Situation: What kind of ministries should I support?
Two friends in China both wrote recently with the same question:
Wang Wei wrote, “How do I identify where and how God wants to multiply all my gifts, talents & experience to be godly generous in God’s Kingdom?”
Xiu Ying asked, “How do I determine what kind of ministry God wants me to give to?”
Scripture: Asking Good Questions Is Biblical
In 1 Timothy 5, Paul writes to Timothy about a list of widows whom Timothy’s church was supporting financially. Paul is clear that this charity doesn’t need to go to every widow, but just to a specific group of widows.
Whether we are stewarding the generosity of our church, or the gifts that God has put in our own bank accounts, we can–and should–ask good questions. We need to discern the best places to invest God’s resources.
Steps: Two Questions from David Smith of the Genesis Foundation
I was in Australia recently and heard our friend David Smith, Founder and Chairman of the Genesis Foundation, speaking on the questions he asks himself as he discerns which ministries to support. The Genesis Foundation is run with great excellence, making grants to more than 150 ministries each year.
Here are the two questions David focuses on in evaluating ministries:
1. Do they have God’s mission for them?
“The #1 issue we look for is that they know God’s purpose for them,” David says. “What does God want that ministry or that leader to do?”
David looks for the leader to have emerged from prayer with three things:
a. A conviction,
b. A group around them who have prayed it out, so there’s unity of spirit, and
c. The ability to explain that purpose in a pithy, memorable statement.
“God doesn’t usually send you a five-point plan,” David says, “but I need to know that God’s given them a specific purpose or task. Not something very general like, ‘I’m going to evangelize the world.'”
“As a donor,” David says, “when you know that the leader has got a message from God, that’s tested by their peers and clearly articulated, that’s it. If you’ve got that, I don’t care about the plan or the project. Plans and projects go off track, but if you’ve got God’s purpose, that will bring it back on track.”
2. How organized are they in prayer?
Out of the clarity of Question 1, prayer flows. “The ministry needs to have a big enough goal that they really need God.”
“We give to organisations that depend on active prayer,” says David. David has observed that “the ministries which take prayer seriously simply thrive! It is not rocket science: the most significant strength of a Christian organisation is their chief asset: the active presence of the all-powerful God. We ask ministries, ‘What is the role of prayer in the organisation?’”
So what are some ways ministries can organize themselves for prayer?
David says, “It starts at the top. Some boards have a director for prayer, like you have a treasurer or secretary. Then on the staff you may have a prayer coordinator and staff gathering for weekly or monthly prayer together. Some organize days of prayer & fasting.”
“In meetings,” David says, “it’s a Christian thing to start and end in prayer. That’s good, but what about stopping midstream? What about spontaneous prayer when we encounter a situation? Saying, ‘Let’s pray now.’”
“What’s important about prayer is dependence on God,” says David. He points out that we are prone to rely on our experience and gifting: “We all think, ‘I’m a good manager. I can do it myself. But as soon as you start thinking and moving mechanically, and not depending on God, then it just won’t thrive.”
David points to Youth for Christ International (YFCI) as an example. “They have a dedicated person, ‘Global Prayer Catalyst,’ whose sole job is to pray and organize prayer across the global movement. They have regular global days of prayer and fasting; they weekly prayer requests. Now it’s 140 countries and growing strongly.”
I found these questions original and challenging. Thanks very much, David!
What are the questions that you, our friends around the world, like to ask ministries as you discern whether to give and how much to give?