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Funding for mission and ministry is always a bit of a struggle for me. One part of me feels that those who undertake ministry in any form full time should be due an income so that they can feed their families and live. Makes sense: the priests had no property yet were taken care of by the community.

When we look at biblical mission its more confusing. Which is truer? That the worker is worthy of his pay, (1 Tim 5.18) or that we worked and laboured amongst you so that we would not a burden on any (1Thess 2.9)?

 

“HARVEST TIME” by sophie is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

When it comes to mission particularly I really struggle. I can’t help get rid of that nagging feeling that for me to continue doing mission I have to ask the people to whom I have presented the gospel to then pay for me. Because somewhere in my head it works out that I am telling you about Jesus with the knowledge that I will then ask them for money. Which, when you need a certain amount to survive, adds up to I can only continue in minister if you convince enough people to become Christians so that they can give…which then becomes results focussed, and incredibly agenda driven. Which is why, I think, so many people involved in mission get support from home to go elsewhere.

But in the world of pioneer ministry when it starts with a grant fund and then the expectation that once that runs out you pay your own way, its not a nice situation to find yourself in. There is no money from home.

Support in the gospels

In the gospels there are a couple of principles at work. One, there were the women who looked after Jesus and the disciples from their own pockets (Luke 8.1-2). The second is the sending out of the 72 (luke 10.1-23) who had to go humbly, relying on the giving of the people of peace. (The argument is often given that we rely on God, but I see it more that it becomes a partnership).

However the big modern day issue is how much money you need. And that many of us have families. And we live in an expensive part of the world.

Gets more complex.

So I have been thinking about other models.

the patron supporter

At the beginning of 2016 I started in earnest looking to replace the grant funding that I have until October 2018. One of the ways I had toyed with was to create a Patreon.com page. https://www.patreon.com/onegraydot, and then went on to to. My thought was to supply my income with creating artwork. But after four months I discovered that the people who were supporting me were more interested in supporting my ministry than getting the art. Nothing wrong with the art, in fact they were delighted to support AND get the art. Works for me. And this income pays for the technological monthly outgoings that are required in the ministry, and is slowly increasing. I am very grateful to them.

A couple of days ago in a secular book (to differentiate from a Christian book where you would expect to find such things), the writer refers to patrons of the arts. He is writing from the point of view of understanding that any entrepreneurial job is somewhat artistic. And to be successful you need a patron. He begins with Michelangelo, but then draws comparisons to other professions, including those of a church minister. Note, not a missioner, but I’ll come to that.

Congregations as patrons of their minister…not the bosses

“Real artists don’t starve: timeless strategies for thriving in the new creative age” : Jeff Goins, 2017.  Kindle edition.  He says that a patron encourages the person they are the patron of. They are connected people who put them in contact with the right people to help them to grow and develop. They encourage them. Now doesn’t that sound so completely unlike your church minister who the congregation supports but only so that he will do their bidding for them? If you consider the number of behind the scenes grumbles and complaints about the minister, there is certainly a sense of performance related pay. Even me in my own circumstance whilst under the grant, there are expectations that I will do certain things. Though I have to admit that those expectations have changed so that I am able to say what I am going to do and I am now held accountable to my own suggestions. Since I make those decisions based on what I see developing in my fresh expression of church not just as a whim, then this works remarkably well. But at first, it wasn’t the case.

I have been fascinated by my own patrons however. Because I haven’t asked people to support me in any other way than just putting it on facebook and asking if ANY of my 800 friends would consider supporting me in return for some art. But its the church people themselves who are really stepping up even though I haven’t asked them directly.

I am very clear with them that I have a larger vision. That I want to create Christian communities around the country. To influence the shape of how ministry is financed for the future as I watch declining congregations of givers and people who can afford it. To create materials…write…to influence for God according to my specific calling as a pioneer.

So patron is definitely a shape of ministry support that makes up some of my income. But there is another sort.

It’s gleaning.

Modern day gleaning as support

According to the law of Israel, you were not supposed to gather to the edge of your field. If you dropped anything as you gathered you were not allowed to pick it up. But rather leave it for those who had no land or were poor, who were allowed to go into those fields and pick up what was left or had been dropped so that they could live in the land.

A beautiful illustration of this in action is in the book of Ruth. Naomi with her daughter in law Ruth return to Bethlehem and Ruth ends up going into the fields to glean. Boaz, who owns the field tells the workers to pull out extra stalks for her. In they end, the two of them marry.

I’ll come back to something interesting about this in a moment.

But lets consider the gleaning in a modern context.

When it comes to asking for mission support, even that can be difficult. If our congregations are already stretched to supporting the minister and keeping the rough up, how much is left for the itinerant (or even organisation) supported minister? Not so much. And I have friends who spend much of their time asking for income and support. You end up if you are lucky with the bit of money around the edges. But even that is hard to come by since the amount that you need to ask for has to be quite a bit to live in a modern context. And it’s odd. A friend of mine has a charity, and they need donors giving £20 each. And they struggle to find them (I do support them. A bit less than that but it is increasing as my own income increases.) So we need to get real.

Gleaning and the charity bucket

Another way of looking at modern gleaning is the charity bucket collectors who stand at our supermarket doors, or the charity tin on a counter top. We are looking for the bit of change left over in a purse. But again, a few pence here or there may not cut it. What we need is a few pounds…five or ten each month from each person. It’s only the cost of a cup of coffee but I have found, myself included, that its easier to by someone a coffee than it is to give them the money. Not quite sure why that is.

What we need is a way of people giving that no one really notices they are doing it. In fact from my way of thinking of not being a burden on ANYONE, that includes any congregation that is already supporting a minister or church. Which is why after a lot of work I came up with the way of using affiliate marketing know how to get people to give as they used shops like Amazon and eBay by starting their searches each time from a simple bookmark on their phones or tablets. http://andygray.missionpartner.uk/support/

Innovation: Using the internet for gleaning: my approach for support

Because the money doesn’t come from their own pocket but rather from the profit of amazon (or the third party) or, in the case of eBay from their profit out of listing fees, its a case of giving without it costing. So they can continue giving the same amount as they always did to their home project, but be able to provide me what essentially is glean money. And it is easy to set up. Once done, they don’t need to to anything else but use the webpage each time. And as it is no more than starting by clicking an icon on their tablet it makes it easy. What’s more there is more money available than simply asking for a few coppers outside of the supermarket. According to the experiments I have run over the last year and half, people spend, on average, between £20 and £100 a month on Amazon alone. Since the fee I can earn is mostly in the region of 5%-10% that is worth far more than just a few pence. Which is why I have been so successful in generating income to kickstart the boardgames cafe project and why I am able to look at kickstarting others throughout the country now.

Let’s go back to Ruth, however, because something interesting is in there.

You don’t have to be poor to glean here…and no it doesn’t help

Firstly, I said that for those who were poor. Later in the story it transpires there is a field that Ruth and Naomi have, but I guess that it has not been worked that year. And they are living in a house. So you didn’t have to be utterly poor to take advantage of the rules.

Secondly, although they start off gleaning, Boaz quickly becomes their patron. If you read the story Boaz tells his people to deliberately leave extra. And he organises things to protect Ruth. Then of course goes on to redeem the field through marriage.

We often get, as missioners, something of a poverty mindset. I prefer to think about not being so rich you lord it over others, but not so poor that you are constantly worried about money. Both of these are not good situations to be in (and I have been in the latter quite a few times). I wonder if its to do with chastity, poverty type vows. So whilst others become more wealthy around us there is an expectation somewhere that the ministers must not do so. They have spiritual wealth. Priests weren’t supposed to become wealthy (but Pharisees and saducees did seem to get bossy…). It kind of results in the poorer the better kind of mindset. Not sure that is healthy.

Ruth and Naomi were not poor, but they didn’t have the means to feed themselves.

From gleaning to patron

The flow though from gleaning to patron is something I wonder if will happen for my work. Certainly with some of my patrons it began with one off gifts, and now it is regular support.

With the gleaning webpage, for want of a better phrase, that I have created I have included the opportunity to support further by going to the Patreon page to read posts. I think it’s important because I am guessing that there will be some people who do have the spare funds to say that they would like to support the mission beyond the gleaning stage, and partner with us in our calling.

Conclussion

So all these things are important. Patronage, and gleaning. Beginning at the lower easier end may lead to people being more willing to give more actively as they engage and partner in mission.

If you would like to partner with me directly, and help me to develop ideas of funding, mission resources, and plant transformational communities, then please do visit my Patreon page where there are a range of options. If you live in the UK you get vouchers in return or at the higher levels directly receive art most months depending on my how busy I am with mission (these are original prints, and cost me very little money to make but I sell for quite a bit…but people really value them.)

Alternatively, again if you live in the UK, you might like to consider supporting me by putting the bookmark to the support page. Please  watch the presentation on the page so you can really understand how it all works.