The blank stare. Have you experienced it?
It’s the unsettling expression on the face of the person sitting across from you in a support appointment gone bad. You’ve passionately shared your ministry vision, financial goals, and heartfelt invitation for them to join your team, and then…nothingness.
Even though it is now their turn to talk, all you get is an incredulous look, a wide open mouth, or complete silence. You’re sitting four feet from each other, but it’s as if you are in two different worlds. Your pumped up anticipation of gaining a new supporter has melted into an awkward encounter you’re attempting to salvage without total humiliation.
Maybe this is an over dramatized description of an uncomfortable meeting you’ve experienced, but here’s the point: you never know exactly what you’re going to get when you sit down for a support presentation. And as much as you pray, prepare, and seek to give off positive vibes in that appointment, you cannot control (or anticipate) how the person on the other side of that table will respond.
After over three decades of raising my personal support and training others to do the same, I have come to a number of conclusions as to why some people negatively react the way they do. I’m confident you are going to get primarily positive responses in your appointments, but here are several possible reasons you may get less than the warm and endearing reaction you were hoping for.
They have no idea what the Bible teaches about giving.
Maybe they come from a purely secular background and haven’t a clue how churches or ministries are funded. Or maybe they attend church but have never studied what the Scriptures teach about giving generously to the Church or works of God around the world. They may look at you like you are speaking a foreign language, because what you are saying is completely foreign to them.
They are totally unfamiliar with the concept of personal support raising.
All the professional ministers or missionaries they have known are paid by the church. They are stunned and confused when a Christian worker asks them to give, because this is different from their denomination’s model. This one on one ask seems like glorified begging to them. They may even question why your sending organization would ask you to do something so outrageous as raise your own salary instead of just paying you themselves.
They live in a religious bubble.
Yes, this person has been going to church their entire life, but has no perception of God’s work or God’s people outside of their local congregation. In addition to their limited exposure, it’s possible their pastor teaches giving should be to their church only. If you happened to get them into a support appointment, they will probably reject any invitation to give because they exclusively give to their own local church.
They are offended anyone would have the audacity to ask them for money.
They’ve worked hard for their money, so in their mind, every penny is their money—not God’s or anyone else’s. They might hand a dollar to a street corner beggar to soothe their conscience, but why should they part with any of their income for someone like yourself, who obviously is healthy enough to go out and earn your own money? They have no understanding of vertical giving (to God) or even horizontal giving (to people). Giving to any causes or organizations (Christian or otherwise) is probably not a part of their life.
They don’t share your vision.
Meeting with a Christian worker to hear about their ministry is a first for them. Minutes in you may wonder why they agreed to the appointment. They never expected to hear about God’s work or the financial needs to sustain it. They may have no concept of personal ministry or the Great Commission, and wonder why you would give yourself to something so abstract and unproductive.
They may be philanthropists when it comes to supporting the local opera or food bank, but giving to something like evangelizing so called “lost people” is way outside their comfort zone.
I can say with assurance you will meet with at least one of the people I’ve described above, but don’t be discouraged. Our sovereign God is in charge, and He will place just the right people on your team. Not knowing exactly who they are means you have to pack your schedule with appointments with all kinds of people, believing the Lord will call the ones He chooses to partner with you.
I have created a brand new tool that may be of help to you as a support raiser. It is a small booklet called “What is Personal Support Raising? Five Questions Every Donor Should Ask.” It’s designed to gently and simply share the biblical concept of giving and supporting Christian workers. You might want to purchase a batch of these booklets to include with each of your support letters or leave behind after your appointments. Sending this information ahead of your appointments or leaving a pamphlet behind will give the people you meet with some steps to take to discern if they should be supporting you and your ministry. Whether a potential donor fits into one of the categories above or not, if they read the booklet, it could very well play a pivotal role in creating a spiritual breakthrough in their mind and heart towards giving to the Kingdom.