Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  We have more than 60 supporting churches from one county.  Church budgets are our support base.  We aren’t social workers or do social work.  We are ministers of the gospel.  Our purpose is to evangelize and disciple people who are developmentally disabled.

Over the years, we’ve learned a few things.  These aren’t all my ideas but things which have been passed on to me by my mentors in the ministry.  Others would–I’m sure–put these guidelines more diplomatically.  Understand, your ministry needs financial support to survive.

As a pastor or director of a parachurch ministry, you will find that you are often neither fish nor fowl.  You are somewhere in the netherlands where people don’t usually want to be.  However, you find yourself there and you need to live.  Therefore, you need to support your ministry and yourself.  Please, understand that in supporting yourself, you are also supporting your ministry.  Because without finances, you cannot pay yourself a salary and you will need to get another job.  In the process, your ministry will be lacking.

Within the mentally challenged community, there are a growing number of  paid-pastoral positions–full-time and part-time.  This is a good trend because it shows that the Church is beginning to value the worth of people with disabilities enough to pay someone to do the necessary work. 

Several years ago, I was loosely associated with a person who refused to ask for support from anyone for her ministry.  Mary headed a small parachurch ministry that was similar to Special Gathering of Indian River.  She had been hired as full-time staff and several grants were paying her salary.  These grants would last for about four to five years.  In this way, she would have the time to raise her own support. 

However, she was stuck in the paradigm of George Mueller, who ran a successful orphanage and didn’t ask anyone for support because he believed that God would provide for all his needs.  (Of course, my question is, how did people know that Mueller didn’t ask for support if he didn’t write and speak about his belief.  And in writing and speaking about this belief, isn’t this a form of asking for money?  Oops, that is a different subject.)  She felt that if God were really in her ministry, He would supernaturally supply support for her.  No amount of conversation or discussion was able to dissuade her from her belief.  Her belief even extended to the point that her tithes went to other ministries, not her own.  My associate was lived on the grants and when they were gone, she had to leave the ministry because she had not been able to raise support.

While I applaude her faith efforts, she didn’t seem to understand that if she weren’t willing to give to her own ministry, why should others give.  Was she stopping the flow of God’s blessings and not allowing God to use her to provide for the ministry needs.  “God is my source,” she would tell me.  “If He doesn’t provide, I won’t have a ministry.” 

And she was correct. 

Her steadfast beliefs made me reexamine my own faith.  Here are a couple of things I gleaned from her:

  1. If you don’t believe in the ministry in which you serve enough to support it, no one else will either.  As a staff person, Mary was doing the work of the ministry.  In supporting another ministry, she was supporting other aspects of the overall church.  However, her traget population were people eager to hear the gospel from her. They were eventually deprived of that honor because she had to leave the ministry. 
  2. It is selfish to think only of yourself in these complicated ministry issues.  Our focus must be the people who need to be evangelized and discipled.
  3. Asking for financial support may be more humbling than waiting for God to supernaturally provide. 
  4. While the scripture does teach, “My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in glory.”  It also teaches, “You have not because you ask not.” 
  5. The principle of sowing and reaping is pretty specific.  If I sow corn seed, then corn will grow.  Beans and tomatoes don’t come from corn seed.  They come from bean or tomato seed.   In the same way, if I sow into the ministry of SpG, SpG will reap the harvest.
  6. Contributing to your own ministry does not diminish the work of Christ within your ministry but demonstrates that you are fully invested in this ministry.
  7. Asking for financial support doesn’t diminish God’s provision but allows the Faith Community to understand what your needs are.

I know that each of us must find our own faith paths.  However, don’t cut off one avenue of blessing because you are stuck in a paradigm that may not be where God wants to lead you.

What are some things you have learned about this faith walk?  Do you think the Mueller paradiam of support will work for you?  Do you think this is a more holy way of obtaining finances than asking for help?