choosy givers choose gef
by Barry Simpson
To learn more about the restructuring of the Free Will Baptist International Missions funding system read Barry's article Fork in the Road.
I had been with the Mission for about nine months when I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Matt and Cristina Price, missionaries to France. They had just returned to the States prematurely because of an account deficit. As they shared about their work in St. Herblain, it was obvious they were heartbroken over having to leave their ministry to return stateside and raise funds.
To make matters worse, a major part of their deficit was due to the devaluation of the U.S. dollar against the euro. The tears they shed in my presence that day powerfully substantiated that something had to be done to change the current system. I sensed a quiet confirmation from the Lord concerning my decision to help.
At the heart of the new funding system is a desire on the part of the board and mission leadership to exercise their responsibility to be faithful stewards of the resources entrusted to them. These resources are not just financial; they also include one of our greatest resources, our missionaries.
The new funding system will enable our missionaries to focus their gifts, energies, and time on their ministries. They will no longer be distracted by personal account balances; nor will they be called away from their ministry at unscheduled and inopportune times (as Matt and Cristina were) to raise funds for dwindling personal account balances.
Another strength of the new funding system is the ability of the board and leadership to strategically direct funds where they are needed most. Working in concert with our field chairmen, regional directors, and the deputy director of field operations, the board and staff can direct funds to fuel church planting movements where there are few or no missionaries, to open new fields, or to train and send new missionaries.
In the past, there have been times when a crisis in one of our works may have been averted if a retired missionary could have been sent to intervene. In the new funding system that type of intervention can take place without the delay of raising funds specifically for that purpose.
Again, at the heart of this change is stewardship; taking the resources entrusted to the Mission and wisely using them to get the gospel to those who have not had the opportunity to hear.
The denomination’s overwhelming vote to endorse the board’s plan for the funding system at the convention in West Virginia was a clear signal, that as a denomination, we are prepared to work in harmony to send each approved missionary to his place of assignment and provide funds collectively to keep him there. The same kind of harmony and synergy will be true on the field as well. Because missionaries will no longer be required to build and fund their own independent “franchises,” they can work cooperatively to maximize their efforts for regional church-planting strategies.
Missionaries will return to the States for scheduled and well-planned stateside assignments, resulting in more stability on the field among missionary teams, churches, and national workers. Strategic stateside assignments will help us broaden the base of support, educate the constituency, and motivate people to become more involved in missions. In some cases, the most strategic use of stateside missionaries may, in fact, be in a non-fundraising capacity.
On Wednesday, September 17, 2000, General Director James Forlines stood before a group of road weary missionaries and said, “Buy your tickets.” With those three words, a new era ushered its way into Free Will Baptist International Missions. Five couples and one single lady sat stunned, many with tears running down their faces.
Hours later, once the words sank in, they erupted into spontaneous applause and cheers. “For the first time since the individual missionary account system was implemented over 40 years ago, we are able to send our workers based on definitive priorities,” Forlines revealed. “We’re sending these men and women back to their places of assignment because we need them there more than we need them here.” As we move into 2010, we can assess field needs and other strategic factors to make the best decision for the missionary and for the work.
The board has set the launch date of the new funding system for January 1, 2010. From that day forward the Mission will operate under the new system. What follows is an explanation of how the new system is structured and how it will function.
The Global Evangelism Fund (GEF) will be funded by undesignated gifts from individuals and churches, the World Missions Offering, and over-funded SMP accounts. The GEF, in turn, will underwrite:
personal costs for all missionary personnel (salary, insurance, retirement, children’s education, etc.)
all administrative costs
costs on fields with few or no missionaries.
It is extremely important that individuals and churches who are currently supporting missionaries on a monthly basis, quarterly basis, or in any other systematic way continue their support through the GEF. The GEF not only pays the salary and benefits of our current missionaries, the strength of the GEF will be a key factor in determining how many new missionaries can be sent out.
One aspect of the current system we want to keep is the connection that individuals and churches have with particular missionaries. Gifts may be given “in honor of” a particular missionary. When an “in honor of” gift is received, the missionary will be notified in a monthly report, enabling that relationship to continue and deepen as the missionary communicates with the supporter.
Along with the continued systematic giving of churches and individuals, the annual World Missions Offering (WMO) will greatly influence the strength of the GEF. The importance of this offering cannot be overstated and we implore each of our churches to take part.
The Changing the World coin banks and DVDs will continue to be utilized as part of the WMO. The coin banks are a great way to encourage children and young people to catch a vision for missions giving early in life; a Christian discipline we want them to practice all their lives. The coin banks and WMO DVD’s are provided free to every participating church and are great tools to cast the vision and challenge people to give sacrificially to the WMO each April.
Strategic Ministry Partnerships
A Strategic Ministry Partnership (SMP) is a unique and dynamic bond between a missionary and a local church. The SMP has the potential to develop and strengthen the relationship between a local congregation and a missionary as they work in partnership to fulfill the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ.
While involving a financial commitment from the partnering church, the heart of the SMP concept is relationship. As with all important relationships, this one has responsibilities and rich rewards for both the missionary and the partnering church.
Overfunded SMP accounts will overflow into the GEF and underfunded ones will be supplemented from the GEF. It is important to remember that the GEF funds the personal expenses for all missionaries. SMP accounts will undergo an annual audit to determine which, if any, funds will flow into or out of the GEF.
How You Can Advance Success
Our missionaries and the lost people to whom they are sent depend upon the people who make up the Free Will Baptist movement to continue their faithful support. You can do four things to help as we approach the 2010 launch date:
Pray for the success of the new funding system and ongoing church planting efforts.
Be prepared to transition your current giving to the Global Evangelism Fund (GEF).
Become an advocate of the new system within your church.
Rejoice that the new system will enable all Free Will Baptists to support every international missionary.
The board and mission leadership are committed to faithful stewardship and strategic use of the resources entrusted to them. This new funding plan enables them to fulfill that commitment in the process of fulfilling the Mission’s stated purpose of facilitating church planting movements overseas.
I had the privilege of being in that September 2008 meeting, mentioned above, when General Director Forlines told that dedicated group of tired missionaries to buy their tickets. As I looked around the room, I saw tears being wiped away. Matt and Cristina Price were among those with tear-stained faces. I was thrilled to see they were some of the first to benefit from the vote to change the funding system.
They worked hard and traveled many miles during their stateside assignment. While they were close to having the necessary funds to return to France, it was great to see the relief they experienced knowing they would definitely return to their ministry early in 2009.
About the Writer: Barry Simpson has been director of development for Free Will Baptist International Missions since 2007. More information about the restructure of the funding system, GEF, and SMPs can be found at www.fwbgo.com/funding.