PD TIPS

Working on partnership development is not a quick three-day event. It is a spiritual discipline because it involves the ‘working out’ of your faith. When you have exhausted all your contacts or you have lost your vision for raising support, what do you do?  PD Tips are short topic-based papers or talking-points that will help encourage you and challenge your thinking while you are working on your partnership development.

Overview of PD Tips

This section is a good place to start when you begin to experience the roller coaster of partnership development. Along the way, you will encounter different attitudes from others and from yourself that will need to be addressed in light of God’s truth. These PD Tips are intended to help you put on the Belt of Truth of God’s Word so that you can stand in the battle, move forward with your partnership development presentation and have a gracious and clear understanding of the Truth.

If you have a story about partnership development that you would like to share, or if you have prepared a partnership development talk for your team that would be excellent to pass around, let us know by emailing us at pdhelp@wycliffeassociates.org and we’ll use what the Lord has taught you to encourage others in the same situation.

A Biblical Approach to Raising Support

Ways of Thinking about Partnership Development that Make a Difference

Just as God used King David to give Israel an opportunity to invest in His kingdom plan when he challenged the people to underwrite the cost of building a temple, He is going to use you to urge others to invest in your ministry with Wycliffe Associates. 

In 1 Chronicles 29:9-14, we read of the amazing response that the people of Israel had when they heard the words of David, “The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly . . . ‘But who am I, and who are my people that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.’” 

Because David knew that all of the world’s wealth ultimately belonged to God, he boldly made his appeal to others to channel their resources toward building a physical testimony to the Lord, the temple of God. 

As you reflect on this, I want to encourage you just as King David said to his son Solomon about the task of building that temple. “David also said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” 

You may want to take some time right now with the Lord before you embark on this journey, and ask the Lord to show you how your views differ from His tremendous plan and in-depth insight into what He has planned for you during this season of partnership development. Read through these points below, review the Scripture and ask the Lord to mold and prepare your heart for service to the Lord.

Let’s look at them together: 

  1. You might think raising support is preparing for ministry, but raising support is ministry.  Some of those you contact may not yet know Christ, while others will be challenged by your steps of faith in ministry. Telling people about your spiritual journey and your plans may cause them to move closer to faith in Christ.
  2. You might think that they’re helping you, but actually, you’re helping them.  God wants every believer to grow, and a huge part of our growth as followers of Christ is becoming open-handed with our possessions.
  3. You might think you’re raising money for your ministry, but you’re really raising money for the kingdom of God.  If the focus of your support raising is you or your ministry, you'll inevitably have days when you don't feel worthy of financial support.  We're not raising money for ourselves or even for our ministry.  We're raising funds for the expansion of God's kingdom.
  4. You might think that the main objective is to reach your financial goal, but God’s main objective is to draw you to Himself (Ephesians 3:14-19). Not only will raising support help you expose people to the gospel through Bible translation, but it will also cause your relationship with God to grow.

What Is True of Me

These things are true of me while I develop financial support with Wycliffe Associates:

  1. I serve the Lord God whose resources are infinite (Psalm 50:10-12) and who can abundantly provide. (Ephesians 3:20)
  2. God has promised to meet all my needs, including financial. It is a part of His character to provide for me. (Philippians 4:19, Genesis 22:14)
  3. I have a personal calling from God to provide for the needs of my family. (1 Timothy 5:8)
  4. The ministry partners on my team are laying up treasures in heaven and are greater involved in the fulfillment of the Great Commission because of their participation in my life. (Matthew 6:20)
  5. I am inviting people to be partners in ministry with me—committing their time, prayers, resources, and finances to what God is doing in our world.  I am not begging for money.  I am not asking for a contribution. (1 Thessalonians 1:8)
  6. My ministry is very significant since people have a need for God. (Matthew 9: 36; Romans 3:23, 6:23)
  7. My ministry is very significant since I am providing solutions to life's day-to-day problems. (Matthew 11:28-30)
  8. My ministry is very significant since it addresses the root problem of our society and world. (John 3:19b)
  9. My ministry is very significant since I am calling others to consider decisions that will affect their eternal destiny. (John 11:25-26)
  10. God promises that those who give to my ministry will be more blessed by the giving than I am by the receiving. (Acts 20:35)
  11. I am an encouragement to my ministry team in their own walks with God as they see what He is doing through me. (1 Thessalonians 1:8)
  12. God is using me as an opportunity for obedience when others give to my ministry since He has called everyone to give financially to His work regardless of the amount of their personal income. (Malachi 3:8, 10; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5)
  13. I have committed my life to the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5: 18-20)
  14. I am worthy of my wages. (1 Timothy 5:18)
  15. My ministry and life is freed to do all He has called me to do when I am fully funded. (1 Timothy 6:6)
  16. As a laborer in the harvest, I am an answer to prayer. (Matthew 9:37-38)

Your Ministry Partners Are Chosen by God

  1. God has already selected those people whom He desires to be involved with you. (I Kings 17:1-16)
  2. (1-6) Elijah the prophet confronts Ahab, who is King of Israel and is evil in God’s eyes. God instructs Elijah to leave and hide by a brook, where He will provide for him by having ravens bring him bread and meat. The brook will provide him with water. 
  3. (7-9) The drought must have been in progress for some time, for the brook has dried up. After that, the Word of the Lord comes to Elijah. He is to go to Zarephath, where he will meet a widow who will provide him with food.
  4. (10-11) Notice what happens. When he gets to the town, it seems that he talks to the first woman he sees. We have no indication whether God has tapped Elijah on the shoulder and said, “This is she.” Elijah steps out in faith and talks to her.

  Principle 1: God will not always say to us, “This is the one!”

(12) Notice her response. She says that she doesn’t have enough to feed Elijah, herself, and her son. As a matter of fact, a little bit of flour and oil is all she has left, and she expects to starve to death after this meal. She is destitute. Apparently the drought has gone on for some time, and famine is sweeping the land. It may be this conversation that confirms to Elijah that this is the widow God has told him about (9).

           Principle 2: The one God has chosen to give may not know that he or she is to give.

Principle 3: The messenger may be the one God has chosen to inform the person receiving the message.

Principle 4: The one God has chosen to give may not have much, but that doesn’t matter because the person needs to give far more than any person or cause has a need to receive.

(13-14) Elijah is well aware of her situation. With compassion he encourages her and points her to the Lord. Elijah doesn’t allow her circumstances to deter him from what God promised him: “I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” Elijah is well aware of what God is able to do. 

Principle 5: Sometimes the messenger needs to point out what God has said and encourage the receiver.

Principle 6: When we know God’s call and promise, we cannot allow circumstances to deter us.

(15-16) God does just as He said He would and more. Not only does He supply food for Elijah and the widow and her son during Elijah’s stay, but I think we can infer that the food supply continues after Elijah leaves.

Principle 7: Faith and obedience are required for both the messenger and the one receiving the message. In order for the widow to experience God’s blessing, she needs to take a courageous step of faith.

There are people whom God has called to support you. They may not know it, but He has called you to go to them and present your ministry. He will let them know that they are to support you either before you get there, during the appointment, or sometime later as He works in their lives. He has known since before the foundation of the world who will be involved with you.  God won’t say, “How in the world did that person join his support team? That wasn’t supposed to happen!” He will not be surprised by anyone who joins with you.

 The Essential Need for Faith

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe

that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Hebrews 11:6 NASB

One common issue I have heard from many who go through Partnership Development (PD) training is that it reduces raising ministry partners to a formula, and that there is no need or room for God. While I certainly understand why some may think this, in reality I strongly disagree with this perception.

Faith is never presented as a passive exercise in the New Testament. In fact, whenever Jesus performed miracles, He always had those around him doing all they could to “set the stage,” so to speak, for His work.  Jesus then added the miraculous:

  1. When Jesus turned the water to wine in John: 2, He told the servants to fill the waterpots with water and then draw some out to take to the headwaiter. Jesus did what man could not do: change water into wine.
  2. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He applied these same principles. In John 11:39, Jesus commanded that the stone sealing Lazarus’ tomb be removed. He also had the people unbind Lazarus from his burial wrappings. Surely, if Jesus could give Lazarus life again, Jesus could have handled the stone and the burial clothes. Instead, like the water-to-wine miracle, Jesus provided the supernatural, while man did the “normal natural.”
  3. One more example of this was when Jesus healed the blind man in John: 9. After applying clay to the eyes of the blind man, Jesus instructed him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam [v.7]. The blind man had to exercise faith in Jesus by going to wash in the pool. If the man hadn’t had faith in Jesus, he would have just removed the clay from his eyes, maybe cursed Jesus, and then gone back to his begging.  It wasn’t easy for the blind man to show faith. Before his sight was restored, the blind man’s actions displayed great faith through obedience to the Lord.

In our Partnership Development experience, our faith, like that of the blind man from John: 9, must be displayed in our actions before the hand of God reveals His work. Our faith should never be passive. The whole process of making calls, meeting with people, and doing all the necessary follow-up is actually putting feet on our belief that God is Jehovah Jireh, and that He will abundantly provide for our needs.

The contrast to this is worth mentioning here. Jesus only worked in the context of faith. In Matthew 13:58, we read how Jesus did not perform miracles in His home city of Nazareth “because of their unbelief.”  Likewise, if we do nothing until God begins to open doors, then we do not exercise faith. We must do what we know we can and should do, and by our actions we display great faith.  The Lord, in His wisdom, puts an extremely high value on faith. He wants us to find Him trustworthy. Remember, without faith it is impossible to please Him.

PD is one of those activities through which our faith is proven genuine. The money is not the issue. Our faith, our ability to trust in the Lord, is the issue.  We must learn to trust God in ways we have never had to before!  Likewise, raising support pushes us out of our comfort zones so that, as we walk in obedience, we learn to trust God for bigger and bigger things.  Your ability to trust God will increase each time you step out in faith and are obedient in your responsibilities for raising support. 

Myth #1: “Partnership Development Is Like Begging for Money”

Partnership Development is not begging for money. It is an opportunity to invite others to come and participate, allowing them to invest in the significant, life-changing process of Bible translation, in which you represent them as their missionary—and they reap eternal rewards.

Myth #2: “When Are You Going to Get a REAL Job?”

Have you ever heard this: “When are you going to get a REAL job?” or “You are just wasting your college education!”  The root cause of “crime,” “violence,” “drugs,” “lack of morals,” “abortion,” “hunger,” “dishonesty,” “pornography”... lies ultimately in our world's lack of a proper relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Every time you, as a missionary, share the gospel of Jesus Christ, you are attacking the causes behind hunger. Each time you disciple someone on the field, you are resolving the reasons for abuse. Whenever you lead a Bible study, the forces behind violence are being squelched as you advance the knowledge of God!

“And the real fruit of your efforts as a missionary doesn’t ripen until someone dies and they stand before God Almighty! In this world, we are asking people to make decisions that will affect where they will spend eternity! I challenge you to name another profession that is so significant that its work extends beyond the grave!

Scarcity Mentality vs. Abundance Mentality

The greatest challenge that we face in fund development is the “Scarcity Mentality vs. Abundance Mentality.” This is part of what drives talented leaders off staff. Let me explain. Every day our senses convince us we need to believe in the Scarcity Mentality. This mentality tells us that there is a finite number of pieces of pie out there, and you had better grab all you can before someone else does. How many of you have gone to raise support only to find out that your prospective donor is already supporting someone else and does not feel able to add another missionary to his budget? Or when you go to meet with someone on your support team, she ends up mentioning to you that for some reason, she can no longer continue. Instead of raising more money, you’re losing it when you go out to visit people! This can make it seem like there’s not much money out there, but that’s totally false. It’s a deception that Satan tricks us into believing!

 With this past recession and economic downturn, many missionaries are struggling with low levels of monthly support. The questions to ask are: What is the truth about your ministry and your calling to be a supported staff member? What is God’s response to your need? 

The reality—the Abundance Mentality—is that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. God is not on his last dime, wringing his hands and worrying about how he’s going to help that poor missionary.  In fact, He wants to supply all your needs according to His riches, not according to your riches or according to your perception of His riches (Proverbs 8:18, Psalm 24:1, Philippians 4:13). It’s also true that there are people out there—very successful leaders—who have immense wealth and have attained incredible success. The thing that they don’t have is significance, the significance that their relationship and partnership with you provides.

The truth of your situation is this: there is a huge number of donors out there, but they’re not advertising. They don’t have signs up saying, “Hey, I’ve got money to give.” In fact, 99% of the people that I call initially don’t want to meet with me, or they’ll say, “I’ve already committed; I’ve given all I can give.” They know that I’m calling about money, and I used to believe them. But now I realize that they are just managing my expectations! So I’ll say to them, “I just want to share with you what God’s doing, and I think you’ll be encouraged.” Then they agree to meet with me. I don’t know how many times that right then, or soon after, they decide to write a check because God touched their heart. What they didn’t have was the pressure of thinking I expected them to give. We had already dealt with that, so they were freed up to let the Holy Spirit work in their hearts.

 Used with permission from Campus Crusade for Christ

 


Partnership Development:  A Balance of Hard Work and Faith

Success in Partner Development (PD) requires wisdom in two areas: faith and work.  Faith refers to the biblical perspective on trusting God. Work refers to management and leadership principles.

Is This Balance Biblical?

Proper balance between faith and work in no way negates the fact that God is our ultimate provider. However, it does clarify one of our responsibilities as Christ's ambassadors and stewards before God. Part of our job is to master principles in these two areas in order to raise funds effectively. When we ask others to help fund the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we should do so with excellence. We should ask not only with grace, but also with godly competence because partnership development success is such a critical step toward fulfilling the Great Commission.

Apart from Bible translation, no single activity is more critical to the cause of our mission. Indeed, because raising our financial support is so critical, and because Satan knows it is the Achilles heel to most Christian leaders, it's an area of intense spiritual warfare. One of the best strategies to stopping your enemy from advancing is to cut off their supply lines.  Satan could choose no better way to hinder the march of God's army against the gates of hell than to cut off the supply line of funds needed to communicate the gospel.

It is certainly possible that God could choose to miraculously meet your support needs through unusual circumstances.  However, don't expect money to fall from heaven like manna. Rather, expect God to provide your financial support as you observe the laws of sowing and reaping in the area of human relationships. God wants us to enlist others as ministry partners by asking them for their financial support.

Partnership Development Is Not Support Raising

When you’ve been raising support, you may have an experience with a potential ministry partner whom you know that has the capacity to join your team at $100 a month. You ask him to support you, and he agrees. Then he gives you a $50 special gift. What is your response when that happens? It may be disappointment, expressed by, "I wish he had given more."

How we respond highlights the difference between support raising and ministry partner development. Support raising focuses on the giving event; development focuses on the process. Development means to build long-term relationships with potential and current ministry partners, and become friends. Friends give to friends. When we develop friendships, they not only can turn into long term monthly support, but they also open up opportunities for people to become more involved in our ministry. 

Look for potential ministry partners and also look for ways to involve them in your ministry. When we invite a partner to a Wycliffe Associates banquet or to come with us on an overseas construction project, they will see firsthand what God is doing in and through our ministry. Despite all the years of sending prayer letters, nothing communicates ministry more than actually bringing them to the mission field. 

Partnership development needs a vision-building and discipleship-oriented mentality. The development mentality differs from the four other ways we're tempted to view the process of raising support:

  1. The first wrong way we view asking for support is that we're begging. It's an attitude that says, "I don't deserve it; have pity on me."
  2. Second, is the view that asking for money is collecting: "I expect you to give me money."
  3. The third view is a campaign: "You better give, or we won't be able to meet our needs." That is a crisis attitude.
  4. The fourth view is exploitation. We struggle with seeing people as dollar signs instead of partners.

The development view implies that we see people as partners with whom we work in the task of Bible translation into all the remaining languages, so that everyone in the world has an opportunity to read and understand God’s words of grace and mercy.

Why Does Partnership Development Take So Long?

If “The harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few”, then why is it taking me so long to raise my support? 

Often, folks raising support ask this question. And it needs to be thoroughly examined in light of proper thinking and in light of the character and nature of God.  Let’s attempt to tackle the issue raised in the title of this article. First, what is wrong with this line of thinking. Second, what is the right line of thinking and third, in light of right thinking, what is the answer?

  1. What is wrong thinking?
    1. The question, “Why is Partnership Development taking so long?” implies that signing up to be a missionary is doing God a favor. Remember, God doesn’t NEED us to bring about the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Yes, He has chosen to use us in taking the gospel to the world.  But it will be the Holy Spirit using us as a tool, not us doing all the work, which will bring about the worldwide work of Bible translation.  
    2. John Piper captures this truth in his book Desiring God. He expresses it perfectly on page 146 and 147, he writes, “God is not looking for people to work for Him; so much as He is looking for people who will let Him work for them. The gospel is not a Help Wanted ad. Neither is the call to Christian service. On the contrary, the gospel commands us to give up and hang out a Help Wanted sign (this is the basic meaning of prayer).  Then the gospel promises that God will work for us if we do. He will not surrender the glory of being the Giver.  “Religious ‘flesh’ always wants to work for God (rather than humbling itself to realize God must work for it in free grace). But ‘if you live according to the flesh you will die’ (Romans 8:13). That is why our very lives hang on not working for God." 
    3. “Then shall we not serve Christ? It is commanded, ‘Serve the Lord!’ (Romans 12:11) Those who do not serve Christ are rebuked (Romans 16:18). Yes, we must serve Him. But we will beware of serving in a way that implies a deficiency on His part or exalts our indispensability.”
  2. What is right thinking?  There are two things about God we must be reminded of continually in the context of support raising. 
    1. First, God is our Supplier. God is Jehovah Jireh, meaning God our Provider. 
    2. Second, God is in control. God is omnipotent. Every person, every leader, every king, every business.
  3. What is the answer in light of right thinking?  The answer can be summed up in one word: Sanctification.
    1. Often it takes longer than expected to raise support because God uses the time of ministry partner development to sanctify us, to deepen our faith in Him, and to prepare us for ministry. This is not a steadfast rule and you cannot measure one’s faith based on how long it takes for support to be raised. Yet there is a principle encapsulated here that is often repeated among those raising ministry partners and financial support. 
    2. God does use money to humble us and get our attention. Frequently, there is nothing like a financial need to make us see our dependence on the Lord. 
    3. We need to be sanctified so that more and more of our lives come under the experiential Lordship of Christ.  Sanctification will lead to a greater trust and dependency on Him; our comfort zones will increase.
    4. As our walk with God deepens, so will our effectiveness in ministry. 
    5. There are many correlations between ministry and support raising. For example: Do you find yourself out of contacts? Not sure where to turn next in your support raising? What a great time to learn that you cannot trust in people, yourself, or strategies but only in God! 
    6. Your ability to trust God for what you perceive as the impossible will increase if you have already walked that path before! God is preparing you to know how to move forward in light of the obstacles that seem impossible! 
    7. You may be called on by the Lord to present the gospel to someone whose appearance or stature intimidates you!  Your perception of God and your faith in Him will be revealed when you choose to move forward in light of your fears. And if that faith is inadequate, don’t fear! For that is what Partnership Development is all about!  Ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you so that your faith in Him becomes big enough to overcome your fears! 
    8. Often times support raising will reveal emotional issues that the Lord wants you to work through. Your experiences may teach you empathy and wisdom as you deal with your own deep emotional hurts, fears and struggles. 
    9. One’s spirituality cannot be measured on how quickly the financial support quota is met. God is sovereign. He may choose to use other events in your life to bring about sanctification. Yet, quite often Partnership Development tends to be God’s spiritual boot camp.

During partnership development, may your focus be on Christ and on what He wants to do in your life. May the focus not be on the money, yet may we be faithful in our efforts while confident in God. And may we walk in intimacy, purity, power and truth with our Lord!  Then, as in any area of life, you will find His timing perfect and His provision sweet!

The Urgency of Reporting

  1. How to Convey to Your Ministry Partners the Urgency of Reporting to Your Ministry Assignment: 
    1. The very best way to convey the urgency of reporting to your ministry assignment  is through vision casting. As you cast vision and get your ministry partners to buy into the severity of the problem, they will begin to understand the urgency of getting you to your assignment.  They'll want to get you there to help fix this problem they've just become aware of.
    2. The other way  is by demonstrating the urgency in your actions.  You convey urgency by talking about wanting to meet with as many people as you can, as quickly as your can, so that you can get to the assignment as quickly as possible.  You ask for a definite time to meet, a definite time to get a decision, and a definite time to get the first check.  Meeting with us is just another thing on their plate, but to us, it is our plate.  Reporting to your ministry assignment is vitally important and an urgent need.  

Used with permission from Campus Crusade for Christ

 


Connecting with the Heart of Your Prospective Ministry Partner

You will be tempted to conduct a monologue with prospective partners instead of engaging them in a conversation to find out what is on their hearts. Your story is important, but before you talk about yourself and your ministry, you need to connect to their world and demonstrate that you care about their concerns.  To accomplish this, cover the following steps before you outline a vision for your ministry:

Step 1: Determine how you will connect to your prospective partner’s world.

  1. Before you begin talking about the plans for your ministry, you need to connect with the heart of your prospective partners. What are the concerns of their hearts? What questions will you ask them that will surface one of these concerns?
  2. For example you might begin by asking, “What were the concerns you had for your daughter when she entered kindergarten?” After a response, continue with, “What are your concerns now that she is entering high school?”
  3. Or you might ask a general question such as, “What concerns you most about the spiritual state of our country?” These types of questions allow the prospective partners to share what is on their hearts and what concerns them.

Step 2: Bridge the prospective partner’s concern to the spiritual problem you are trying to solve.

  1. Tell a brief, specific story, using word pictures that bridge their concerns to your world. The focus of the story is to illustrate the spiritual problem you are trying to solve.
  2. Your story need not be about someone coming to Christ. That will come later as you share your vision for your ministry.

Step 3: Transition into your calling testimony, emphasizing how the Lord called you to serve Him full-time.

  1. After you demonstrate the need for your ministry, you transition into your calling testimony. This testimony is different from the one you use for evangelism.  Emphasize how the Lord called you to be a missionary. It is important to share your calling to Wycliffe Associates because people want to give to people who have a definite calling.
  2. Transition into your calling testimony by saying something like, “And this is the reason I have committed my life to reach X (this is the people you are called to serve, whether they are the children you will teach or the people in Papua New Guinea who need the Bible in their own language.) Let me tell you a little bit about how the Lord called me into this ministry.”
  3. After your calling testimony, you transition into telling about the plans for your ministry.

A final note

The length of time you have to meet with a prospective partner may determine how thoroughly you can cover these three steps. If the first thing you cover in your appointment is your calling testimony, your presentation may sound “me-centered.” To avoid this, try to begin each appointment with Steps 1-3. You will always win by connecting with the prospective partner’s concerns before you talk about yours.

How to Present Your Monthly Goals to Your Ministry Partners

As you raise your support, many of you will encounter the question, "How much support do you need to raise?" The average ministry partner most likely does not have a grasp of Wycliffe Associates’ financial structure. When you share with your ministry partners the amount of support you raise, they may be thinking that your total support goal is your salary. But in fact, your support goal is comprised of salary, ministry expenses, benefits (like Medical, Dental, Retirement, Life Insurance, etc.), Taxes and Social Security (both the employee's and employer's contributions). 

When ministry partners think of their own salaries, they are only thinking about what they get in their paychecks. This is why it may be difficult for a ministry partner to comprehend why you need to raise the amount of support you do.

For example, your ministry partners may look at Wycliffe Associates’ medical benefits charge and compare it to the amount their employers deduct from their paychecks for medical coverage. When this situation rises, you may explain to your ministry partner that what we call our benefits charge includes the full cost (employer and employee portions) of your medical coverage. Gently remind your partners that their employers subsidize or pay in full many of these costs, which are never shown in their paychecks.

A Support Quota Worksheet is an internal Wycliffe Associates document and is not to be used to communicate with anyone outside of Wycliffe Associates. When assembling a Partnership Development Presentation book for sit-down appointments, you may think of including your support goals budget in the back pages. Instead, we strongly suggest that you create a budget sheet with a breakdown of expenses and use it only to answer questions, not as a regular part of your presentation. Of course, the occasional pastor or mission committee will ask for your full budget, at which point it will prove beneficial to have a budget sheet and your explanation of expenses prepared beforehand and ready at the back of your presentation booklet.

How to Tell the Story of Your Calling

Your Calling Testimony is your story about how the Lord gave you a heart to reach people for Christ and how he called you to be a part of Wycliffe Associates.  A carefully prepared Calling Testimony can be effectively used in nearly every Partnership Development appointment. It is important to share your calling to Wycliffe Associates because people want to give to people who have a definite calling.

Ask the Lord to give you wisdom and guidance as you write out your calling testimony (James 1:5,6). Remember, the purpose of your Calling Testimony is to emphasize how the Lord called you into ministry, so you should minimize the amount of time you spend telling about how you came to know Christ (or leave it out entirely) and emphasize how the Lord gave you a heart to serve people and how he called you to be a part of Wycliffe Associates.  

Consider the following points in your Calling Testimony:

  1. Aspects to Include: 
    1. Life before knowing Christ. (very brief) 
    2. How you came to know Christ. (very brief) 
    3. Life after you received Christ. (very brief) 
    4. How God gave you a heart for reaching people for Christ. (be specific) 
    5. Some of the needs and hurts people had that made you say, “I need to do something about this!" (be specific) 
    6. How God showed you that you were to be involved in Wycliffe Associates as the vehicle to help meet those needs. (be specific) 
  2. Next Steps 
    1. Edit and rewrite your Calling Testimony until it is no more than two minutes. For a couple holding an appointment together, each would have two minutes. Couples often struggle with who should say what in the testimony portion of their presentation. Both should share how the Lord called them into the ministry.
    2. Don’t wing it! Stumbling over an unprepared presentation will make both you and your prospective ministry partners uncomfortable. 
    3. Avoid speaking in generalities and being too wordy or vague. 
    4. Don’t mention church denominations, individuals, or groups, especially in a critical or derogatory way.

Telling a Changed Life Story

As a staff member with Wycliffe Associates, you see that Christ changes lives regularly through your ministry, and you actually witness His present-day work. Not everyone sees what you see. They need you to fill them in.  When you sit down to write a story, or plan to tell it to a group, consider these six components. Every effective story has six elements to it:

Beginning

  1. When you go to a movie, the director doesn't come on the screen and tell you all about it. The  story just starts. The same should hold true when you write about a changed life.  Think of a way to hook your reader.

Focus

  1. This may seem obvious, but you need to think through what story you plan to tell. Every story requires a focus, or a filter.  Choosing a strong focus will help you know what to tell and what not to tell, especially when you have limited space or time for your story.
  2. Example: If you spent a day on a construction project in Peru, don't distract the reader by writing about your hotel or the food or flight. Instead, stick to the student you met in the classroom where the WA volunteers worked to construct the building, or your conversation with the translators who came in from the jungle and will be staying at the future translation center. Tell your reader just the most interesting part of your conversation with them.

Complication

  1. Every story needs a complication: something unresolved or uncomfortable. Without complication, you don't have a story—a scene, maybe, or a collection of related facts—but not a story.
  2. The complication drives the story and compels the reader to read to the end, where they are rewarded to see things made right.

Action

  1. Every story needs to move forward. The characters need to go somewhere, do something, and experience something. Take the time to circle your verbs and ask yourself, “Can I pick a better word to move this forward?”
  2. Example: Don't settle for “I went.” Instead, consider: “I flew” or “I skipped” or “I shuffled.”  With a stronger (and more accurate) verb choice, you tell the reader exactly how you “went.” Choosing a stronger verb allows them to see the action and not just take your word for it.

Details

  1. Details, or specific pieces of information, add credibility to your story.
  2. Need some help? As you consider your story, ask yourself: What did I see? What did I hear? What did I smell? What did I touch? What did I taste? If it is relevant, tell the reader.

End 

  1. Answer the question of every reader, "So why are you telling me this?"  Ask yourself, "Does this story - and the way I end it - leave the readers feeling like I hoped it might?  Are they motivated to respond?"

Your Turn

  1. You don't need a lot of space to tell great stories.  Take some time to identify these six things in your story:  beginning, focus, complication, action, details, and end.  You're telling God's story. Tell it well.

Getting the First Donation from a New Ministry Partner

Whenever someone makes a decision to support you, you will want to send them a donation form with your name and ministry account information printed out for them. This will give your ministry partners an opportunity to consider giving electronically, either online, by automatic bank transfer (EFT), or by credit card, if you have not already given them that option. When a partner gives electronically, it ensures the gifts will be given consistently.

  1. If your partner wants to give by check immediately, make sure you give them your ministry account number when you tell them Wycliffe Associates’ address. When you get a notice from Wycliffe Associates that they have given, you should write a thank-you note right away.
  2. What do you do when a ministry partner has said he will send a check, but it doesn't come?  Most people who say “yes” to supporting your ministry really do intend to do that. There could be a number of reasons why they have not sent you the first check. Sometimes it may take a number of phone calls to encourage a new partner to send in the first check. If at all possible, encourage your partners to give electronically because it helps remove the additional step of having to remember to write a check each month.
  3. What if you suspect the prospective partner does not really want to support you, even though she said “yes”?  Once in awhile, you will have people who have agreed to support you, but they never begin. If it's a case where you suspect that the person simply has no intention of supporting you even though she said she would initially, tell her that because you are in a faith ministry, you need to know if people will be able to support the ministry. Let the individual know that if he cannot support the ministry that it is okay for him to say “no.”
  4. Just because Wycliffe Associates has not gotten the first check right away, it is very important to not assume that someone does not want to support you. For some people, it may take awhile for them to start giving. We want to treat all prospective partners in an adult manner and give them the freedom to say “no” if they really do not want to support the ministry. We want them to give where God wants them to and to give for those things they can be passionate about.

Addressing People's Hesitations When Asking for Referrals

Have you ever met with someone who was hesitant to give you the names of their friends to contact for support? Sure, we all have. They may be uncomfortable doing this, or they may just have a difficult time thinking of people. A general principle to apply when this happens is to affirm them and try again. You affirm the person in regard to his or her hesitation, and then you try again from a slightly different angle.  Below are some common hesitations you may encounter and some appropriate responses for each.

Hesitation #1:

"I need some time to think about this," or "I'd like to think about it and get back to you later with names."  This is by far the most common barrier.

  1. Response:  "I can understand that, and a lot of people tell me that. I’ll respect your need for more time if that's necessary. However, I've found that it's usually most effective if we can brainstorm together, in person.  With that in mind, would you be willing to spend a few minutes brainstorming with me right now?”

Hesitation #2:

"You already know everyone that I know." This is usually the response when you attend the same church.

  1. Response:  "You're right; we do know a lot of the same people. But I think you may know some people better than I do…people I don't know well enough to contact on my own. Would you mind introducing me to some of those folks?" 

Hesitation #3:

"I'd prefer to talk to the people first before giving out their names."  The goal here is to try to brainstorm some names before you leave the appointment.

  1. Response:"I understand how that might make you feel more comfortable. How about this: Would  you mind if we write down the names of the people you have in mind? That way I can pray for them when you call them. Then if they want to meet with me, I can get their phone numbers from you later when I call you back. Would that be okay?"  Then, after you brainstorm the names, you'll want to coach them a little on what to say when they call people. Say something like, "When you speak to your friends, tell them that I'm eager to talk to anybody who has a heart for reaching people for Christ. Even if they aren't in a position to give financially, I'd still like to meet with them, for they may be able to help in some non-financial ways."  Ask them if you can call them in a week to get the phone numbers. It's important that they have a deadline to shoot for. Give a specific day when you will call back.

Hesitation #4:

"I'm not comfortable giving out names."  This hesitation is a little more difficult to deal with! But don't  give up, even with this one.

  1. Response #1: "Would you feel more comfortable if you spoke to them first?"  If this is the case, you would follow the guidelines under Hesitation #3.
  2. Response #2:  "I understand that. Some people are uncomfortable giving out the names of their friends. I'm just curious…if you don't mind my asking, what makes you uncomfortable about it?"  Share how you would initiate with these people. For instance, you could say, "Just so you know, when I call your friends I'll simply tell them that you felt they would be encouraged to hear about my ministry. I'll be very respectful and won't put pressure on them to meet with me." Then say, "With that in mind, would you be willing to suggest some names of your friends?"

What to do when a ministry partner has difficulty making a decision

Have you ever found yourself in the awkward position of calling a prospective donor several times for a decision, only to be asked to call back again at a later time?  You are experiencing one of the dilemmas we all face in PD: trying to encourage procrastinators to make a decision.

Try saying this to them:  

  1. "We really appreciate your willingness to support us. As you know, Wycliffe Associates has no central funds for paying our salaries and ministry expenses so it is important that we raise our support as soon as possible.  We want to start our assignment as quickly as possible, but we cannot start until that support is raised.  This is why your decision is so important.  If I were to call you back tomorrow night, would you be able to give me a decision then?"
  2. When they give you a decision, it is important that you give them a donation form—in person, if possible. 
  3. You should encourage them to consider the online giving option. 
  4. You may feel awkward calling them back repeated times, but remember they told you they wanted to support you. You are taking them at their word. 
  5. If—after several more attempts—they are still hesitant, you might try saying something like this:  "Again, we really appreciate your willingness to consider supporting us.  It has now been four months since we first started to talk about this.  You have said that you do want to support us but haven't made your final decision yet.  We really need you to make a decision one way or the other.  If this is something you'd rather not do, that is okay.  However, if you do decide to support us, we would be honored to have you stand behind our ministry in that way."  This is not something you would say to everyone, but for some it may just jolt them into seeing the urgency of their decision.

Caring for Your Ministry Partners

When we care for our ministry partners, we tangibly demonstrate to them that they are truly partners with us:

  1. The first step for nurturing the relationship with them is sending out monthly prayer letters, a foundational element of the communication process. As you share about your life, they will see ministry in action through you and better understand the mission God has called them to as well.
  2. The next step is to think relationally about your partners. Since it isn't possible for you to build a strong connection with every person on your team, you will have to be selective. This is really no different from what you are already doing with your target audience. You have to make decisions to determine the key people you are going to spend your limited time with.
  3. A good place to start is with TntMPD. Who gives the top 50% of your support? It's probably a handful of partners.  Once you have a list of key partners, think through some creative ways you can develop a long-term relationship with each person.

      Some suggestions:  

  1. Pray and send a postcard letting your partner know you prayed for him or her. Ask for prayer requests and pray for them. Call and find out answers to your prayers.
  2. Select a few ministry partners to call each month. You might choose some to call every month, and divide out the rest of your list over the course of a year.
  3. Use TntMPD to remember important dates and events in the lives of your ministry partners, such as birthdays, anniversary, sickness, death, birth of child or grandchild, promotion, or perhaps a business reversal. Anyway, anytime you hear news that you can respond to, try to do it. Take notes in the notes section, and copy emails to the notes section as often as you hear from them. Email, call or write them.
  4. Send thank-you notes frequently. Be alert for opportunities to say thank you.
  5. Make sure your partners know that you care about them personally and not just because they give.
  6. Whenever you talk with a ministry partner, make sure you ask questions and listen. Write down everything said in the conversation in the notes section of TntMPD—it will be useful in future conversations!
  7. Get e-mail addresses from your partners, and stay in touch.
  8. Call your partners and have them pray for important events in your life, whether personal or ministry-related.
  9. Ask for their help. You can ask for their opinion on things that are affecting you in your ministry or personally. Have them help you meet additional people for support. They will want to help you if they can, and asking for help builds relationships, as long as it is not overdone.
  10. Send small, inexpensive presents to your partners (and their children, if applicable).

Developing a Partnership Cultivation Plan

Partnership Cultivation Defined

Partnership Cultivation is the process of developing and communicating warmth and concern for your ministry partners. This involves a commitment to build relationships with your ministry partners just as you would build relationships with those in your field of ministry.

  1. One aspect of building these friendships is to express to your ministry partners that they are team members. This includes helping your team understand how crucial they are to the success of seeing lives changed through Bible translation. Cultivation involves motivating your team to feel so much a part of you and your ministry that faithful prayer and financial support are natural results.
  2. In the process of building friendships, we think in terms of time and growth. In the same way, it is equally important to view your ministry partners as "on-going" relationships or friendships. This requires taking the initiative in demonstrating love and concern for them as individuals.

Proper View of Partnership Cultivation

It is reassuring to know that partnership cultivation is a supernatural task. We can anticipate with joy the on-going friendships that the Lord has begun. These relationships will continue to grow and mature as you allow the Lord to creatively develop them.  God will provide what you need to do a good job of cultivation with your particular team. He handpicked these people and you are uniquely able to meet their needs in this area as no one else can.  Certainly we can trust Him to use us in their lives.

Fruitful cultivation of our ministry partners doesn't just happen.  You have many techniques, processes and routines to follow.  Most staff members report to their primary ministry assignment with full support, but without a plan and proper cultivation, natural attrition sets in and their support base slowly slips away.

This section is designed to not only give you some additional helps in the cultivation area but also to stimulate your creativity so that you can show appreciation to those who are so generously giving to God’s work. Remember, it is easier to keep an existing ministry partner than to find a new one.  Even though the cultivation process is of utmost importance, we need to realize our dependence is on God and not on our techniques. Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain.

More Than Just Letters and Dollars

While on supported staff with Wycliffe Associates, the primary way God has chosen to meet our financial needs is through our ministry partners. Yet cultivation is not merely sending regular prayer letters for the purpose of keeping your ministry partners informed of your activities. It entails more than simply "reporting in" on monthly news or prayer requests. Once you have assembled your ministry team, it is vital that you:

  1. Keep them informed of what is happening in your ministry and also in your personal life.
  2. Communicate consistently and effectively to strengthen the bonds of relationships. Individuals who sincerely feel they are a part of what you are doing will stay financially involved with you for the long term.
  3. Cultivate people so that the support we receive, is a byproduct of a genuine relationship with our ministry partners. Cultivation helps to cause growth in existing givers as well as potential givers. Remember, those who give to us through their prayers and finances are an integral part of our ministry.

Cultivation Ideas

The following ideas are parts of an effective Partnership Cultivation Plan:

  1. Prayer Letter
    1. The principle way of keeping your ministry partners informed and involved is through your monthly prayer letter. Prayer letters enable you to have consistent contact with your ministry partners. To do a letter monthly will obviously take a great deal of discipline and planning on your part. If you feel you do not have the gift of creative writing, you may find it difficult to get a prayer letter out on a monthly basis. You may think that you don't have the right picture, the right artwork, or the right lead sentence, but remember, it is more important to send a letter that is less-than-perfect than not to send one at all.
    2. It is imperative that you think far enough ahead so that you are prepared. For example, if you want to include pictures, you need to make sure they are ready to be reproduced.
    3. The chief obstacle we all face is: “what can I say?” You can help solve this problem by writing down things that you consider highlights as they occur throughout the month. What happened? What were you feeling? Draw a word picture for your ministry partners. Make them feel as if they were there with you. This will help them feel like they are a part of what you are doing.
  2. Phone Calls
    1. Select 20 to 30 of your most committed ministry partners, and call them two or three times a year.  You may be even more selective and call five or more on a monthly basis. Whenever possible, make sure the telephone is an integral part of your cultivation strategy.
  3. Specialty Cards (Be sure to include their children!)
    1. Birthday
    2. Anniversary
    3. Easter
    4. Christmas
    5. Get-Well
    6. Sympathy
    7. Wedding
    8. Valentine (if appropriate, from your children)
  4. Gifts
    1. During the holiday season, such as Christmas, we want to encourage you to consider giving a special gift to your donors (especially your major donors and friends). Go to the Tools and Resources Catalog for some suggestions on gifts we have available through Wycliffe Associates.
  5. Personal Letters
    1. Write a personal letter a couple of times a year to those who have expressed the greatest  interest in your ministry through their prayers and financial giving.

Incorrect Attitudes

The following are common, incorrect attitudes and problems we may encounter—and some tips on dealing with them:

  1. One incorrect attitude that we occasionally experience is viewing our ministry team as an inconvenience or an added responsibility that consumes our time. It is vitally important for us to value our responsibilities to our ministry team just as we do our ministry assignment responsibilities. Ask God to give you His perspective on those He has provided to care for your needs. If our actions toward these friends stem from an attitude of obligation, then the joy of serving will be gone. When this happens, we have failed to be thankful and appreciative of their generous prayers and finances.
  2. A second incorrect attitude sometimes occurs when we desire to get by too inexpensively. This attitude is often shown by not spending money on your cultivation plan in order to conserve expenses and often results in things like:
    1. Not corresponding on a regular basis because of the cost of postage.
    2. Using inferior paper on your prayer letters.
    3. Thinking that small gifts are not really practical.
    4. This thinking may produce a lack of freedom in ministering to our ministry partners through correspondence and gifts.  The Scriptures tell us that "He who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully; for God loves a cheerful giver." (II Co 9:6-7)
  1. Third, we may begin to think that our ministry partners are not really concerned about us. We are especially vulnerable to this point of view when some of our ministry partners seem unfaithful.
  2. Remember that love believes the best, and as your love for them grows, your fears will begin to disappear. Simply begin to pray for them, asking God to meet their individual needs. It is important to believe that your ministry partners would not have invested if they were not truly concerned.  Investing in your ministry is a great privilege for them.

Correct Attitudes

With our earlier definition in mind, let us look at several attitudes that contribute to successful cultivation:

  1. First, view your ministry partners as friends rather than merely financial investors. Good cultivation involves communicating appreciation for this friendship as well as for their investments. Realize that your ministry partners see you as a friend.
  2. Second, depend upon the character of God, realizing that He is the One who is faithful to provide for your financial needs. As you depend upon God and not your ministry partners, a free and relaxed spirit will be the natural result. Developing this spirit will result in ministering to your partners as individuals and providing specific encouragement to them.
  3. Third, endeavor to be open and personal with your PD team. Do not just talk about the ministry, but also share things from your personal life (children, hobbies, aspirations, disappointments, victories, learning experiences, etc.).
  4. Fourth, seek to be generous with your time and money in order to adequately cultivate your ministry team. Reserve quality time to work on your partnership cultivation rather than trying to squeeze it in with what time is left over from the many other responsibilities you have. The underlying ingredient in experiencing these attitudes comes from a heart of thanksgiving and praise. These people comprise the team which God has graciously given to you!  As you take the initiative in the power of the Holy Spirit to demonstrate love and concern for your ministry partners as friends, reaching out to them through prayer letters, phone calls, cards, gifts and letters, God will multiply your efforts supernaturally and solidify their resolve to pray and give regularly to you, your ministry and your family.

How to Get Your Ministry Partners More Involved

Think of your relationship with your ministry partners as discipleship.  When you’re encouraging your disciples to become more involved in your local ministry, you always think about the next step. What would be the next step for your ministry partner?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Asking your ministry partners to increase their monthly support or be more involved in meeting special needs. (Never, never forget that your partners are directly involved in your ministry through their support!)
  2. Ask them to host a small dinner for you to meet prospective partners.
  3. Suggest that they go to a Christian conference even though it’s not directly connected to your ministry (such as a Family Life marriage conference).  This communicates very clearly that you are concerned about them and not just wanting to recruit them to something.
  4. Invite them to attend a Wycliffe Associates Banquet in their area. This will give them a great picture of what it is that you do.
  5. If they’re in town (stateside assignments), invite them to your Bible Study or small group, or have them spend the day with you at your assignment.  Again, this will give them a greater understanding of what you do, why you do it, and why they're supporting you.
  6. Invite them on a volunteering trip to your location (overseas assignment). This could be a couple of weeks during their summer, going on a two-week construction project, or filling a short-term assignment, like being guest house managers.  This will give them a vision for a broader ministry, which helps make yours make more sense in context.
  7. Ask them to support one of your disciples or ministry partners whom you are working with overseas.  Let them know that you would like to refer one of your disciples who is joining the staff of Wycliffe Associates.
  8. Challenge your ministry partner to come join us as a full-time staff member or full-time volunteer.

How Long Should I Cultivate a Prospective Ministry Partner?

You probably have some people on your mailing list who have not given to your ministry, and you may be wondering when and how to take them off your mailing list.

  1. The first question you should ask yourself is what kind of relationship you have with this person. If it's someone you would be corresponding with anyway, then keep them on your list.  However, if there are people whom you have been cultivating for support and have given several opportunities to give and they’ve continued to say “no,” it may be time to delete them from your mailing.
  2. Sending another support letter with a response card won’t give you the information you need, since not everyone responds to a response card. To determine if someone wants to give to your ministry, you need to talk with that individual personally.
  3. One way to arrange a personal conversation would be to mail your prospective partners a letter describing a special need or a monthly support request. Then you follow-up the letter with a phone call. If they say “no” ask them if they’d like to keep receiving your letters.  If they say “no” or sound hesitant (like they want to say “no” but don’t want to hurt your feelings), then take them off your mailing list.
  4. Remember that you do not have to ask permission to remove someone from your mailing list, so don't be afraid to cut your list down.

When a Ministry Partner Misses Two Months

Each month you should review your Late Donor Report in TntMPD (under Tools and Resources Catalog). If you do not use TntMPD, you should track your giving reports for each donor.  If you notice that a partner is more than 60 days late, call your ministry partner. Writing a letter will usually not result in restarting your support. Many people are too busy to respond to your letters or just are not administratively minded.

If you wait longer than 60 days, it will be more difficult to recover the lost support. Most of the time, your ministry partner has not stopped giving because she doesn't want to support you. It is most likely that he forgot to send in your gift, the receipt and envelope were lost in the mail, or Wycliffe Associates made an error.

When you call, you can say something like this: “Mr. Ministry Partner, did you receive your receipt the last time you sent in your gift to Wycliffe Associates?” Usually that is enough to get them talking. Your partner either didn't get a receipt, just forgot, or the check was misdirected.  Continue with, “Would you do me a favor? Each month Wycliffe Associates sends me a list of my friends who contribute to my ministry. For some reason your name has not appeared on my list for the last two months.  Would you look to see when you sent your last gift in? This will help me determine if Wycliffe Associates has made a mistake.”  Your ministry partner then goes to look at his checkbook, and says, “Apparently I did not send in a check for you.”  You reply, “That's okay. Do you have an envelope?”  If the donor doesn't have an envelope, you can either send her a new one, send a donation form (which has the address on it and is available on the training website), or you can simply give her the address over the phone:

Wycliffe Associates

PO Box 620368

Orlando, Florida 32862-0368

If the donor finds that she did indeed send the donation but did not receive a receipt, you can have her call Donor Relations in the Wycliffe Associates Finance Department in Orlando (1-800-843-9673). The Donor Relations representative will be able to send your partner a duplicate receipt if needed.  Then be sure to ask before you conclude your conversation, “Would it be possible for you to send in your gifts for those two months along with your next check? This would be a great help to me.”  If it's a case where your ministry partner did forget to send in the check, this is a very natural time to suggest signing up for the Online Donation option.

When a Ministry Partner Says Goodbye

Here are a few ideas for how to respond when ministry partners say goodbye:

  1. Talk to God-Thank Him for His provision to you through them for the time they've been with you.  
  2. Look Up Their Gifts - A great cause for giving thanks is seeing how much they did give.  Check TnTMPD to find out how long they have given and how much was their total amount.
  3. Write Your Thanks - Purchase a quality thank-you card, and send it to them within a few days.  Focus on encouraging aspects of ministry during the time they've partnered with you and how they helped make them possible.  If appropriate, make a note of the total amount they've given you, encouraging them for their faithfulness (if they were) and their generosity.  They might be surprised at what they were able to give.  It might encourage them to support someone again in the future.
  4. Send Flowers or a Small Gift - Flowers or a gift are a kind gesture if the ministry partner provided a large monthly amount or if your relationship was especially close.

 Used with permission from Campus Crusade for Christ.

 


Writing Prayer Letters - 101

Do you dread writing your prayer letter or need tips for improvement?  Follow these simple guidelines to give your readers a richer experience.

“Show”; don't “tell”

Describe a story by creating a scene; don't simply tell about it.

  1.     Incorrect:  "Jason and I went to a coffee shop. I explained the gospel to him."  
  2.     Better:  "In a crowded, noisy Starbucks during the lunchtime rush, I explained the gospel to Jason."

Employ strong action verbs

Words are powerful and you have many to choose from. Choose well. Weak verbs to avoid include is, arewas, were, go, and went.

  1.     Incorrect:  "He went to the store.  The session was over."  
  2.     Better:  "He hurried to the store.  Doug wrapped up the session."

Focus on a single story

Concentrate on one story instead of several. Bring your reader into a moment in time of a bigger story. Drop them into a ministry experience they'll remember.

Limit the letter to 400 words

This word count limit will not only keep your letter to one page, but it also reserves a healthy amount of white (blank) space, enhancing its readability. Microsoft Word has a word count feature under the Tools menu to help you with this.

Hook your reader with the first 5-10 words

Some examples:

  1.      "Her comment shocked me."
  2.      "Tracy had a choice."
  3.      "Technically, Maria was eavesdropping."
  4.      "I learned theology from my 3-year-old son."
  5.      "A good movie is known to stir an audience but not like this."
  6.      "I gotta go," I told my boyfriend on the phone, "I have to call Nepal."
  7.      "The principal called Armand Morsen in desperation."

Ask someone to edit your work

An objective eye will help catch typos, grammatical errors, and any confusing points you may have missed. Three Bonus Ideas:

  1. Pray before you begin writing and have an attitude of thankfulness.  Believe it or not, your readers can hear your tone.  If you despise writing prayer letters and feel frustrated by its necessity, your reader will sense that, too.  
  2. For married couples, take turns with the responsibility.  Your ministry partners get to hear from - and get to know - both of you better that way.
  3.  Include a picture.  Photos draw people into articles.

Getting Your Prayer Letter Read

The number one goal of a prayer letter is to GET IT READ! If we fail there, anything else we accomplish is pointless. Therefore, the number one question we have to answer is, “How do I make sure my partners will read my letters?”  Clearly, we can't ever guarantee that someone will read the letter, but there are several key techniques that will help to pave the way.

Get in their shoes

At each stage of the process, view the letter through the reader’s eyes. Visualize yourself picking up the day's mail and asking, "What makes me open this letter and not another?"  Do the same thing as you look at the letter itself: "As I take my first look, what makes me decide to read it rather than putting it on the bottom of the pile?"  You can do the same with every aspect of your letter—the salutation, the first paragraph, even the type size, for example.

Seek to minister

Your relationship with your partners is the most longstanding discipleship relationship you will have on staff. We forget sometimes how much teaching we are exposed to that our partners will never hear unless we share it with them.  Not every letter has to be ministry-focused, but every letter should have something that ministers to the reader’s heart.

Worth reading

Appealing looks will get you some readers at first, but if you don't deliver quality content, you won't keep their focus. The content of the prayer letter should accomplish two things:

  1.      It should cast vision for your ministry.
  2.      It should communicate something personal about your life.

Not every letter has to include both, but remember that each letter is a snapshot of your ministry and your life.  With each letter, your partners should gain a clearer picture of what God has called you to do.

Keep a file of prayer letter ideas

Sermon notes, quotations, articles, other prayer letters, and poems are good sources of ideas. Save anything that will help you to get started and will provide ideas that you can build on.

Do an annual prayer letter plan

Your plan doesn't have to be elaborate. Just think of several kinds of letters you’d like to do in the course of a year.  Here are some ideas:

  1.      Personal updates (2-3/year)
  2.      Ministry updates (2-3/year)
  3.      Ministry-oriented (3-4 year)
  4.      Holiday themes (1-2/year)
  5.      Christmas card with picture (why compete with everyone else's year-in-review letter?)

Your goal is to get a balance in your communication over the year. Otherwise, you may write the same type of letter month after month, the one that is easiest for you.  Most of us simply are not entertaining enough to pull that off!

Helpful resource

A good resource for writing better prayer letters is Writing Exceptional Missionary Newsletters by Sandy Weyeneth.

Used with permission from Campus Crusade for Christ.