As our church was in the process of doing an audit of our Global Missions impact, I spent a year reading through scores of missionary and church planting letters sent to our church. Some of these letters were from missionaries we supported financially while some of them were from ministries we did not support. I was amazed at some of the trends I saw in these letters so I went back several months into the letters to see whether the trends I saw were outliers or consistent themes of each ministry.
I came to the following conclusions:
- Some missionaries are on the field doing the work of the Lord but don’t know how to write an effective support/prayer letter.
- Some missionaries know how to write a decent letter, but are not doing the job of Biblical missions.
- Few missionaries are doing a the work of the Lord and know how to write a great missionary letter.
These possibilities assume that the writers of the letters were honest. I realize there have been situations in which missionaries have written glowing letters including all of the things that pastors and churches want to hear, but upon a personal visit, it is evident that the letters were fiction. That is a shame. Nevertheless, I believe most servants of God are honest and deal truthfully as they preach the Truth and lift up Him Who is Truth. I have the utmost respect for any man God calls to the ministry until they prove themselves not respectable. If I believe God’s call is on their lives, that means He counted them faithful, putting them in the ministry. If God believes in them, I should too.
God’s call to ministry is holy and special. Missionary servants belong to God alone and will give an account to Him. Nothing in this article should be taken as judgmental or critical. I want each of God’s servants to get to the field as fast as He allows and then serve Him for a lifetime with enough financial/prayer support to make the biggest impact possible. Please accept the following thoughts from one country church pastor who has interacted with missionaries and church planters for many years.
When you go to a church to present your ministry, make sure you are honest with that church about your intentions once you get on the field. Tell them what you are going to do and how you going to do it. The support letter is your report of God’s work through you and your consistent accomplishement of what you told your supporters you planned to do.
Acts 14:27 “And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.”
If you take a church’s money to plant a church or minister on a foreign field, they expect you to be a representative of who they are as a church. I have had too many situations where we invest God’s money into people and ministries that later change their focus, doctrine, methods or standards and never tell us. It is unethical for you to take or continue taking money under false pretenses. Curtis Corner Baptist Church is not interested in starting anything but soul winning, separated, Christ-honoring, Holy living, Bible preaching Baptist churches. God set up creation for each organism to produce after its kind. Let Charismatics start Charismatic churches. Let Calvinists start Calvinist churches. Let Liberals start Liberal churches. Let Nondenominationalists start Nondenominational churches.
Too often ministries are birthed by faithful people and then taken over by liberals to be ruined once the baby is born, and the hard work of labor is over. If you have a significant change of doctrine, direction, or philosophy on the field, tell your supporters and let them decide if they want to be a part of your new direction. God will not bless dishonesty. If you believe so strongly in such a significant change, trust God to take care of you.
The foundation of a Great Missionary letter is its purpose. Why do you write these letters in the first place? What are you trying to communicate? To whom are you writing? What do plan for the letter to accomplish? When you answer these questions, your missionary letter is on a strong foundation.
I believe that purpose of the support letter is to provide supporting churches:
- A quick update on your family. Every church who supports you is not only supporting your ministry but also your family. We desire to know how everyone is doing and what is new. In a paragraph, give us a look into your home, health, and heart. However, don’t overdo it. Many support letters focus too much on the schools, family, vacations, furloughs, family pets and too little about preaching the Gospel, winning people to Christ, baptizing believers and starting churches. The Great Commission is why we are in the ministry! Don’t lose sight of it. Use Social Media or a blog to give more family information than a prayer letter can provide.
- A report of your ministry efforts and victories. Supporting churches need to know how the work is progressing. They are investing in God’s work through you so above all they want to hear what God is doing. If God isn’t doing anything worth writing about, then you have a bigger problem than learning how to write a support letter. Spend time in prayer and fasting and do not quit until God moves in you. Get a fresh anointing from God and go forth warning and winning souls in the power of the Spirit. God will give you something to write about!
- Prayer requests they can pray over. You are on the front lines of spiritual battle. Your supporters know that your life and ministry is not a bed of roses. Communicate your concerns, needs, and even failures without whining or complaining. You covet prayers. They want to pray. Be honest about your needs.
- A Bible verse and truth from your personal study that will challenge and encourage. You are a man of God. Leave your supporters with a nugget of truth that leaves them wishing for more. This truth substantiates your walk with God and gives them a taste of your teaching ministry.
- A sincere thank-you for their prayer and financial support. Don’t use the same close to your letter every time. Include a thoughtful and unique expression of gratitude in each issue of your support letter.
Remember that your prayer letter is your only regular communication with supporting churches. A great letter ministry will improve the amount and consistency of your prayer and financial support.
Thank you for serving God in the area to which He has called you. I thank God for you and pray He will add laborers like you to His harvest!
What do you think makes a great Missionary prayer and support letter? Leave your ideas in the comments.