Whether or not we raise your own financial support, there is a team of people who invest deeply in our ministries through prayer and often finances. Our work is so dependent on this powerful team for its effectiveness. We are here in Finland on a visa trip right now, away from our hands-on ministry to Russians, and one of the things that God has enabled us to do with this time is to invest in praying for and communicating with our supporters and to truly treasure the blessing that they are to us. As I sit here looking at all of these names and pictures, my heart is overwhelmed at how amazing God is to send us out with the support and prayers of so many faithful individuals who have a heart both for our work and our family. How terrible it would be if we were sent out alone without this powerful support backing us! Could we even survive? With all of the obstacles that we face in ministry and just in life in general, it takes all of about 5 minutes on the field to understand why we are all called to spend significant time raising up a team who will join alongside us in this ministry either in prayer or prayer and finances and why we need to constantly relay our prayer needs back to them.
But, the whole concept of “out of sight out of mind” can so easily have its effect on this partnership from both ends. If we don’t have reminders around us of those who are supporting us from back “home,” we can forget that we are in fact only one part of an entire powerful team doing this work, and if they don’t have ways to remember us, they can forget and stop praying for and partnering in our ministries. I wanted both as an encouragement to you and also to myself to take this post and list some ideas for fostering healthy relationships with our supporters.
Keeping our supporters close to our hearts:
–Pray for them! We ask them to pray a ton for our work, and we have the privilege of praying for them as well! We can pray generally, but it is also great to pray specifically, which means that we need to take time to find out specific needs. Here are some ideas to foster more prayer for your support team:
-Have their photos up on your computer screen saver and pray as you see them scroll through throughout the day
-Have a list that you pray thorough systematically. Printing out your newsletter address list is an good and easy way to make sure you don’t miss anyone. You can also break up the list by week and pray through it systematically to make sure you pray for everyone.
-As you pray for your supporters, occasionally write them a post card to tell them that you’ve thought of them and held them up in prayer.
-Follow their blogs and ask people to include you in their Christmas letter mailing. Search for your ministry partners on Facebook.
-As you send out email updates, ask people to respond by sending you one specific prayer request. Compile them and post them up in your house until you send out your next email, and then do the same again.
-If your sending churches send out a prayer chain email, make sure you are on that list so you can pray for the needs of the church and its members.
Helping your supporters keep you and the ministry close to their hearts:
-Send out regular newsletters! So many of us fail in this way, but how can they be praying if they don’t know what our needs are?
-Send postcards or pictures of where you live. Having a visual will help foster prayer.
-Send out family photos or photo magnets.
-Bring back small gifts or souvenirs and ask people to pray as the see them. On our last furlough we brought back Russian coins. They weren’t of much monetary value, but we asked people to put them in a frequently used drawer or on a desk, or somewhere where they would see it often and be reminded to pray.
-Post prayer requests on Facebook. I have noticed that more and more of our supporters are on Facebook these days! I have also seen a number of other missionaries creating groups on Facebook for their supporters. This is a good way to use technology to keep our ministry partners informed and praying.
-Express gratefulness! Of course we should always send thank you notes when we receive financial support and such, but we should express our gratefulness at other times as well for the faithful prayers and encouragement that our supporters invest. This can be done in many different ways, whether it be in newsletters, individual notes, emails, phone calls, by bringing gifts, etc. We need to make sure to express the thankfulness that we feel!
-Utilize a ministry/family blog! The more ways that our supporters have to keep up with what God is doing through their mutual work, the better! Praise God for technology!
-Throw “Thank you” parties when you are on home assignment to appreciate your ministry partners and share about the work they have invested in.
As usual, this list is far from being exhaustive! Please encourage your fellow sisters in Christ with other ideas that you have!