At least once a year, I try to meet with the missions pastor, missions committee, or key contact of every one of our partnering churches. I was put in an awkward position last week when I met with the missions pastor of one of our partnering churches. We had a good time catching up on what God was doing at his church and through our work at UT.
Later in the conversation this pastor asked me if I knew much about two of the other UT missionaries they support. I knew a good bit about what one of them was doing and nothing at all about the other one. It does not really matter if I know about what they are doing on campus, but it REALLY matters if the missions pastor of a partnering church does not know what they are doing.
No Communication = No Funding
It’s really hard for me to understand why we, missionaries, do not regularly communicate with our donors. These are the people we’re entrusting to pray for us. We need them. It should be our joy to tell them what God is doing with their resources through our ministry.
If it is not our joy, then I dare say we don’t really view them as partners in ministry. Instead we are just using them for the money they can give us. This may or may not be the attitude of our hearts, but that does not matter. What matters is how one’s lack of communication is interpreted by the donor.
In this case, I got the feeling that the missions pastor was leaning toward cutting these non-communicating missionaries off. If a missions committee or a family is considering making cuts to their giving, it’s almost always the non-communicating missionaries that get cut. I speak from personal experience, because I have done so myself.
Let me suggest the following simple rhythm as a pattern to follow.
- Weekly: Send a short email (3-6 sentences) that gives an update on what you are doing that week and how they can pray into it with you.
- Monthly: Send a brief letter (one page on letterhead) that gives and update on what you were doing last month and how they can pray for the month ahead. This can just go out to your monthly partners, not your whole mailing list.
- Quarterly: Send a longer letter (two pages with photos and stories) that gives a quarterly overview and/or preview. For campus ministries, previews can be sent in August and February and overviews can be sent in December and May.
- Annually: Contact every partner personally. Have a personal email exchange, a text message exchange, a phone call, or a face to face conversation once a year. Write a thank you note or include a lengthy personal note in one of your newsletters.
This Is Ministry
I’ve heard missionaries say, “Well I don’t have time to communicate because it takes away from the ministry.” That statement reveals the extent of their misunderstanding. Building a partnership team is part of the ministry. Building and cultivating relationships with partners who give and pray into the ministry is part of what makes their ministry work. It is not something they have to do in order to do ministry, it is part of the ministry. If they really believe that, they will begin to treat their partners differently.
** Next week I will give a few tips on how to best communicate with partners.
Justin Christopher is the national campus director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Project and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.