Getting “Buy In” from Supporters at Pivotal Transitions

By on June 1, 2008   /   Leave a comment

Emily was a 35-year-old schoolteacher who had developed quite a heart for missions. She had taken the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course, gone on short term mission trips, prayed regularly through Global Prayer Digest and then felt a call to do more. She arrived at a critical crossroads and was thinking seriously about accepting one of the staff opportunities presented to her by several agencies.

She prayed, fasted, and read Scripture until she finally thought she knew God’s will. Overjoyed, Emily immediately worked to gather a newsletter list of 300+ people she’d known during her life to inform them of the good news. The headline read EMILY GOING TO CAMBODIA WITH FMO AGENCY with a subtitle of “Read below how God led me to my decision.” She was confident she would instantly be inundated with calls, emails, congratulations, even checks being sent in. But it was not to be; besides the message she got from her stunned father, almost no one seemed to acknowledge this momentous declaration. Discouragement set in, and she was already questioning her “calling.”

Where did Emily go wrong? Was it that she was a terribly unloved person or that her church was just not missions-minded enough? Neither! Emily simply forgot a fundamental principle of human nature she had used a thousand times in her classroom.

If you want someone to “buy in”
you better first let them “weigh in!”

Whether it is asking fifth graders which of three books they would prefer reading or asking 300 potential donors their opinion of which career path they feel you should pursue, you can almost never go wrong by inquiring, “What do you think?” So if you’re considering embarking on a new ministry (or a transition to a new position or organization) and you want to have (or maintain) a strong support team, you might want to read and heed the following:

1. Always honor and include your supporters
Instead of just announcing to everyone that God has spoken to you and now you are delivering that pronouncement to the masses, why not take a more humble, teachable approach? Whether you’re just getting started or a ministry veteran, showing respect and dignity toward your supporters will produce interest and appreciation (and support!) in your life and ministry.

2. With many counselors there is victory (Proverbs 15:22)
You’ll be amazed when you apply this passage and seek the advice and input of the people in your world. Asking is normally better than telling, and besides, you never know how the Lord might speak through your family, spiritual leaders, friends, and yes, even your potential financial supporters. Some of them might know you better than you know yourself, offering some keen insight. They love you and want what’s best for your life. Don’t shut them out!

3. The greater the investment, the greater desire for input
Segment your contacts into three groups. Who are the 6-10 people who might be able and willing to be major prayer and financial stakeholders in your ministry? Go to them personally to ask them to pray and think with you, to give you feedback and questions. Next, identify 8-12 potential medium stakeholders and phone them for their advice. Finally, send out a mass newsletter, sharing your heart and journey in life and ministry, including all your contact info, and asking for their counsel or concerns. When it comes time for you to ask for support, these three groups will feel greater ownership and loyalty to you. They will much more likely “buy in” because you gave them a chance to “weigh in!”


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