Wednesday, 16 May 2012

what about giving and saving

Tom Richards wrote a post recently about missionaries and money, asking the question: how much money should missionaries be given? Should missionaries in the majority (or developing) world have enough money to continue to live a "western" lifestyle or should they be given the equivalent of a local salary and live a local lifestyle?

Glen and I have been giving this a lot of thought.

We think there is another question to ask as well the question of lifestyle.
It is this;
Should missionaries be given just enough to cover their expenses while living in the field or should they receive enough so they can also give and save?
Why should supporters have to give enough so that missionaries also can give? Why should they give extra just so we put some aside for a rainy day? Won't God look after the rainy day? Everyone knows how difficult the world financial market is at the moment. Is it fair to expect people to give over and beyond what it actually costs for someone to live on the field? And if they could give extra, wouldn't it be better to send someone else with this money?

But what if the missionary has a mortgage in their home country? Shouldn't they also have enough to pay for this? If they don't have a mortgage, should they be able to save in order to buy a house later on? Should missionaries on the field save the same amount as most Christians back home? What about super? How much is reasonable?

Jesus calls us to leave everything and go. Aren't we just trying to look like we're leaving everything but actually hanging on to it all at the same time?

And what constitutes living expenses? Medical insurance? Holidays? Education?

There are mission agencies that use both systems. We know missionaries on both.

What do you think?


Lucy C said...

I'm concerned by the lack of super from some missionary organisations. I think that the goal of most missionaries is to return to their country of origin to retire. If that is the case then we should be paying them enough for them to support themselves in retirement and not be a burden on the government or society.

They should be paid enough to give generously and to save. Why should we pay a missionary less than clergy in Australia? We are sending them out and we should care for them properly.

Anonymous said...

There should be enough to pay the mortgage - they can't go out in Sydney to cut bamboo and thatch, and raise up a pig to feed the workers with. If they think God wants them to stay while their kids are in High School, they will need money to cover boarding school probably though Presbyterian ministers pay only 25% of fees at Presy schools. And probably medical insurance is a fair thing. Bill and I always thought we'd retire on the Pension and live in a church house when we retired, but we were able to buy a unit with the money our parents left us.


Anonymous said...

I agree with everything Lucy said, except maybe I don't have a problem with a retired missionary getting a part pension from the government to supplement the super they have.

My starting point is that if what we pay the clergy is appropriate, why is it appropriate to pay missionaries less (before making adjustments for the differences in living costs between the two countries)? We usually expect our missionaries to do everything we expect the clergy to do (work 200h/week, get along with everyone, excel in everything and solve every problem encountered) but we also expect them to cope with a radically new culture and to be far away from friends and family. Hardly reasons to give them less.

The fact that a missionary is paid a lot by local standards does not stop them living as close to local levels as is appropriate (I think they will usually need to be above local levels for practical reasons as covered in the answers to Tom's blog).


Tom Richards said...

It is an interesting question, I could summarise the previous conversation on by saying that it was generally agreed that a missionary should not be paid and use money in a way that distracts from their work. But what about saving at home?
I have two of thoughts.
Firstly, why are missionaries in a different category to other Christians? Shouldn’t we all depend on God’s provision rather than hording our money? But there is another side to this coin and that is that we all have the opportunity to save and plan financially in a society that depends on super, property ownership, etc. All of want to be sensible in this area so that we are not a burden and so that we can minister etc, etc.
Most western missionaries (I think) these days will return to their home country, will need accommodation there, will have children who they will want to help at uni and a whole host of ‘normal’ things. So in this sense it seems good and right that people support missionaries in a way that makes that possible. And this will require ‘normal’ things within our context like super contributions and paying off a house, putting money aside for (humble) weddings, etc.
The same applies to giving. Don’t we all have money that we could choose to spend on ourselves and nobody knows what we spend it on, and yet we are free to give it? Surely missionaries should be given money just like everyone else and choose how they spend it. It does seem strange if someone was given money so that they can give. People should be given money because it is right to give them money and then they decide what they do with it. Although we of course need to note that God gives so that we can be generous (2 Cor. 9:8).
My second thought is to take the perspective of the ‘person in the pew’ – that is, the Christian who is employed in the world. It is one thing to be a missionary or minister and say ‘Well I don’t need much money’, but what attitude should a person on the outside of the situation take?
Surely we should want someone ministering for Christ to be looked after in a similar way to the way that we consider ourselves to be needing of being looked after financially. I am amazed for example by schools that pay chaplains considerably less than teachers – doesn’t that show contempt for a minister? I hope school boards are ready to defend that decision to Jesus. If we say a minister (or missionary) does not need much money, shouldn’t we all then give away 100% of what we earn over that (I am speaking from the point of view of a Christian).
Is what I am suggesting radical, controversial, and rude?
Again what I am driving at is to ask why there are two categories of people. Surely if there is a certain amount that we all should have to live on in our society, then ministers should be given that amount out of generosity, and missionaries who will return, should be supported in a way that allows them to return. After all, don’t all Christians have the same call on their lives to leave everything and go?
What have I missed?

Rachael said...

Asbolutely, Tom the question is very similar. My memory of your post, (though I didn't go back to check), or at least of my response to it, and the ensuring discussion here in this house was about expenses and lifestyle comparing "local" and "western". The difference in what it costs to live here, whether local or western is only one factor. The difference to income if you also include giving and saving is potentially a much bigger factor.

And absolutely I think the call to sell everything and go (or is it come?) needs to be expounded more often in ways that clearly apply to all christians; and not to see entering full time christian ministry as the ultimate fulfilment of this call.

And absolutely, I don't think there should be two classes of people; those in Christian ministry at home and those in Christian ministry abroad. We should look after all of them.

However, there is a general understanding, whether right or not, that missionaries have a lower income. It's probably absorbed through stories of famous missionaries. I'm asking questions to help us think through these things and maybe challenge that understanding.

But I also think that just saying we should pay missionaries the same as pastors back home is simplistic. We don't pay everyone in full-time christian ministry at home the same way. You say that chaplains aret be paid differently to the teachers; and maybe also from the pastors. Not even all pastors are paid the same way. There are so many different ways to be involved in para-church ministries... must we pay them all the same?

What if the decision to go comes down to whether there is enough money to meet a specified target?

Would you stay at home if a little less meant you could go?

In the end, I think this is the question that mission agencies end up wrestling with. I don't envy them.

Tom Richards said...

Agreed, it is something that many people wrestle with.
Would we go for less? Yes, definitely – no doubt about it. We might not be able to sustain it for as long, but would definitely go for less. And having said that, we are not trying to raise support for the same level as what I am paid now as a pastor. We don’t need it or necessarily want it.
I was just trying to think through the issue from the point of view of the person who is sending, rather than the person who is going.