Synod 2014 declined two requests (overtures) asking the denomination to reexamine or retract a policy that by the year 2020 Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM) missionaries must raise 90 percent of the funding required for their support.
Synod delegates heard that previously each CRWM missionary was expected to raise 60 percent of the average cost of supporting a missionary. Starting in July, 2013, missionaries have been asked to work toward raising 90 percent of their own actual support costs.
Rev. Nathan Gritter, Classis Lake Erie, said the change is positive.“We’re going to get more money with this new model for [Christian Reformed] World Missions. My generation will give more money with this new model because of the [personal] connection to their missionaries.”
“[In response to this funding change] donations at our church are up overwhelmingly,” said elder delegate Syd VanderWilp, Classis Quinte. “We have been so blessed to support our missionaries.”
Other delegates raised concerns. “I think what we’re asking of our missionaries is an awful lot,” said Rev. Jake Kuipers, Classis Quinte. “We don’t ask the director to raise 90 percent of his salary.”
“There are numerous people I have met who felt called to ministry but the fundraising not only scares them, they see it as nearly impossible,” said Rev. Josh Van Til, Classis Columbia.
The denomination’s 94 career missionaries have been given until the year 2020 to fully adjust to the new support-raising model. At the same time, CRWM has set up a new fund, named in honor of Johanna Veenstra, a missionary to Nigeria who was the first CRC member to serve internationally, to support those who struggle with the requirement.
Kris Vos, the reporter of the advisory committee that dealt with this matter, said most current missionaries are agreeable to the new model, though a few have expressed discomfort.
“We recognize that this is a work in progress and we should have done a better job of explaining this to the churches and the congregations,” Rev. Derek Bouma, a delegate who also serves as president of CRWM’s board, told delegates.
“This provides a wonderful opportunity to explain why and how we made the change...We are already seeing the fruits of an expanded kingdom ministry.”
Rev. Rod Gorter of Classis Hudson, who said he was required to raise his full support while serving as a missionary to Ukraine with another agency, said that “World Missions needs to take seriously the need to provide guidelines to go through this process, because for some [missionaries] it will really be challenging.”
Bouma agreed. “We at World Missions do need to work with our missionaries to help them accomplish this. It was never our intent to say ‘do this,’ and walk away.”
Churches also have a responsibility to help their missionaries make the needed connections, he added.
Representatives of World Missions said the agency needed to change its funding structure since many churches are not paying their full Ministry Shares -- per-member giving goals set by the denomination to support shared ministries.
“The only realistic alternative to the 2020 missionary support goals is the continued shrinkage of our career and associate missionary force that we have been experiencing for the past quarter century,” World Missions said in its report to synod.
CRWM director Gary Bekker said that the new model is already having the desired effect. “God’s people have been incredibly generous. Many churches and individuals have stepped up already.”
“The Great Commission is to go into all the world and preach the gospel,” said elder Murray Ritsema from Classis Huron. “This is a bit of a rebuke to the churches. Before you patch up the roof or repaint the nursery, how about you pay 100 percent of your ministry shares? Then we wouldn’t have this problem.”
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