Mission Offering: Where Is Your Money Going?

When you hear the phrase “mission offering,” what do you think of?  Perhaps you think of funds to support a missionary shipping out to a far-off place, Bibles being purchased for an unreached people group, or perhaps you might hear the word “offering” and feel instantly put off.  Money can be an extremely polarizing topic – especially within the church.  However, building knowledge and awareness about where church monies are going can make giving feel much more personal and less daunting.

A recent (2016) study conducted by the Institute of Church Ministry and the Institute for Prevention of Addictions surveyed church members on different aspects of giving within the North American Division – specifically giving to the Mission Offering.

Church members were asked to respond to the statement, “How well-informed are you about how mission offerings are to be used this quarter?”  While a little over one-fourth (27%) indicated that they felt they were well informed and knew of specific projects being targeted to receive the funds, over one-third (36%) indicated they only felt somewhat informed, being familiar only with the division/region receiving funds.  The remaining respondents (38%) indicated that they felt poorly informed or even knew nothing about how mission offerings were being used.

People rarely want to invest their money in projects or causes that they know little about.  Because of that, many of those who feel they are undereducated about where mission offering funds go may be hesitant to contribute to the mission offering at all, choosing instead to invest their money where they can see it (i.e. Sabbath School offerings, local church budget, etc.).

As part of the same survey, church members were asked about the most effective ways in which the church had influenced their giving.  Respondents indicated that the following ways were most effective:

  • Personal stories shared by church members or former missionaries were considered “most effective” by 43% of respondents, with an additional 37% indicating they felt this method was “somewhat effective.”
  • Clear reports on financial needs of missionaries were considered “most effective” by 30% of respondents, with an additional 36% indicating they felt such reports were “somewhat effective.”
  • Regular reports on how mission funds were used by the church were considered “most effective” by 27% of respondents, with an additional 37% indicated they felt this method was “somewhat effective.”
  • Sabbath School mission stories were considered “most effective” by 27% of respondents, while an additional 36% indicated that this method was “somewhat effective.”

This research points to the importance of not only creating a personal connection (i.e. through personal stories and Sabbath School mission stories) between a congregation and those receiving funds, but also the importance of sharing clear financial reports on the current financial situations and needs of mission offering recipients.  When church members feel as though they are more informed and more in control of their giving, they seem to be more willing to give.

So what does this mean for church leaders – both formal leaders and lay leaders – who are seeking to increase mission offering giving? Check back for our next blog which will discuss other factors that contribute to church members’ giving.