Church Plants and Missions: A Framework: Commitment Term; Communications; Finances

Commitment term

  • Except as noted above, we will make no commitments to missionaries for longer than 5 years, with 3 years being preferred.

One of the tougher questions a missions team must wrestle with is how long to commit to a new missionary. You have to give the missionary enough time to proof himself or herself. Many mission fields are notoriously slow to develop. No missionary accomplishes much immediately. It just takes time to learn the culture, master the language, etc.

A missionary will properly want to be assured that the church will give him or her time to be successful. It’s not easy to raise new funds from across the world, and so a missionary needs to have funds committed for more than one year at a time — as a rule.

But no one deserves a lifetime contract. We must all be accountable. Some missionaries who were effective at the beginning lose their zeal. And few churches have the resources to guarantee that support will be available indefinitely.

We’ve therefore set a policy of normally committing to three years of support, but being willing to extend that to five years in some circumstances. Experience shows that to be about right. It doesn’t mean we’ll cut support at the end of three or five years; but we’ll take a fresh look at our commitment at that time.


  • We will appoint a member of the mission team as the primary contact person with whom the missionary should communicate.  This is intended to facilitate but not to restrict his or her communications with our members. The contact person is responsible for passing on prayer requests, reports, and other items appropriate for the congregation, our eldership, and the mission team.
  • The missionary should send activity reports to the team at least quarterly (monthly for the first 12 months).

Communications are much easier if there’s a defined path. If everyone is responsible, no one is responsible. Therefore, each missionary will be told who at the church is his primary contact. That person is responsible for making sure word gets where it needs to go.

Activity reports from the missionary are essential, both as a matter of accountability and as a way to encourage the church to take ownership and be an encouragement for the missionaries.


  • Missions will operate on a fiscal year from Mission Sunday to Mission Sunday.

Our church normally uses a calendar-year fiscal year, but because we raise all our missions money by a one-time contribution, it’s easier to budget missions from Missions Sunday to Missions Sunday.

  • We will be sensitive to the shifting value of the euro and other foreign currencies when setting the amount of our support.

Any missions team has to be aware of the problems created by the shifting values of the euro against the dollar. Here’s a chart comparing the value of a euro (blue squiggly line) to one dollar from 1999 to 2004 —

File:EUR-USD 1999-2004.pngYou can’t help but notice the huge swings in value over a 5-year term. The relationship of the two currencies remains volatile — and this is not unique to euros. In fact, it’s entirely possible for the dollars a church commits to a missionary to lose half its value over a few years. And while few churches can guarantee against the risk of a falling dollar, we do need to be sensitive to the problem and help as best we can.

So I was curious about the possibility of a church hedging currency risk — and it’s entirely possible. Here’s an article — and don’t ask me any questions. I don’t know much about this. But there’s an easy solution. If you plan to pay your missionary $20,000 during 2011 and you are concerned that the US dollar might lose value as against the euro (theoretically a 50/50 bet), then work with a major bank to invest $20,000 worth of euros in a euro-denominated money market fund. Then the missionary gets paid in euros at January 1, 2011 prices! Easy — if you work with a big enough bank. Just make sure you’re getting a fair exchange rate.

Obviously, hedging your currency risks can work against you. The dollar could just as easily go up. But I suspect most missionaries would rather be insured against the downside than bet on the upside. So it’s something to consider — if you have enough cash available to put your missionary’s money on deposit at the beginning of the year. And, obviously enough, you could hedge several years worth of euros this way if you have the cash.

In many third-world countries, of course, the dollar spends better than the local currency, so there’s not much exchange rate risk. It’s something you may want to discuss with the missionaries you support.

  • We would prefer to support fewer missions than to support our missions inadequately

I think this is critical principle. It’s wrong to send someone to a foreign land, wholly dependent on your support, and not support them adequately. Christians don’t advantage of others. It’s just that simple.

God wants the lost converted, but not at the price of treating fellow Christians unfairly.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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