How do you support your friends in ministry when you are practically broke? I've been asking that question recently; not because I'm broke, but because I want to do more to encourage my friends that are in full time ministry. I want to be involved, but I'm not sure my check for $10 is going to do much for the cause. Once upon a time there were two apparent options for supporting your friends:
- Send your friend a small financial gift (maybe enough for a Starbucks visit).
- Ask to be added to the "Prayer Support" team.
But with the rise of the internet and social networking there are endless ways to be a supporter. I spent some time thinking about this and came up with a list of five alternative ways to support my friends in ministry. Before I go through the list, there is an important factor to understand about social networking. It is the compounding factor. Facebook recently said that the average user has at least 150 friends. Other studies suggest that an individual has on average 300 friends that they know well.
Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and MySpace help us stay connected with our "300 friends". These networks make it easy to share the things we are interested in. If you are like me, you are careful with what stories, pictures, and videos you share. Your reputation is tied to the items broadcast across these platforms. When I put an article on my facebook wall, I'm recommending it to my friends. I'm asking my friends to take an interest in something.
I want to suggest that using your social network to point your list of "300 friends" to a ministry update from your missionary friend is a excellent stewardship decision.
Five Ways To Support Your Missionary Friend
1. Share, Re-post, Retweet, and suggest everything your ministry friend puts on facebook, twitter, and youtube. Obviously this would relate primarily to ministry content, but not exclusively. If they share a funny picture of their kids it still is worth passing onto your friends. Your friends may take an interest in the missionary because their attention was peaked by the silly picture. You might want to put it all on the line and ask your friends to follow (befriend) the ministry friend your trying to support.
2. Write about them, or record an interview with them on Skype. I recently did this for the Henderson family in Australia, and I'm planning on doing it with other friends in the future. Recording a Skype conversation may be technical for you, so you might just start with a facebook note, or simple blog post. Share about your friends ministry, how they got to this point in their life, and what others can do to support them.
3. Organize a prayer team for their ministry. Take ownership of the prayer requests made by your ministry friend. Besides praying for them on your own, you can bring the prayer request to your small group or church prayer meeting.
4. Give them that $10 a month. I said above that $10 a month seems like a drop in the bucket compared to the amount your friend is trying to raise. But when you recognize that you are only one of the "300 friends" you realize that a bunch of small gifts can add up fast. If all 300 friends gave $10 a month the missionary would have more than enough to cover their monthly expenses. Also, it is good to start somewhere. $10 a month is an awesome start, and the amount can increase as God provides more resources.
5. Dedicate a week, or day to ask your friends to financially support you missionary friend. You might be surprised to see how God uses these requests. And talk about blessing your missionary friend. It is hard enough to ask for financial support every year. If one of your friends is joining in the asking, it is a huge encouragement.
In order to use these five ideas you will need to identify which friends you want to support. I would recommend that you let those individuals know that they are on your list. They will, no doubt, appreciate it. But will also be more strategic in what information they broadcast.
In closing let me say, I've been raising support for our family for the last four years. I've noticed that the financial support comes in exclusively from people over the age of 35. Young adults are not prone to support their piers in ministry. Some might say this is because of the financial status of most individuals in the twenties and early thirties, others might say that everyone under 35 is just selfish. Whatever the case may be, God is enlarging my heart to be a better supporter, and to be a younger supporter. If your under 35 I challenge you to grow in these ways as well.