When You Have to End Support

One reality of the missionary life is that missionaries will lose supporters. According to Ask A Missionary, most missionaries lose 5-15% of their support during their first two years on the field. It is very likely, then, that some of our readers will have to discontinue support at sometime. There are various reasons that you might want to stop supporting a missionary: financial problems, loss of a job, or a realization that you do not want to support their ministry any longer maybe due to theological or methodological convictions. Whatever the reason, I thought that I would offer some suggestions for if and when that day comes…
1. Pray
I probably do not have to say this, but when considering discontinuing support for a missionary, please pray. Pray that God would give you wisdom if this is the area that you need to cut. Pray that God would give you wisdom on what to say to the missionary (see #3). If it is due to a financial problem, pray that God would give you more money so that you do not have to stop. If there is something in the ministry that you no longer want to support, pray that the missionaries would change. Removing support from a missionary is not a small thing. It is not the same as unsubscribing from Netflix to save some money each month. Losing supporters means doing less on the field, making a smaller salary, or even going home. Pray for this decision the same way you would pray if your boss told you he might have to dock your pay.
2. Consider Supporting Less
It seems that we tend to think of supporting missionaries as an “all or nothing” ordeal. So we either want to give $200 per month or nothing at all. But there is a middle ground! We have people that support us $5 per month and we could not be here without them.
3. Contact the Missionary
Yep, this is the awkward one. The one you really do not want to do. But in reality, you really need to contact them. It is hard, and talking about money is always awkward. But it is necessary. Why? Because missionaries need to know. Yes, if you just stop giving they will figure it out. But that would force them to have to spend time looking through financial reports and seeing who has stopped giving. Then, if you do not contact them, they would have to contact you anyway to make sure it is not because your credit card expired or something like that. So, if it is going to be awkward either way, go for preemptive awkwardness and save your missionary buddies some time.
4. Contact the agency
Finally, it is necessary to contact the agency. This is for two purposes: 1) to stop the money from coming out of your account if it is on automatic debit, 2) to keep the records of the agency up to date. If there is something that you are wanting to communicate in ending your support, this is where you can express it. If you say nothing, we learn nothing.
This is a hard subject to tackle, but I feel like it is worth thinking about. Throughout the years we have lost a number of supporters: individuals and churches. But by God’s grace we have always been taken care of. We have added nearly as many supporters as we have lost and we do not feel at all limited in our ministry. Because of God’s grace and your support we are able to do our ministry and help people here in Cameroon. And for that we are so thankful.

Author: David M. Hare

Dave is a husband, father of four Africans, and is currently helping the Kwakum people do Oral Bible Storying and Bible translation in Cameroon, Africa.

6 thoughts on “When You Have to End Support

  1. Thanks for the helpful article! When donors have had to stop giving, another helpful approach has been when they give us notice instead of ceasing right away. That gives us time to either raise new support or adjust our budget to cover the difference. Some donors have given us 3 or 6 months' notice; another went as long as 3 years. But that's always more helpful than the notification that comes effective immediately (or that it happened 2 or 3 months ago and I'm just finding out about it now).

    Also, I offer three cheers to your statement "If you say nothing; we learn nothing." How disheartening it is to have a donor stop giving because "things are tight," only to hear months or years later that the donor actually had concerns with the work or agency. Perhaps those concerns could have been cleared up with one or more conversations; perhaps not. Either way, we had no chance to hear the criticism, learn from it, and make changes.

  2. On the other side of things, if missionaries do not receive support from one of their faithful supporters for a while, they need to check with the supporter. I've had 2 cases where my support was directed to another missionary I was supporting, and I didn't notice it on the receipt. The missionary finally contacted me and I straightened it out. Yes it's awkward, but if a faithful supporter stops supporting you, please speak up or check with your organization to be sure an established pattern of giving was not changed accidentally.

  3. As a pastor I have had to close a ministry and dissolve the church. With the sale of the church property by our regional office, we stipulated that our missionaries receive a guaranteed five (5) years of support out of the proceeds of the sale.

    When you as an individual or a church run into financial difficulties you should share that with your missionaries in your regular communications. Give your missionaries the opportunity to partner with you in prayer as well. Too often missionary communication is only one-way. If we are partners, they should be hearing from us regularly as well.

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