s salary for six months or until he or she secures other support or employment, whichever come first.

This policy statement covers what happens if we have to cut support for a reason other than firing him or her for performance or moral issues. The church should definitely be committed to a very generous severance arrangement, as the missionary will likely have to come stateside and work for months seeking alternative support. If more than six months notice can be given, the church should do so. I think the church should pay six months pay, at least, even if it delays a needed building program.

  • Should the mission be terminated by mutual agreement, other than for a failure to adhere to the moral or spiritual standards that apply to all our ministers —
    • We will establish a fund to provide for reentry into the USA.  This fund will be used solely for the costs of setting up a household in the USA or other mutually agreed location.
    • Expenses incurred for this purpose will be paid based on invoices provided, up to the amount of the fund.
    • Upon his or her return to the USA or other mutually agreed location, we will continue the missionary’s salary for six months or until the missionary secures other support or employment, whichever come first.

Re-entry is an area that churches and missionaries don’t think that much about. The missionary may intend to stay 10 or more years in the foreign country, and to a 20-year old, that seems like forever. The church may have no experience with re-entering missionaries.

Missionaries often struggle a lot when they come back to the US. A 30-year old missionary might have been the virtual pastor of his church overseas. At home, he won’t have the autonomy and freedom he’s used to, because he’ll have to work within a structure of elders, deacons, preachers, committees, etc. even in a smaller church.

If he’s been gone for long at all, he’ll suffer some culture shock. He may be astonished at the relative luxury and ease of American life, at the difficulty of getting a job, and how much of the popular culture he no longer knows. He and his wife will have lost committed friends and a way of life. Coming back is hard.

When they return, they need encouragement, love, and support. The sponsoring church shouldn’t leave them high and dry.

Pay

  • The church and missionary will agree on the desired amount of the missionary’s pay to be raised.

Many churches have the attitude that their concern is purely what they pay to the missionary, and so the missionary is free to raise whatever money he wishes. This is a bad idea. The sponsoring church has a responsibility to oversee the missionary’s work, and the amount he is paid is part of it.

  • All gifts and support will be paid to the church and remitted by the church to the missionary.

No church should agree to be the sponsoring church unless all support and work funds flow through the church. The church can’t know whether the missionary is being fairly paid unless it knows the total picture. And the other churches are expecting the sponsoring church to know.

Moreover, missions team members should be aware of the missionary’s total compensation. What he makes from other sources is not a secret and not private. Rather, it’s their responsibility to know. And they have an obligation to issue an accurate Form 1099 to the missionary and the IRS. They can’t do this if the missionary is collecting funds from other sources.

  • No donations in excess of that pay (directly to the missionary or through the church) will be allowed unless the donations are added to the work fund.

That means the missionary can’t get himself or herself a raise by doing fundraising outside the sponsoring church. His pay should be what the missionary and sponsoring church agree, not whatever the missionary can raise. We don’t want the missionary chasing dollar when he ought be chasing souls, but neither do we want him to be under paid. He’s entitled to a fair compensation package.

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7 Responses to Church Plants and Missions: A Framework: Termination; Pay

  1. Rich W says:

    Jay,

    I am enjoying this series on Missions. I have recently been spending significant time with missiologists.

    Question:
    Are you (your congregation) supporting any native missionaries or have any plans to do so?

  2. Laymond says:

    First things first, I could never with good conscience send a twenty year old to lead a conversion mission.
    Talk about "age of accountability" some things should only be trusted to the age of experience, even those at the age of thirty are pushing the envelope somewhat if you ask me. Yeah I know the age at which Jesus is said to have began his mission, but I doubt we have many like him. (he had inside help) If we are going to send one person or one family , I believe we should raise the age, and lower the term, we would see better results , in my opinion. I believe we get better, more dedicated preachers if the term is somewhere around five yrs. I believe when a preacher stays past his enthusiasm a church suffers from his burnout, here or on mission.

  3. JMF says:

    Laymond said:

    Yeah I know the age at which Jesus is said to have began his mission, but I doubt we have many like him. (he had inside help)

    END LAYMOND

    You have "inside help" too, Laymond! The indwelling of the Holy Spirit! :)

  4. mark says:

    I like the idea of supporting missionaries and ministers I don't like the “sad truth” about hiring and firing. I understand we are 2000 years on this side of the cross and we in America like to have our thumb on the man. But I don't think it means anything other than a power trip. There's got to be a better way to do ministry than to formulate it into some type of at will contract or capitalist system. Does a salary have the Spirit to accomplish the goals in our eyes? I mean do really think we are throwing our pearls before the swine if a our subjects don't meet our expectations? It seems to me more harm has been done to the church by firing than anything else. The message is convoluted whether justified or not. There is just something about being an expendable employee that puts the average church goer on edge. Whats next will we let go of our volunteers!

  5. Jay Guin says:

    Rich W,

    We support native missionaries in India and in Switzerland, US missionaries in Malawi, Romania, and Ireland. While the outline I'm posting doesn't address the question, I agree that we need to support native missionaries where the opportunities exist. They know the local culture, language, and people far better than we ever will — and the idea that only an American can preach the gospel well is, of course, absurd but often assumed in the way we run our programs.

  6. Jay Guin says:

    Mark,

    The alternative is to grant missionaries tenure and make them unfire-able — which we often do. I mean, it's very common for churches to refuse to make the hard decision to evaluate a missionary and so they support a man who is ineffective for year after year — which is no favor to God, the lost, or the missionary.

    Of course, other churches fire a man without warning because the chair of missions committee changes or they hear a rumor that the missionary believes in the Spirit's indwelling. That's wrong, too.

    The in-between position — the better position — is to hold him accountable and to work with him to overcome whatever problems he's facing. That may be a matter of re-training, or encouragement, or changing mission fields, or even administering a kick in the pants. We all should be accountable. But if it turns out the missionary doesn't really have the gifts he needs to do the work, or if he refuses to accept coaching, mentoring, and training, the sponsoring church is a steward of God's money and must deal responsibly. There are lots of good, effective missions hurting for money and supporting churches. Why spend the Lord's money foolishly when you can spend it wisely?

    The fact we sometimes must fire a man or woman doesn't mean we have to do it harshly or unfairly. But we do have to be wise with the gifts God gives us.

  7. mark says:

    It is nearly impossible justified or not to hold to a relationship and fire at the same time. There got to be other alternatives.

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