Jack, How do I go about building a financial support base for missions? When should I start? Laura
Laura, the time factor is probably related to how long you plan to go for and thus how much you need to raise, whether it’s a two week mission trip or a term of 3 years. If the latter, I would say at least a year.
Before you begin, I think it is important to recognize that securing financial backing is much more than money. It is establishing a “support team,” a group of people who will be concerned for you as a person, your ministry, your welfare, and your protection. For some, perhaps their major contribution will be financial. For others, it may be prayer. Still others will write you and listen to you carefully as you describe your experiences and then give you feedback. Some will do all three.
Secondly, it is important to recognize that the task is not just an exercise in marketing. If God has called you, the seal of this call will be the provision of your need – in all the areas I have mentioned above. Thus, the way to begin will be to spend time in prayer, asking the Lord to guide you in all the steps you will take: to show you whom you should approach, how you should communicate, and what to do in times of discouragement. For the Lord, finances are no problem. His greatest difficulty is getting our attention and teaching us to depend on Him.
As for contacts, begin with the people who know you best: family, close friends, members of your church, people you have ministered to and with, etc. The people who will have the greatest interest in supporting you will be the people who have received spiritual help from you. They know your value.
I would talk to your pastor. Explain your call, the organization you will be going with, and the whole process they use for receipting gifts. If he is enthusiastic about your plans, he may introduce you to the missions committee and/or give you an opportunity to share your vision with the church in one way or another.
I would recommend that you purchase People Raising. A Practical Guide to Raising Support by William P. Dillon. Amazon.com has it for $10.oo. It should answer most of your questions.
May the Lord who called you, show you how to experience His full provision. Growing your faith through seeing Him provide for you will be wonderful preparation for trusting Him when you move into your cross-cultural mission experience.